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The Annan House

Ruth 0. Richards

Originally published in the Emmitsburg News-Journal

I went to the library last week hoping to fill gaps in my memory about the ownership of the building on the northeast corner of the square. Alas I found nothing.

This is an imposing building, as buildings in Emmitsburg go. When we came to Emmitsburg in 1940 it had been painted pinkish beige, and remained that color until recently when it was given a coat of gray. This building is two stories high with a black iron handrail up each side of the stairs to the second floor. On either side of the ground floor are two separate rooms, one now a liquor store and the other a beauty shop.

Annan House

I have but a wee bit of memory about this building, and that bit may well be folk history.. Therefore I may as well begin . . .

Once upon a time there were two men, brothers. Their family name was Annan. They may have been born in Emmitsburg or maybe even in Taneytown. At one time there were Annans in both towns. These men were doctors. Because we don't normally call doctors by their first names, I won't give these men first names. They were married and had families and needed a place to live and to see their patients. They chose the Emmitsburg square to build this large house, which no doubt caused many comments from the other residents.

These handsome doctors were kept very busy treating the citizens of both the town and the surrounding areas. The patients' complaints were pretty much the complaints that doctors hear today: Croup, pleurisy, rheumatism, colds, earaches, broken bones, burns, and many others.

Because each ailment requires a different treatment, these doctors no doubt had a little book of formulas of medicines to treat these various ailments. Modern medicine as we know it was years away. To give you an idea of what those potions consisted of I'll give you a few examples: arsenic, kerosene, live toads, mustard, camphor, turpentine, and yes, no kidding, urine. (In fact, when Kathy was a baby, 1944, I was told that for thrush in a baby's mouth, I should wipe out the mouth with a wet diaper." (I did not buy that advice.)

The Annan medical practice flourished until the families grew up and left home and the doctors died. Then it became necessary to dispose of this very elegant building. Which is of course what happened. Back to reality. There may have been several owners of this building before 1940, when John and I came to Emmitsburg, but this I know, that building had two businesses on the ground floor at that time.

The Maryland Restaurant was on the corner of the west side of the stairway, and a clothing store was on the east side. The restaurant was also a bus station where a bus from Gettysburg, and maybe even further north, stopped to pick up passengers who were going to Washington.

The bus driver would get out, stretch, and eat a meal before going on There were actually two separate stores, a men's store and a Women's store. My memory is that the Women's store was in the side where the beauty shop is, and the Men's store where Radio Shack now is.

When efforts for the Canonization of Elizabeth Seton began, that space became the office for that cause. The Men's store was then moved to the space of the Maryland Restaurant. These were well stocked clothing stores. It made no difference what you had in mind, you could find it ... Sunday go to meeting clothes? 

Oh Yes. Winter coats? Of course. Mittens for cold hands? Indeed. work shoes, dress shoes, shirts, handkerchiefs, ties. Both of my girls remember shopping at the Women's store and there finding just what they wanted. Marge got a pair of canvas- cloth shoes, navy blue sandals with white stars on the toes.

Both stores were pleasant places to shop. Mr. Houck and a man whose name, I believe was Rhoderick worked in the Men's department, and then later Ernie Rosensteel worked there. I remember that frequently the men would be standing around discussing horse racing. I'm a little vague about the clerks in the Women's department, but I do remember Mamie Kelly working there, but that was long after 1940. Mrs. Houck might also have clerked there.

The Houck's had three children, Eddie, Theresa and Margaret. I was only in the upstairs portion of the store once and that was after the children were grown, and the parents had died. I remember the apartment to have been spacious, and beautifully furnished. I have no idea when the store was sold. I am rather certain that Eddie ran the store for a while, and later had a job with the Boy Scouts in Frederick. Theresa married a Mount professor who has since moved. Margaret married a Mount Alumus. The Houck children were all younger than I, so they probably are still alive, somewhere.

I do not know who owns that building now. I know that there are no clothing stores there. No more quick fix-up for a pair of hose with a runner, or a pair of overshoes to get through the snow, or a place perhaps to buy a length of cloth for a Halloween costume. And you know, many, many times in succeeding years, and more so recently, I've wished for that store. There's a lot of things that could have saved me a trip to Wal-Mart.

Have your own memories of old Emmitsburg homes?
  If so, send them to us at history@emmitsburg.net

Read other stories by Ruth Richards

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