Preservation takes priority at historic Longwood in Glenwood

For Howard Magazine
The matriarch of Glenwood's historic Longwood estate hoped it would be preserved. She got her wish.

In local folklore, the story of Longwood begins with a premonition.

In 1818, Mary and Gustavus Warfield were putting the finishing touches on Longwood, their home in Glenwood. Mary was visiting family in Philadelphia when she had a dream that Longwood had burned down with her husband inside. Fearing the worst, she set out for home.

As it turns out, her premonition was true — in part. The house had burned down, but Gustavus was unharmed and headed to Philadelphia to deliver the sad news to his wife. The star-crossed couple eventually reunited and rebuilt Longwood, which was completed around 1820 and named after Napoleon’s home in exile. Today, the six-bedroom, four-bathroom home is for sale for $5.7 million.

“Longwood was one of many Warfield family homes in the county, dating back to the early days of the Republic,” explains Shawn Gladden, executive director of the Howard County Historical Society. “Originally the family descended from an indentured servant in the 1600s, and the Warfields rose to prominence in Howard County history after the American Revolution.”

At Longwood, Gustavus and Mary Warfield raised nine children — seeds of a prominent family that includes two Maryland governors and the duchess Wallis Warfield Simpson — and Gustavus maintained a successful medical practice from his office on the property. Miraculously untouched by the widespread suburbanization commonplace in its surrounding area, Longwood, which today includes 99 acres, is a rare gem of architectural and land preservation.

“Longwood serves as not only an architecturally significant property but also as historically significant, illustrating estate life in 19th century Howard County,” says Gladden.

The home, which underwent renovations and additions in 1907, is a fine example of Federal-Greek Revival architecture with Neoclassical elements. Turning off Route 97 onto the long drive, the eye is immediately drawn up to Longwood’s striking, plantation-style portico, supported by six massive Corinthian columns. Dr. Warfield’s office, something of a Longwood-in-miniature adjacent to the home, echoes the same style with six Doric columns.

Real estate agent Tim Feaga (himself a distant relation of Warfield) states that part of the home’s allure is its history. Dr. Gustavus Warfield was the son of Dr. Charles Alexander Warfield, a patriot in the Revolutionary War. Gustavus Warfield learned medicine from his father and at the University of Pennsylvania before settling into the life of a country doctor. Because Warfield sometimes allowed ill patients to stay over in the tiny rooms above his office, it can be considered Howard County’s first “hospital.”

“The condition of the house is extraordinary,” Feaga adds. “Normally, a family would need to spend hundreds on improvements just to move in; [the owner] has it in move-in condition.”

The home was handed down through the family until 1964, when it was purchased by C. Oliver Goldsmith, a prominent horseman who built several of the barns on the property to accommodate his thoroughbreds. When Goldsmith died, Al Smith, who owns Walnut Springs Nursery Inc., a wholesale grower across the street from the historic home, heard that the property was going to be subdivided for development. Luckily, the home was changing hands at a time when Smith’s business was doing well and he was a little bored. Longwood was the perfect project.

“I fell in love with this place,” says Smith, who bought the property in 1998. “I could come over after a stressful day in the business and it’s so peaceful. This is a place where you can dream about all kinds of projects.”

Goldsmith’s passion was horses, not homes, and Smith recalls that Longwood was showing signs of neglect. While the interior with its original pine floors and moldings was relatively intact, Smith gutted the ancient kitchen and modernized it with a cathedral ceiling, granite countertops, custom cabinetry and a six-burner Dacor range. He also modernized the master bath.

The home’s exterior was in disrepair. Smith embarked on a yearlong, intensive renovation. He tapped Oak Grove Restoration Company — whose projects include restoration of the domed roof of Montpelier Mansion in Laurel and work at President Lincoln’s cottage in Washington, D.C. — to restore much of the exterior, including the deteriorating portico columns, the outside of Dr. Warfield’s office and the home’s roof. Stone found on the property was repurposed to repair broken walls. All the mechanical systems were modernized — the ancient electrical wiring was downright dangerous — and a coal-fire furnace was replaced with a high-efficiency heating system. Chapel Valley Landscape Company created stone and brick sidewalks in keeping with the style of the home and added period-appropriate plantings, including several large holly trees.

By 2005, the home was again resplendent and hosted the Historic Ellicott City Show House that year.

“It was a challenge to take on this place, but it was fun, too,” says Smith. “I had a ball.”

Ironically, Smith has never lived in the house. It’s purely a place of refuge for him where he can go to “get normal again” after a stressful day at work. Members of the Warfield family still take respite here, too. Twice a year, the Warfield descendants come to visit the family cemetery just yards from the home’s porch and to reminisce in this peaceful spot.

Just outside the cemetery is a grave marker that states: “To our faithful nurse / Peggy Fosset / Born 18 Jan. 1795 / Died 25 June 1865 / By Dr. and Mrs. Warfield and / their children / Longwood.” In 2004, Kristin Hill, historic sites surveyor with the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning, conducted a thorough documentation of Longwood for the Maryland Historical Trust, and notes that Fosset was likely a slave. Hill’s documentation states that while the Warfields owned slaves, their quarters are no longer standing. Structures that do remain include a log building that may have been a kitchen and the smokehouse immediately adjacent to the home, which still has a scorched roof on its interior.

Smith describes himself as a young 84 and is certainly spry enough to tackle any new project Longwood throws his way, yet he feels that perhaps now is the time for a new family to step in as steward of the estate. He hopes to sell Longwood in its entirety, to preserve the home and the land for another generation. It is a hope echoed over 100 years ago when Mary Warfield, who died in 1884 and left Longwood to two of her daughters, stated in her will: “My desire is that nothing in or around Longwood house or farms be interfered with or changed, but that everything be kept as I leave it and as though I was still living.”

To a great extent, her wish has come true. 

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