The old Methodist Episcopal Church of Petersville was recently listed on the Frederick County Register of Historic Places by a unanimous decision of the Frederick County Commissioners.
The property is owned by Dr. Joan P. Porter and Dr. Michael J. Wozny, who also own another County Register property, the Howard M. Jones House, located at 1213 Jefferson Pike, near Petersville.
Why the interest in old properties?
Dr. Porter said she and her husband, Dr. Wozny, "appreciate the values of that which endures. I think it's important in our country too, especially now, to secure and recognize our country's past. More than ever, we value the place where we live so I think it's incumbent upon us to preserve history so everyone can know how we became a great nation. Michael and I are pleased to be a part of that process."
Old houses are very interesting, Dr. Porter said. "When we investigated the church building history, it was more intriguing than we thought because it was originally a town hall of Petersville," built about 1850 as a by Francis Thomas, governor of Maryland from 1842 to 1845.
The governor is buried nearby at St. Mark's Church, Dr. Porter said. "He wanted the town hall to be the center of Petersville, and Petersville is quite a gem of a town, which not everyone realizes. It was there before the Civil War."
The former M.E. Church of Petersville, located at 1341 Jefferson Pike, is currently a rental residence.
According to Janet Davis, the county's historic preservation planner, the building has a unique history among the County Register sites. The two-story stone building resembles other contemporary hall-plan churches found in many rural areas. Little information about its use during the 10 years it served as a town hall has been discovered by Paula Reed and Associates, Inc. of Hagerstown.
Methodist Episcopal Church trustees purchased the building from Mr. Thomas in 1860 for $150.
Shortly after the purchase of the stone building, the Civil War broke out. Local tradition holds that wounded from the Battle of South Mountain on Sept. 14, 1862 were tended by local physician Dr. George Washington West in the building. Following the war, the Methodist Church occupied and used the building until 1900. In that year, the Evangelical Reformed Church of Burkittsville bought the building for $200, which included the church organ and furniture. A new congregation, Faith Reformed Church of Petersville, was formed and in 1903, the building was conveyed to them. At that time, the interior of the church was remodeled and new furniture installed.
However, by 1938, the congregation was no longer active and the church was not in use. In that year, the building was sold and converted to a residence. At about the same time, a concrete block garage was erected near the building. The old town hall/church has remained in residential use since that time.
The M.E. Church of Petersville was nominated under several criteria for listing: 1) Having significant character interest or value as part of the development, heritage, or cultural characteristics of the county; 2) Exemplifying the cultural, economic, social, political, or historic heritage of the county and its communities; 3) Embodying the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or architecture; and 4) Representing an established and familiar visual feature of the neighborhood, community, or county, due to its singular physical characteristics, landscape, or historical event. The building is an intact example of mid-19th century stone construction in a public-use building and shows details in decoration and form of the Greek Revival style, which was current during the period of construction. In addition, the circa 1938 concrete block garage is a good, little-altered example of concrete block construction of the early 20th century. Of particular note are the original folding doors on the garage.
Other listings in the County Register include: the Elisha Beall House, or Boxwood Lodge; Smith's Store and Residence; Whiskey Ridge; the Howard M. Jones House; and Linganore Farm.
Exterior changes and alterations of County Register sites must be reviewed by the County Historic Preservation Commission, which issues its approval in the form of a Certificate of Appropriateness. Owners of County Register properties are eligible to apply for State Heritage Preservation Tax Credits of 25 percent on approved rehabilitation work that follows the Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines. A local property tax credit is another benefit of County Register listing.
The Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, whose goal is to provide leadership and actively pursue the preservation of historic, cultural and natural sites, has listed a number of "endangered historic sites" in Frederick County for 2001. Those sites can be found on the foundation's Web site, www.fredericklandmarks.org. For more information about historic preservation in Frederick County and the County Register of Historic Places, contact Ms. Davis at 301-696-2958.