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Full text of "The history and construction of the Rossburg Inn / a thesis prepared by William F. Kellermann"

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of the 

Jazruaiy 11, 1926 



The writer wishes to acknowledge, with 
thanks, the assistance given him in the preparation 
of this paper by Dr. H. J. Patterson, Director of 
the Agricultural Experiment Station, University of 


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Prior to the advent of the railroad, the chief means 
of transportation was by stage-coach over the turnpikes. 
The word turnpike was used for the earlier highways, "because 
it was the system to collect toll for the use of these roads, 
and the person charged with collecting this toll would hold 
a long pike across the road, and, upon heing paid the required 
toll, would raise the pike in order to allow the vehicle to 
pass. The raising of the pike gave rise to the word turnpike. 

These turnpikes were very different from the modern 
improved roads. To begin with, there were no organizations 
charged directly with their building and maintenance as are 
the various state highway departments of today. New Jersey was 
the first state to pass laws creating a highway commission, and 
this was not until 1892. These roads were of the earth and 
gravel type, and, as a result, progress over them in bad weather 
in the heavy stage-coaches was slow. Then, too, the traveler 
had to know just where he was going and how to get there, for 
whereas today we have signs along our highways to inform all as 
to just where the road leads, in those days the trees along the 
road were notched and the traveler was guided by the number of 
notches. This applies in general to all of our roads, although 
it would be natural to expect that some were better than others. 

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!Fhe road from Georgetown and Washington to Baltimore 
was probably as good as any other in the east, for as remarked 
"by a traveler over this road in Archer Hulbert f s "Historic 
Highways of America", Baltimore to Washington was traveled 
with rapidity and safety equal to any mode of traveling in the 
east in 1796. 

We, of today, would not think, however, that the travel 
was very rapid; for, whereas it now takes about one and one-half 
hours to go from Baltimore to Washington, in those days it took 
about half a day* At the height of the stage-coach era, when 
horses were changed every 10 to 12 miles, the running time was 
reduced to 5 hours. The price for this accommodation was $4.00. 
When we stop to consider that the road at that time was very 
inferior to the present one, and the vast difference in the mode 
of travel, the 5 hours running time compares very favorably with 
the present one. 

There are many points of interest along this old road 
that are worth mentioning. Not far from Baltimore is He lay, 
where horses were changed on the first regular line of railway 
transportation in the United States, prior to the introduction 
of steam in 183O. The first arch stone railroad bridge in America 
was built here and is still in service. At Elkridge were located 
the first charcoal furnaces in the United States to use hot blast 
in the top of the stack to make steam. The pipes for the famous 
Grot on water works of New York City were made at this plant* 


At Bladensburg, the road passes very close to where ships 
from England used to land their cargoes. Nearby is the 
battlefield where the American forces were put to rout by 
the British in the War of l8l2 with the result that 
Washington was taken and many of the public buildings burned. 
Bladensburg was the favorite site for duels and many of our 
statesmen and army and navy officers have journeyed there over 
the old Baltimore and Washington Turnpike to settle their 
differences on the field of honor. Along the highway at 
Bladensburg are many old inns and taverns. These inns were a 
part of the old transportation system, as it was necessary to 
stop during the journey from Baltimore to Washington for meals, 
and in some cases travelers would spend the night at one of 
these places. 

About four miles from Bladensburg, in the direction 
of Baltimore, stands another old inn which played an important 
part in the lives of the travelers along the Baltimore and 
Washington Turnpike. This inn is known today as the Rossburg 
Inn, although the older records show that it was a part of the 
Rossborough Estate. 

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The Rossburg Inn is located on the campus of the 
University of Maryland at College Park, Maryland, and is 
one of the oldest buildings in that locality, "being "built 
in 1798. The writer has no definite knowledge as to whether 
the building was built expressly for inn purposes, but it would 
be logical to s uppose that it was, inasmuch as it was used for 
that purpose shortly after being built. Located on the main 
thoroughfare, between Baltimore and Washington, 8 miles from 
the latter city, it served as a sort of breakfasting place for 
the traveler who made an early start from Washington, and a 
a topping- off place for others, where meals and lodging could be 
obtained. On his last visit to this country, General Lafayette 
stopped over night at this inn, while journeying from Baltimore 
to Washington, and slept in room 14 (see figure 2), This was 
on Monday, October 11, 1824, and the following morning a military 
escort was sent from Washington to conduct him to the capital 
city. This information, with the exception of the date, was given 
verbally to Dr, H, J, Patterson, present Director of the Agricultural 
Experiment Station at the University of Maryland, by a member of 
the military escort, and Dr. Patterson gave it to the writer in 
the same manner. Dr. Patterson also gave the writer access to a 
very old tracing of the building and the adjoining land from which 
figures 1 and 2 were taken. This tracing showed that the estate 
was called Rossborough, and contained Q2& acres. This would indicate 

