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How Firm a Foundation

Harold C. Craig

The house numbered 101-103-105 West Main Street is one of the oldest in Emmitsburg. Its title is easy to trace because there have been so few owners. By purchase from the Indians and grant from the King of England, the Calverts, Lords Baltimore, and Proprietaries of Maryland obtained title to virtually the whole state. The then Lord Baltimore granted Charles Carroll of Annapolis 10,000 acres in the northern part of Frederick County.

Carroll’s heirs sold over 2,000 acres of this tract to Samuel Emmitt. His son, William Emmitt, sold Lot 23 to James Agnew in 1786. Agnew sold it in 1796 to Jacob von Huber, who then sold it to Lewis Motter. His son, Lewis Martin Motter inherited the property, which his heirs sold to George Gillelan, ca. 1910. The property remained in that family until sold by the Estate of Ruth Gillellan to Harold C. Craig, Jr. in 1967.

So far as it is known, neither the Indians, the Calverts, the Carrolls, nor the Emmitts did anything to improve the property. The deed to James Agnew, however, required that he build within one year or forfeit the property. This provision and the Georgian woodwork suggest that James Agnew built by 1787 the first framed section of the house, which is next to School Lane. This section is three bays wide, having a side hall, living room, kitchen, and three bedrooms. The front door is in this section.

The Federal woodwork in the adjacent four rooms suggests that this section, also framed and three bays wide, was built by Lewis Motter, who came to Emmitsburg from York, Pa. in 1797. Behind this section is a brick addition, originally of six rooms, and a two-story side porch. The transitional and Greek Revival woodwork in this section suggest that it was built ca. 1830 by Lewis Motter. This section also has a kitchen.

Next to the first six bays on Main Street, Lewis Martin Motter built a framed addition in 1858, which is two bays wide. It has a front door, living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a two-story back porch.

Over the years there have been many alterations, mainly on the outside. The Town raised the grade, covering the steps to the basement at 101 and 103, as well as the stone foundation. The Gillelans covered the beaded weatherboards with now removed cement shingles, replaced most of the windows at 101 and 103, and enclosed the side porches. They or the Motters replaced the wood-shingle roof with a Standing seam metal roof.

As the present owner, I am having the stone foundation raised, the sagging walls jacked up, the beaded weatherboards repaired or replaced, the cornice repaired, and the original style of window reinstalled in front. Because none of the three front doors was original or in good repair, the owner has had the door inserted by the Gillelans at 101 replaced with a window; the Motters’ Victorian doorway at 103 replaced by one from the Wormans Mill House, ca. 1828; and the doorway at 105 replaced with a Colonial Revival doorway. The doorway to the side porch is in the Greek Revival style, signed by David L. Markey and dated 1838, and came from a house near Walkersville.

After the repairs are completed the house should last another 200 years. When my time comes, I may, like Isaac Motter, Carrie Gillelan, and others. now deceased, decide to stay!

Read other stories by Harold Craig

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