Finding history at the front door

The Baltimore Sun

In December 1986, Patricia Schooley and her husband, Dave, were looking to purchase a very old house on 5 to 10 acres somewhere in the Mid-Atlantic region.

What they found and settled on in less than 10 days is the oldest dated farmhouse in Washington County. The rambling stone structure sits on 120 acres off the back roads of Hagerstown.

On a warm midwinter afternoon, peacocks strut alongside Royal Palm turkeys under the watchful eyes of a dozen barn cats and a guard dog. At the end of a long driveway, Old Forge Farm is set amid several outbuildings, including a stone forge and red barns, that form a compound in a semicircle around the main house.

A 1762 date stone is set in the original part of the house (almost a square at 30-feet-by-40-feet), where the modest seven rooms on two levels were constructed off a central hall and around a chimney designed to warm each chamber.

This Colonial setting is the introduction to an entire house painstakingly filled with period furnishings acquired at auctions, antiques shops and flea markets.

North of the original structure, a hall with a second staircase, dining room and kitchen were added several years later. The Schooleys' contribution to the size of the house was a 20-foot-by-26-foot great room with a soaring, 25-foot dormered ceiling and smaller wings on the north and south sides.

"Adding the wings made the [stone] house look better," said Patricia Schooley, noting that she and her husband chose cypress exterior siding for the new structure.

The house restoration is complete - after improvements that included new wiring, new plumbing and a new roof made from Buckingham slate - and their list of new, repaired or restored features is almost endless.

However, Patricia Schooley maintains it's not the list that's important.

"The house and the land the house sits on give us a way of life, a way of looking at life that we love," she said.

Dream element:: Wildlife, trees and acreage to spare. The home overlooks Antietam Creek and 120 wooded acres.

Design inspiration:: Early Colonial. The couple have decorated according to the home's style and period, amassing a large collection of antique furniture and well-made, true-to-era reproductions.

Surprise feature:: Brightly colored kitchen walls. Ignoring period design in the home's kitchen, Patricia Schooley created a room reminiscent of artist Claude Monet's Giverny. Walls are painted a sunflower yellow, and baskets and cooking utensils hang from the ceiling. A reproduction cabinet, like one at the Winterthur Museum in Delaware, is a particular pride and joy.

Personal touch:: Among Patricia Schooley's many talents is a flair for arts and crafts. Again, true to the home's period, she decorated rooms with bright rugs she hooked herself. Her hand-painted tiles grace the countertops in the kitchen, and bathroom walls have been decorated with seasonal flowers.

Design tip:: Look closely at builder and design plans at the beginning of a project. In retrospect, Patricia Schooley wishes she had paid more attention to the placement of the utility closet when her architect was designing the large addition. She would have preferred it to be closer to the bathroom.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Write to Michelle Deal-Zimmerman, Real Estate Editor, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278 or email us at

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