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that the estate was probably owned "by a person by the name 
of Ross. In the early part of the lgth century, the inn was 
operated "by John W, Brown who also drove one of the stage-coaches 
operated over the Baltimore and Washington Turnpike by Stockton 
and Stokes. This same person later ran the White House Tavern, an 
inn located about 2 miles further in the direction of Baltimore on 
the same road. The stables for the horses at the former inn were 
located to the north of the building and a little back from the 
road. On the 3ame ground today stand the dairy barns of the 
University of Maryland. These, together with the silo, can be 
seen to the right in figure 5. There are 4 English elm trees that 
stand in front of the house. These trees range from 36 inches to 
45 inches in diameter and tower above the house, which is 3 stories 
high. Being the only ones of their variety in the neighborhood, 
it is said that they were brought over from England, as were the 
bricks used in the construction work. A good idea of their size 
and relative positions with respect to the inn can be had by 
reference to figures 3, 4 an< * 5« ^h e stone wall seen in figure 5 
is a recent addition to the university campus and makes one of these 
trees fall outside of the yard. However, when we consider that 
the highway has been widened and probably has been shifted in 
location slightly, it is safe to presume that these trees were 
planted within the original grounds. By further reference to figure 
5» it will be noticed that all four of the trees are to the left of 
the center of the building, and one would naturally suppose that 


had they "been purposely planted that some of them would have been 
placed to the right, There is one probable explanation of this, 
and that is that these trees have been struck by lightning quite 
often, and it is possible that there were other trees to the right, 
but they have been killed by having been struck. It is generally 
known that the trees now standing have been damaged by lightning, 
one such occurrence having been within the past year. The terrain 
along the highway in the immediate vicinity is flat and clear, 
and as the traveler approaches, these four trees, together with 
the red building, are caught by the eye long before the inn itself 
is reached. This is fairly well illustrated in figure 3» About 
35 feet to the south of the rear part of the building is a well 
which gives a very good supply of water, and this well has undoubtedly 
been a source of supply since the erection of the inn. This rear 
portion was where the cooking was done and together with the well 
can be seen to the left in figure 6, 

For what length of time the Rossburg Inn was used for inn 
purposes, the writer cannot say, but when the Maryland Agricultural 
College was established by the General Assembly of Maryland in 1856, 
the land upon which the building stands was made a part of the college. 
This land was from the Riversdale estate, and was owned by Charles B. 
Calvert, This same Mr. Calvert was one of the charter members of the 
corporation which operated the college and was the first president of 
the board of trustees. The capital stock of the corporation was 
2000 shares of $25 stock. The college was the second technical 
agricultural college established in the United States and at the 


time of establishment the Rossburg Inn was the only "building on 
the tract. The construction of other buildings began in 1857 and 
the college was formally opened in October 1859, During the early 
history of the school, the old inn was used as a home for the 
faculty. Mr. IT. B. Worthington, president of the faculty from 
1864 to l8&7» made his home there. By an Act of Congress for the 
endowment of an agricultural college in 1862, the college was given 
funds by the Federal Government. By an Act of 1887, the Agricultural 
Experiment Station was established and $15,000 yearly appropriated 
for the establishment and maintenance of Agricultural Experiment 
Stations in the United States. This was the first agricultural 
experiment station established in the United States and in 1892 
the station was put under a separate director by the board of 
trustees. This experiment station is now in the Rossburg Inn, and 
the name of the station is painted on the building in large white 
letters. This is well illustrated in figures 3, 4 and 6, 

And so we see that the old Rossburg Inn has stood for 
over a century and a quarter, and were it able to convey to us 
all that has transpired within its walls, I am sure we would have 
many interesting stories in store for us. It has been rumored that 
the old building is haunted and that there are blood stains on the 
third floor, but the ghost story is discredited by no other than 
Dr. Patterson, present director of the experiment station, who 
has slept in the building many times. During recent years, a 
Spanish coin was found in the building with the following words 

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on the obverse - "Carlos III Dei Gratia 177^" • 0l i th e reverse 
3ide were the words - "Hi span Et. Ind Hex Me Irmi." These 
words, when translated, mean "Carlos III, By the Grace of God 
I776* and "King of Spain, and the West Indies. Strengthen me." 
As to the history of this building, the writer has told all 
that he knows and wishes it was in his power to give other 
details that would be of interest. For what purposes it has 
been put to in the past, we have 3ome knowledge; for what is 
still in store for it no one knows. 


