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November 29, 2010

Landon House: A Short History

Michael Kurtianyk

I’ve had a chance in recent days to spend a lot of time at the Landon House in Urbana. Kevin Dolan, the owner, has done a great job with the building. Situated on about six acres of land, it has an interesting history.


It was built in 1754 along the Rappahannock River in Virginia as a silk mill. Around 1840, it was dismantled and moved by barge up to Georgetown and then up the Potomac to Point of Rocks.


As John Ashbury writes for the December 22 entry in his book …and all our yesterdays: A Chronicle of Frederick County Maryland:


 “It was then taken overland and rebuilt on its present site near the intersection of MD 355 and MD 80. More than 12,000 bricks were added to the house, making in total 40 rooms. It was then used as a school for girls until 1854, when it became a military academy which was run by Robert C. Jones. After The Civil War, a former Mayor of Baltimore bought the property and (Luke Tiernan) Brien purchased it from him in 1883. It was then owned by the seven children of Ivan and Carolyn Marian Stancioff….”


...and on down until today, with Kevin Dolan as owner.


On the evening of September 8, 1862, after dining at the invitation of a local family, Confederate Gen. J. E. B. Stuart went for a walk, and glimpsed the Landon House. On this night, the property was unoccupied. General Stuart looked around the house, and took note of the ballroom at the eastern end of the house, about 30-feet by 30-feet, and decided that the Landon House would be a capital place to hold a dance. The army had been fighting hard for many weeks and months, and General Stuart felt the need for a break from the war. A party would be just the thing.


And so it was that at the Landon House in Urbana, Maryland, the Sabers & Roses Ball was born. The house was decorated with the various flags of Stuart’s regiments, and the ballroom was festive with roses clipped from local gardens, and lit by candlelight. Light refreshments were offered in the dining room across the hall. And, the ladies of Urbana were delighted to attend and dance with Stuart’s cavaliers from Virginia and the Carolinas.


I note this entry, which can be found in Mr. Ashbury’s book on September 8:


Shortly after dark on September 8, 1862, carriages began to arrive. With their horses tied close to the building with rifles attached to the saddles, the officers entered the building and placed their sabers against the walls. The 18th Mississippi Infantry Band struck up "Dixie," and gaiety reigned. A short time later an orderly rushed into the main room and reported that Union soldiers were close by and headed for Urbana. The men grabbed their swords, mounted their horses and rode off into the night. But, when they arrived at the site of the skirmish, they discovered that the 1st North Carolina Infantry had repulsed the Northern forces. Shortly after midnight, Stuart and his men returned to the Academy. While most of the young ladies had already departed, some remained and the festivities resumed. Messengers were sent to tell the departed ladies to return. They did so as quickly as possible. As they arrived they were swept up by the soldiers and danced onto the hardwood floors.


Interestingly, it is thought that the Confederate soldiers who stayed here pulled burnt sticks from the fireplace and drew pictures of CSA President Jefferson Davis and their commander, General Stuart, over one of the mantles. Shortly thereafter, Union troops from Pennsylvania chased Stuart and soldiers from Landon. Seeing what the images the Rebs had drawn, the Union troops drew a twice-as-large image of their president, Abe Lincoln, and signed their names and dated it Sept. 16, 1862.


What is important here is that neither side defaced the other's artwork even though they were at war with each other and about to face each other on the killing fields of Antietam. They respected each other's "political statements" via their artwork, and these "lightning sketches" remain visible to this day as a great example of political discourse and open mindedness that modern day Americans can learn a thing or two from.


Though known in the past for its weddings and Haunted Tours, there are many other things going at The Landon House these days. There was a Home Show this past weekend, and there will be a Wellness Expo in December. It looks like the Landon House will be a hub of activity for years to come.


In the meantime, here are some quick hits…


…It was announced that Daniel Day-Lewis will portray Abraham Lincoln in a Steven Spielberg movie. This should be interesting. He has been known to immerse himself in roles, so let’s see what he does, and how he does….


…Something tells me that the voting down of the Frederick Classical Charter School will not be the final chapter in this saga….


…I hope that readers had a Thanksgiving that they’d hoped. I did. It was a quiet weekend spent with family…..


Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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