Tour historic homes, farm and a church

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Robert Friedman

Oakdale, located in Woodbine and built around 1838, was home to Edwin Warfield, who became governor of Maryland in 1908. It is one of five properties that will be toured during the Howard County Historical Society’s yearly Holiday House Tour on Dec. 13.
Photo courtesy of the Howard Historical Society

Three mid-19th century homes, a more-than-100-year-old working farm, and a church that helped unify the budding African-American community at the turn of the 20th century are the historic properties that will be featured Dec. 13 during the Howard County Historical Society’s yearly Holiday House Tour.

The properties are located in western Howard County around the Glenwood, Woodbine and Cooksville areas.

The bus tour starts with Bloomsburg, built about 1830 by James Burroughs Matthews, the founder of Glenwood. The home features, among other things, a circular copper plate between two chimneys inscribed with the 1830 date.

Matthews carried out business there by building a general store in the area and added a post office in 1841. He was the settlement’s first postmaster.

His property weathered both Union and Confederate troops marching on what is now Route 97 toward Antietam, Sharpsburg and Gettysburg. An 1864 Post Office Department document showed that he was awarded $27 as “an act of relief of postmasters who have been robbed by Confederate forces or rebel guerillas.” His annual postmaster’s salary was $116.28.

County’s “architectural gem”

The tour will also visit Hobson’s Choice, which the historical society calls “the architectural gem of Howard County, being the finest example of early 19th century brick architecture.”

The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. It’s a five-bay, two-and-a-half-story rectangular brick house, with a low-pitched gable roof and a two-story rear wing, which was a later addition.

The Woodbine home, built around 1828 by James Meredith, fell into near ruins before it was restored to its original splendor in 1970 by a descendent of one of the early owners.

Also set for a visit is the estate of Oakdale, built circa 1838 in Woodbine. Before Emancipation, it was a slave plantation.

In 1898, Edwin Warfield, who was elected governor of Maryland in 1903, inherited the home from his father. Known as the “preservationist governor,” Warfield made many restorations to the interior of the house.

He also was instrumental in restoring the Old Senate Chamber in Annapolis, where George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Annapolis served as the capital of the United States in 1783 and 1784. Warfield also led the Maryland legislature in adopting the state flag.

The former governor’s son, Edwin, Jr., prolonged the life of the canning factory in Woodbine, while his grandson, Edwin Warfield III, served heroically in World War II, then returned to Oakdale to become a farmer and political leader.

The family sold Oakdale in 1973. It was restored in 1974 and purchased in 1980 by Ted Mariani who expanded the property with a solarium. In 2014, he announced plans to convert the property’s farm to a winery. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

Historic farm and church

Also on the tour is Rose Hill Farm, a neo-colonial stone home constructed by the prominent Howard County family of James and Mary Forsyth. The house, built about 1920, was part of a 208-acre working farm for more than a century.

Tour participants will also visit Mount Gregory United Methodist Church. The original church was constructed around 1898 and destroyed by fire in 1922. The current structure was built in 1927.

The church was founded in the early 1860s in an old stone building known as Warfield Academy. After the Civil War, in 1867, Thomas H. Hood and his wife, Sarah, granted the building and one acre of land to George Snowden and other trustees of the Cooksville Community.

The building was used as a school to educate the African American children of Cooksville, and was soon also allowed to function as a place of worship for the growing black community in the area. The lower level of Warfield Academy was set up for worship, while the upper level was used to teach academic courses.

After the fire, the school was rebuilt in 1922 and named the Cooksville Colored School. In 1935, it became the first African American high school in Howard County before school integration in 1964.

Tickets for the house tour are $45 for Howard County Historical Society members and $55 for guests of members. General admission is $65, which includes a one-year membership in the society. The Dec. 13 tour will last from 1 to 6:30 p.m., and  includes sandwiches and wine for the participants.

Tour buses leave at 1 p.m. from the Bushy Park Elementary School, 14601 Carrs Mill Rd., Glenwood. For tickets and more information about the 39th Annual Holiday House Tour, call (410) 490-3250 or go online to