Being constructed more than a century and a quarter 
ago, one would naturally expect that there would be certain 
features in the construction that would differ from the modern 

The building is constructed of red brick and has a 
mansard roof. The roof, however, is a new feature, as the 
original one was of the gable type. 

The bricks were brought from England to Bladen3burg, and 
hauled the remaining four miles over the Baltimore and Washington 
Turnpike. These bricks appear to be of the same quality as the 
common red brick used in this country today, but they are a 
trifle larger, being &-3/4 inches by 4~3/4 inches by 2-3/4 inches, 
whereas the common red brick are 8-l/2 inches by 4 inches by 2-1/2 
inches. There is no uniform bonding in the brick work. In the 
front of the building the system appears to be one header for every 

- 9 - 

two stretchers in the same course, and a course of stretchers every 
six or eight courses of headers. This is not carried out over 
the entire front of the "building, however, as there will be two 
headers for every two stretchers in some courses. On the sides of 
the building, the English system of alternate courses of headers 
and stretchers predominates, although this system is not carried out 
throughout the walls. Figure 7 is a section of one of the side 
walls where the English system was used. In the back of the building 
there is no definite system at all for more than five or six courses. 
In general the brickwork is in good condition, although there are 
a few cracks that have developed over or under the windows. One 
of these can be faintly seen over the right of the double window 
in figure 6, The bonding is accomplished by a plain joint about 
3/8 inches thick, which is about that used for common brick work 

The foundation is of rubble masonry up to the ground level. 
From there up to the first story it is a 19 inch brick wall and 
from the first story up to the roof, the wall is decreased to 
15 inches.. Figure 7 shows where the wall changes from 19 inches 
to 15 inches. The stone in the center of the picture is resting 
on the 2 inch ledge caused by the change in the thickness. The 
remaining 2 inches is taken care of on the inside of the wall. 

The windows are 2 feet 10 inches by 6 feet on the first 
and second floors, but on the third floor front they are smaller, 
and built out to conform to the shape of the roof. This is shown 
in figures 4 and 5. On the first and second stories of the front, 

- 10 - 

there are white stone lintels over the windows, "but elsewhere 

they are of wood. 

The main door is in the center of the building and is 

3 feet 6 inches by 7 feet. This door has a joint running its 

entire height in the center, which gives it the appearance of 

being two narrow doors being made into one. Near the top are 

two small glass windows 10 inches by 12 inches, and in the 

lower left hand corner there can be seen a patch ^~l/2. inches by 4 

inches which has been put in since the door was made. Originally 

there was a hole in the door to allow the family cat to pas 3 in 

and out at will. This was the practice during the period when 

the building was constructed. The knob is on the left hand side 

of the door as you enter, while the general practice today is to 

have the knob on the right hand side. The door sill is made of 

wood, the same as the window sills. The door is shown in figure 8. 

Above the door there is a semi-circular brick arch having a radius 

of 30 inches, and a keystone 13 inches deep, and varying from 14 

inches wide at the bottom to about 8 inches at the r top. This 

keystone has the following inscription on the bottom of it. 

T. Coade, London 

On the face of the stone there is carved the head of a man. The 

arch and keystone can both be seen in figure 8. 

There is a porch 8 feet wide running across the front 

of the building. Whether or not this porch is the original, the 

writer cannot say, but from the general appearance of the building, 

- 11 - 

it would seem that a porch was tiuilt originally to properly 
set off the building. There are four concrete steps leading 
from the porch to the ground with concrete blocks on the 3ides 
of the steps. These can be seen in figure 8. 

On entering the building from the main entrance, the 
observer is struck by the large hallway running the full depth 
of the building, and by the high ceiling3. , This hall is 8 feet 
8 inches wide, and at the center, there is an archway that drops 
down about 14 inches from the ceiling at the crown. The ceiling 
is. 10 feet 5 inches high, and the general appearance of the hall 
is improved greatly by the archway. At the rear and to the right 
side is a staircase which goes up to a landing. From this landing 
you turn to your left and proceed up another staircase to the 
second floor. To the right of the hall are two rooms and to the 
left there is one. These are shown on the plan of the first floor. 
The part of the building shown on the plan to the right and left 
of the main building marked rooms 1, 2, 7 and 8 were removed at 
a time not known to the writer. In each of the present rooms, 
there is a fireplace 3 feet 6 inches wide by 2 feet 10 inches 
high. These fireplaces are in the center of the rooms and the 
reason for being there will be evident when we consider the fact 
that fireplaces were the chief means of heating at the time the 
building was constructed. The partition walls between the hall 
and the rooms are of brick, and as a result are very thick, being 
11 inches. The doorways appear rather low, but this is probably 

- 12 - 

due to the fact that the walls are thick and that they are 
narrow. The/ are 2 feet 9 inches by 6 feet 9 inches. The 
room to the left rear marked #5 on the plan of the first story 
was used for the "bar, and had a staircase leading from it to the 
cellar. The kitchen is in back of the main building in keeping 
with the practice in those days, and is marked #9 and #10. 

