ANTRIM 1844 COUNTRY INN
By Maureen Smith
If you need an escape at this time of year, let me suggest an amazing look at a page from the past. Only 70 miles from Annapolis in the town of Taneytown (pronounced Tawneytown), which prides itself on its rich history and small town atmosphere, you will find Antrim 1844, an exquisite country inn. From the moment you enter the massive doors of this mansion, you are met and pampered by a courteous, warm and well-trained staff. You feel not only like an honored guest during your visit, but part of a family. You are Scarlett and you’ve come home to Tara.
As you step in the door, a lovely grand foyer filled with beautiful mirrors and portraits surrounds you. Directly ahead is the breathtaking cherry wood staircase that spirals past the second floor and up to the third floor where a glass-enclosed widow’s walk proudly perches on top of the home. We mounted the stairs to the Boyd Room, one of four lovely bedrooms on that level. Two large draped and shuttered windows gave us a view of the formal garden below. Under the 12-foot ceilings, there is a beautiful king-size, four-poster bed, a bath with a footed tub and shower, two comfortable chairs facing a wood-burning fireplace all set up for the toss of a match. We took time to settle in before returning downstairs to the matching drawing rooms with 14-foot ceilings, which run the length of the house to the right of the entrance hall. While admiring the antiques, the plaster moldings, the Persian rugs and the hand-carved white marble mantels, guests are invited to enjoy afternoon tea with scones and little sandwiches. This is when you will have the opportunity to meet with the other guests, some of whom have been regulars since discovering Antrim. Others who are here for the first time are most often in awe of the beauty of this home.
After this treat, we opt for a walk to explore the grounds. Antrim was built in 1844 by Col. Andrew Ege, an immigrant from County Antrim, Ireland. He gave it to his daughter as a wedding gift. Unfortunately, the colonel went bankrupt and Antrim was put up for auction. In 1873 it was purchased by George Washington Clabaugh, chief justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland. When he died in 1916, the property went to his niece, Helen Clabaugh Lamberton. The plantation of 2,500 acres stayed in this family for over a century and was used as a summer retreat from Washington, D.C. At this time there was little plumbing and less electricity. In 1961 the house and what remained of the land was sold to George Crouse. It was at this time that Antrim was registered as a National Historic Trust property.
In November 1987, Dorothy and Richard Mollett came along and saw the potential of this grand Greek Revival mansion with Federal influences. Fortunately, they had experience after restoring six historic houses, so they embraced the challenge to bring Antrim back to its original splendor — and succeed they did.
All of the outbuildings including the post house, the ice house, the summer kitchen, the barn, the spring house, the brick outbuildings and the carriage house) are original to the property and supported the lifestyle of a mid-19th century agrarian plantation. It was fun to soak in the charm of these old buildings. After the Molletts’ restoration, Antrim has 40 guest rooms in 11 different buildings, a fine dining restaurant with world-class cuisine, and a glass-enclosed pavilion designed for weddings and special events. Nestled in the gardens, you’ll find a swimming pool, tennis court, putting green and croquet lawn.
Soon we were back in our bedroom to rest and freshen up before joining other guests for drinks and hors d’ouevres served by candlelight in the drawing room. There is a flexible dress code and guests are comfortable in a turtleneck or a formal gown at such gatherings. This is the beginning of a six-course feast prepared by the executive chef, Michael Gettier.
If requested, guests can be treated to a tour of the award-winning, internationally recognized wine cellar led by Manager Jay Jung. His enthusiasm is captivating. The cellar boasts more than 19,000 bottles of wine. The most expensive bottle is $4,000. (We decided not to try that one on this trip. Maybe another time.) This charming room was set up for a small dinner party that evening, events that need to be requested in advance.
Dinner was served in the Smoke House restaurant with polished brick floors, a fireplace, pictures of Civil War generals and an unobtrusive piano player who does everyone’s favorites. The menus are special, carrying the guests’ names in our party and signed by the chef wishing us, ‘Bon appetit’! It is truly worth framing.
Choosing an appetizer and entree from the tantalizing list is difficult. I chose crispy quail with a smoked chicken stuffing, served on a bed of creamy gorgonzola polenta. (I don’t normally fix that at home.) A salad of greens was served in a tortilla shell. Fortunately, we were allowed plenty of time between courses — nothing is rushed. We were even served a palate cleanser before the entree. Later I discovered that some people ask for a “to go” bag which they refrigerate for you until your departure the next day. They do think of everything at Antrim.
After dinner, sated guests can stop by the Pickwick Pub for nightcaps before making their way up to their wonderful feather beds. Did I mention no televisions or telephones in the rooms, a reminder of your 19th century surroundings.
At 8 a.m. a wooden valet arrives at your door with a thermos of coffee, two amazing muffins (cranberry and walnut on this day), some sliced fruit and a newspaper. There are warm robes provided to snuggle into while enjoying your morning repast in front of the fire. But remember this is only the starter breakfast. At 10 a.m. (or sooner), it is time to proceed to the dining room for the complementary full breakfast. We chose eggs and bacon with a mini waffle. We can diet tomorrow. We were impressed that our young server referred to the owners as Dort and Richard. The staff is a family and you are part of that family when you enter those lovely massive doors.
This little piece of utopia ends all too soon, but in this bucolic setting a short hop will take you to Gettysburg, Pa., New Oxford, Pa., Emmitsburg, Md., Frederick, Md., or New Market, Md., all places to explore and enjoy. There are also museums, parks, shopping, skiing and wineries close by.
To learn more about Antrim, visit their website at www.antrim1844.com