Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rural Montgomery County Maryland

In the shadow of the Appalacian piedmont, about a half-hour north of White’s Ferry, the last vehicle ferry across the Potomac River meander a few leisurely turns along narrow country roads, ford a stream and pass through a natural tunnel formed by the branches of stately trees.  Pass dairy farms and historic school houses and a one stop-light town -- Poolesville. 

You’ll be roaming true country preserved through the foresight of the Montgomery Country Council, which in 1981 established an agricultural reserve in the western part of the county.  Other regions across the United States followed Maryland’s lead, which authored its agricultural heritage program in 1977, the first state in the nation to do so.  The country needs more of that kind of good governance.
Margaret Coleman, owner of Pleasant Springs Farm and a former member of the county’s Agricultural Advisory Board, is a peerless guide.  “Agricultural preservation and historic preservation go hand in hand,” said Coleman, who owns and manages a bed and breakfast inn on her farm 
The Drury-Austin house, an 18th century cabin set on a sloping meadow overlooking a pond, opened for overnight visitors in 1996.  Mature trees frame the structure and sheep graze nearby, painting a storybook bucolic landscape.  
The cabin was about to collapse when Coleman bought the farm in 1980.  ”Rotted foundations shot full of holes, and the porch, windows and doors were gone,”  said Coleman.  “A family of vultures lived upstairs and there were feathers up to my hip from old mattresses.”
People told Coleman and her husband Jim, a retired scientist, to junk the cabin, but the history of the place appealed to them.  Through a series of small coincidences Coleman met a grandson of the Austin family, Malcolm Walters, whose grandparents had lived in this cabin.  Coleman researched Montgomery County photo records and found a photo of her cabin taken by Walters who was the county’s first official photographer.  Walters gave Coleman a picture of his grandparents’ home that he’d taken around 1912 providing information for the preservation work.
The vision to turn the cabin into a bed and breakfast came midway through restoration.  “I decided it would be really neat to welcome people who want to stay here. You have a different feeling in an old house.” said Coleman.  Does that feeling arise when the floors creak or when you lean against the stone fireplace that radiates heat?  Or is the atmosphere spun by something less tangible, the open countryside and a sense that history’s fabric is still woven tightly in this area.

1 comment:

LWPON said...

Pleasant Springs Farm offers delightful contentment.