Along the National Road, in an area once known as Little Crossings, Spruce Forest Artisan Village stands as a reminder of the Appalachian farming traditions established in the Allegheny (Maryland) region over two hundred years ago, and serves as a unique locale for artisans to create and display their works.
For years, my parents have attended Spruce Forest’s “Christmas in the Village,” an annual, two-day celebration in early December that showcases the region’s history and provides an opportunity for the six resident artists to interact with visitors who are curious about their various crafts.
This year, I was delighted to find that a visit to my parents’ house coincided with the event. We piled into the car and headed west—through the “cut in the mountain” near Cumberland, past Frostburg, and on to Grantsville, Maryland, the home of Spruce Forest Artisan Village.
It was a rainy evening; but as the locals were quick to say, it’s not uncommon for the event to be blanketed in snow. This blog post won’t do our visit justice, but hopefully it will serve as a glimpse into the careful preservation and extraordinary talent that make the Village a unique, year-round experience—made brighter still by the lights and luminarias of Christmas.
But first, a brief look at the town of Grantsville, Maryland, itself:
The Casselman Inn, built in 1842, represents the many inns along the Old National Pike, which was a busy, westward passage across the Appalachian Mountains for stagecoaches, covered wagons and drovers (drivers of livestock). The Casselman, now a Western Maryland historic landmark, is still in service today and offers a quaint, country lodging and dining experience.
An original stone mile marker from the National Road has been restored outside the Casselman Inn. (Grantsville, MD)
The Casselman River Bridge is over 200 years old and is situated within a 4-acre state park next to Spruce Forest Artisan Village on the eastern side of Grantsville, MD. This bridge is a glimpse into Maryland’s early transportation days—when the National Road, a 620-mile stretch of federal highway that enabled settlers to head west, was in its heyday. During that period, the 80-foot bridge was the longest single span stone arch bridge in the world.
And now, on to the Village!
Bear Hill School is the studio of resident wood turner Gene Gillespie. Among his works were pieces made from multi-colored, exotic woods. They were gorgeous! — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)
The Markley House (rear) pre-dates 1775, making it older than the United States. The Hosteler house (front) was built in 1800 and reconstructed at Spruce Forest from parts of the original structure. (Most of the structures in the Village have been moved there, reconstructed and preserved.) — Granstville, MD
At the time of our visit, the hearth of the Markley House was decorated with wooden figures carved by sculptor Gary Yoder. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village
A hummingbird carving by resident sculptor Gary Yoder was a work in progress, but was already showing signs of the artist’s skill and attentiveness to detail. Mr. Yoder began learning his craft at age 10 or 11…right there in the Village! — Grantsville, MD
Authentic elements of the Yoder family can be found inside the House of Yoder at Spruce Forest Artisan Village. Pictured here, near the entryway, is the family crest. The crest dates back to 1350 and contains a pelican, which in ancient times represented involvement in the religious crusades.
When I entered the Yoder House, I spotted a gentleman tending the fire. In the adjoining room, children were making rustic ornaments as part of the village experience. Upstairs were authentic tools and utensils of times past. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village
From the front porch of the Glotfelty House, (where resident weaver Ann Jones works), the Miller House (circa 1835) stands as a symbol of peace (right), while the 1820 Winterberg House (left) serves as a studio for potter Lynn Lais. In the center, in the distance, is the Fernwood Soap shop. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village
Resident artisan Lynn Lais’ studio was filled with beautiful pottery…and a wooden nativity. I purchased a sturdy mug from him that has been put to good use already. My sister picked out a lovely tray, which Mr. Lais told us is a piece often commissioned by local churches for use as a communion serving tray. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village; Grantsville, MD
Here’s a flashback to “Christmas in the Village” 2012 (taken by my father): Artisan Lynn Lais works at his potter’s wheel in his studio at Spruce Forest Artisan Village. (Grantsville, MD)
Amish Bishop Benedict Miller constructed the Miller House in 1835 with his son Joel. Today, the house (which was moved to Spruce Forest in 1986) serves as an Anabaptist Peace Center, with a focus on the early Millers’ walk of faith. Pictured here by the hearth is Miller’s great-great granddaughter, Barbara, who graciously and perfectly posed for this picture. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)
Inside the Miller House, an original lantern from an inn along the Old Pike is on display. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)
The Compton School (left) is the last and only preserved log school house in Western Maryland. The Village Church (center) is used for music and special events. While visiting the Village, I heard carols coming from inside the 80-year-old structure. The 19th century Eli Miller Shed (right) is the studio of metal sculptor Mike Edelman. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village
Part of Penn Alps Restaurant, adjacent to Spruce Forest Artisan Village, consists of the original log inn and stagecoach stop along the Old National Road. — Grantsville, MD
Spruce Artisan Village is supported by grants from the Maryland State and Garrett County Arts Councils, as well as by agencies funded by the State of Maryland and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Note: Unfortunately, I somehow overlooked photographing the log cabin of metal smith Doug Salmon.