Overnight Guests of Grantsville, Maryland

Less than three hours from the big city bustle of Baltimore and Washington DC, Grantsville is home to 1,000 residents and host to visitors seeking country respite.

Travelers are not strangers to this quiet, western Maryland town. In the 1800s, the area was a stagecoach stop along the National Road, a route which created a pass through the Appalachian Mountains to the Ohio Valley westward. In those days, road-weary souls often stayed at The Casselman Inn—a National Register Historic Place that is still open to guests.

Although a new route (US 40) has long since replaced the Old National Road, the original route still passes through Grantsville—and passes by The Casselman Inn.

I had the pleasure of staying at the Inn recently with some of my family—partly in honor of my parents’ 49th wedding anniversary (wow, right?) and partly because of the town’s annual Christmas in the Village. … But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, the Casselman.

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The Casselman Inn is second generation family-owned and operated.

Come on "inn" and I'll show you around.

Come on “inn” and I’ll show you around. (photo credit: Lisa Morrison)

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The front parlor, with its deep window seats, is simple and charming.

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The Inn has been known by many names over the years, including Dorsey’s Inn. The two-room Dorsey Hotel Suite is the crown jewel of the Inn.

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One of the sitting areas in the Dorsey Suite.

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The Dorsey Suite mixes modern conveniences with antique elements.

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The Inn offers two more rooms (such as this one), plus 40 rooms in the motor lodge next door.

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Christmastime is a great time to visit The Casselman Inn. — Grantsville, MD

About a quarter mile down the Pike is Penn Alps Restaurant and Spruce Forest Artisan Village, which hosts the annual Christmas in the Village (now in its 31st year), and features local artisans and their wares. Here are a few photos from this year’s event:

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The circa 1776 Glotfelty House is now a weaver’s studio. (Hurry sundown for the lighting of the luminaries!)

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Looking through the window of Lynn Lais’ pottery studio, some of his lovely work is on display along the windowsill. Nary a year goes by that my parents don’t buy a piece or two from this talented potter. (In fact, that’s my Mom and my sister inside purchasing their pieces.)

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The woodturner’s studio, a circa 1913 schoolhouse, was bedecked in laser lights. Incidentally, I have an exquisite (and functional!) rolling pin from this artisan (Gene Gillespie) that features a multi-colored design of local and exotic woods.

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Spruce Forest Artisan Village with all the luminaries lit.

Walking around the Village can work up an appetite. The adjacent Penn Alps Restaurant provides stick-to-your-ribs comfort food as well as lighter fare for those thus inclined. I wasn’t thus inclined. I savored every bite of my oh-so-tender hot roast beef sandwich, real mashed potatoes and gravy, and almost-as-good-as-Mom’s cup of German vegetable soup.

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I’ll spare you a food photo and show you the Christmas tree in the entry of Penn Alps Restaurant — Grantsville, MD

For the after-dinner sweet tooth, a little further down the Pike is the Hilltop Fruit Market. But don’t let the name fool you—it’s home to Candyland, too!

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The Hilltop Fruit Market, home of the illustrious Candyland, is located along the National Pike in Grantsville, MD. (There are at least two more rows of candy not shown in this picture! Some of it is old fashioned candy or hard to find, or both!)

With visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads, our sleep was sweet and we awoke to the smell of sticky buns baking and bacon crisping. Breakfast at The Cassleman Restaurant was free with our stay. I’m not sure which was more enjoyable, the food or the delightful conversation we had with the locals at a nearby table.

While the bustle of busy-ness has its place, (indeed, those who made our stay memorable were working quite hard to do so!), there is much to be said for slowing down and savoring the moment. This Christmas, I hope you are able to slow down and enjoy the season. (In fact, I hope that I am able to slow down and enjoy the season!) And for those, like Charlie Brown, who find themselves asking, “Isn’t there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?”, this scene along Main Street in Grantsville beautifully depicts the reason for Christmas:

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“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” — Luke 2:11

A Bit of Australia in the Appalachians

Advent is upon us—the great expectancy of Christmas (the birth of Christ).

During a recent Christmas arts and crafts “studio tour” around Keedysville, Maryland—which is in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains—I had a little bit of an adventure.