The second 3tory still has the original flooring. The 
boards range from 4" 1 / 2 to 8-1/2 inches wide. The extreme 
north and south rooms have been removed as in the case of the 
first floor. There have been minor alterations in some of the 
now existing rooms from that shown in figure 2. When the parti- 
tions were removed, it was found that the original nails were of 
the pounded type, whereas those used today are of the wire-drawn 

There are four fireplaces on this floor, but they are 
smaller than those on the first floor, being 2 feet 4 inches by 2 
feet 6 inches. There is a hallway that leads from the landing 
on the staircase from the first to second floor to the second 
story of the rear building, which originally contained the kitchen 
on its first floor. This hallway makes it possible to go from 
the main building to the rear building without going out into the 
weather. The staircase from the second floor to the third floor 
is directly over and exactly like the one running from the first 
floor to the second floor. 

- 13 - 

On reaching the third floor, the first thing that 
comes into view is a metal arrow suspended from the ceiling 
in the hall by a metal rod. On examination, it is found that 
this rod extends up through the roof and is connected to the 
weather vane on the top of the house, as shown in figure 4» 0n 
this floor there are four more fireplaces of the smaller size, 
and it can he noticed that the chimneys begin to converge so that 
whereas they were approximately in the center of the rooms "by 
the time they reach the roof they are only about two feet apart. 
This applies to the chimneys on both the north and 3outh sides 
of the building as can be seen in figure 4» By referring to figure 
6, as well as figure 4» *•* will be seen that on the south side 
of the building (figure 6) the windows are between the fireplaces, 
while on the north side (figure 4) 'the windows are to the sides 
of the fireplaces. Only a portion of the rear windows can be 
seen in figure 4» 

In the attic, the joists over the third floor are 2 inches 
by 10 inches, spaced 24 inches center to center. The roof joists 
are 2 inches by 6 inches, and the sheathing 1 inch thick. The roof 
itself is of tin, while the front and back of the third story is 
of wooden shingles. 

The cellar is reached by a staircase under the staircase 
from the first to the second floor, or from the outside by a stair- 
case in the rear of the building under room #4* '^ ie brick partition, 
which extends up to the fir3t floor and ahove divide the cellar 

- 14- 

into three rooms. The joists under the first floor are in a 
state of decay and some of them have been replaced. The original 
ones in some cases have dropped down about an inch below the 
floor at the center of their span. These old joists were hewn 
and are approximately 11 inches by 2-1/2 inches and are spaced 
approximately 1& inches center to center. The maximum span of 
these joists is 13 feet and it is interesting to note that there 
is no bridgework whatever. Evidently it was not the practice in 
those days to use bridgework for joists. 

In this thesis, the writer has endeavored to set forth 
some of the historical facts in connection with this old building, 
and to bring out the construction features that are strikingly 
different from those in modern practice. In this he trusts he 
has been somewhat successful. 



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- 17- 

Figure 3 

General view looking north showing Agricultural 
Experiment Station buildings to left and Dairy 
Building in "background. A good idea of the size 
of the English elms in front of the building can 
be obtained. 

Figure 4 

View looking south, showing front and north 
side3 of building. University of Maryland 
campus in background. 

- 18- 
Figure 5 

Front view showing English elms and dairy 
"barns of the University of Maryland to 
right where original stables stood. 

Figure 6 





k mm 



South view showing rear ouilding used for 
kitchen and well to left. 


View of section of south wall, showing English 
system of "bonding the "brick and stone resting 
on ledge formed by change from ig inch wall to 
15 inch wall at first story. 

Figure 8 

View of main door, showing 
arch and keystone. 

- 20 - 


The information presented throi^jhout this thesi3 
was obtained from the following sources: 

Verbally from Dr. H. J, Patterson, Director of 
the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of 

The Reveille of 1897. 

Historic Highways of America "by Archer Butler Hulbert. 

The National Road, published by The National Highways 

The writer also examined the fifteen volumes of the 
"Book of the Royal Blue", a periodical formerly published by 
the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, but failed to find anything 
"bearing directly on the Rossburg Inn.