I knew I was in for a treat when I stepped onto the porch of the farmhouse, which was situated on a hill overlooking the valley below and the South Mountain ridge of the Appalachians beyond. With the owner’s permission, I took some pictures of the farm.

From inside the house, which that day was laden with sewn crafts and enticing edibles—such as award-winning “South Mountain Jam”—I spotted something large out along the fencerow, obscured by some trees and shrubs. From a distance (a very long distance), its head resembled a turkey; but its overall form was large and gangly. It might have been a llama, (which the farmer also owned); except as my nephew pointed out, lamas have four legs. (Note to self: Must pay more attention to pictures when nephew reads Llama, Llama Gram and Grandpa.)

It was an emu! …In America. …And not in a zoo.

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The emu is native to Australia and is Australia’s national bird. It’s the second largest bird in the world—the largest being the ostrich. Emus grow to be 5 to 7 feet tall (with the female taller and broader in the rump than the male). Emus eat plants, insects and small vertebrates.

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I spied two emus that day–perhaps a male and a female? The one made a rum-rum, drumming noise–a reverberating sound I later learned is characteristic of the female.

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A female can lay several clutches of eggs in a breeding season. Interestingly, the male incubates the egg, which is dark green. …The egg, not the male.

St. Patrick’s Shamrock

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A view from the hilltop of Saint Patrick’s Church on the southeast side of the Green Ridge State Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. — Little Orleans, Maryland

On a hill overlooking Fifteen Mile Creek near the C&O Canal in Little Orleans, Maryland, sits historic Saint Patrick’s Catholic Church. Built in 1860 in a simple Gothic style with arches above the doors and windows, Saint Patrick’s is a quaint sight…with a twist. The stained glass window above the main entrance is the shape of a shamrock.

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St. Patrick’s Catholic Church (Little Orleans, MD)

The construction of the C&O canal in the early to mid 1800s brought an influx of Irish immigrants to the area. In fact, the majority of the laborers, ranging from diggers to carpenters to stonemasons, were Irish. In 1860, the Irish built Saint Patrick’s as their house of worship, an effort that was supported by such individuals as Lady Elizabeth Stafford, a granddaughter of Charles Carroll—who, as you may know, was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

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The church was named after St. Patrick, a missionary who brought Christianity to Ireland in 400 AD at a time when Ireland was known for its violence, raids on its neighbors, slave trading, and pagan worship. It is in honor of Patrick and his mission work in Ireland that St. Patrick’s Day was instituted.

The 1.5-acre tract of land on which St. Patrick’s stands was given to the Catholic Diocese of Baltimore in 1808 by local resident Leonard Bevons. A cemetery surrounds the church, with some of the gravestones predating it. The oldest grave is marked 1802. [1]

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The graveyard at St. Patrick’s is a mixture of the modern day dearly departed, as well as the unmarked graves of Irish canal construction workers and their descendants. (Little Orleans, MD)

Some of today’s parishioners can trace their roots back to the original Irish laborers who worked on the C&O Canal and on the railroads in Western Maryland.

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A weathered gravestone of a 19 year-old Irish immigrant.

The shamrock, a distinctly Irish symbol, on St. Patrick’s Church in Little Orleans serves as a reminder of the rich Irish heritage of the country church and surrounding community. Tradition has it that St. Patrick used the shamrock—a three leaf clover—to explain the doctrine of the trinity (that is, one God in three Persons). Although Patrick may have done this, such claims did not emerge until the 17th century. Nevertheless, as “the apostle to the Irish,” Patrick led thousands to Christ. In that, there is cause for celebration.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

I bind unto myself the name,
the strong name of the Trinity
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One and One in Three,
of whom all nature has creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word.
Praise to the Lord of my salvation;
salvation is of Christ the Lord!

— an excerpt from St. Patrick’s Breastplate [2]


[1] maryland.gov/msa_se5_21.pdf
[2] Whether simply ascribed to him or whether he actually wrote it, for centuries this prayer (usually sung as a hymn) has been associated with St. Patrick’s life and ministry.

Spruce Forest Artisan Village

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:

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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.

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An original stone mile marker from the National Road has been restored outside the Casselman Inn. (Grantsville, MD)

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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!

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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)

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Inside the Miller House, an original lantern from an inn along the Old Pike is on display. — Spruce Forest Artisan Village (Grantsville, MD)

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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

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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.