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Whitehaven Hotel reprises turn-of-the-century architecture

March 2006

By BONNIE TROXELL, Special to Home & Garden

"It is definitely a labor of love on the owner's part," said Cindy Curran, innkeeper and manager of the Whitehaven Hotel, which features the combined architectural styles of the Federal, Second Empire and Victorian periods. Southwest of Salisbury, it's just a 25-minute drive along scenic roads to reach the restored hotel.

Ken Trippe, whose family has a long history in the area, bought the dilapidated building in 1996 from the Wicomico Historical Properties, which saved the hotel from the wrecking ball in 1994. The Whitehaven Hotel was basically in its original state as one of the last buildings to survive the era when steamships connected thriving small towns in the Chesapeake Bay tributaries with commercial ports, such as Baltimore. It is significant as an example of hotel architecture on the lower Eastern Shore in the late 19th century.

The Whitehaven Hotel was basically in its original state as one of the last buildings to survive the era when steamships connected thriving small towns in the Chesapeake Bay tributaries with commercial ports, such as Baltimore. It is significant as an example of hotel architecture on the lower Eastern Shore in the late 19th century.

The structure contains a two-and-a-half story Federal-style roadhouse, built about 1810. In the late 1800s, the sloping gabled roof was replaced by a mansard roof with short, steep sides and a flat top in the Second Empire style. A two-story addition with a lobby for check-in and rooms overhead was added to the west wing.

Early in the 1900s, a Victorian addition was built on the east wing, which increased the dining area and added a room for the innkeeper.

Trippe said the hotel reminded him of his great aunt's house and he decided to restore the hotel to its original glory as much as possible. Taking his inspiration for restoration from the Washington Hotel in Princess Anne, he called upon the interior artistic expertise of Jefferson Boyer, art historian and English instructor at Wor-Wic Community College.
Extensively researching the hotel and architectural styles during the 19th century, Boyer also toured other restored homes with Trippe to get a sense of what needed to be done.

Architect Ed Otter researched and completed the work that authenticated the site. Tools, American Indian pottery pieces, and clay pipes were excavated from the grounds, which identified the property as a commercial hotel with a long history.

With the assistance of the Maryland Historical Trust, local residents, contractors, friends and family, the hotel opened four years ago for business as a bed and breakfast.

"The business is now beginning to make a profit," said Curran. "On-line reservations have helped, too."

"However, the building is still a work in progress," said Boyer, who spends much of his time there when he is not teaching.

Curran has lived in Whitehaven for nine years and witnessed the building's restoration from the start. She even had a part in it by researching the window treatments of the late 19th century, with the assistance of Boyer. Then she selected and coordinated the placement of the window treatments.
Barbara Peach, head housekeeper, remembers that paint chips were saved from the original building so that the repainting would match the colors used during that period.

A retired contractor, Carl Rieman occupies the apartment on the third floor and reports that Boyer, Curran and Peach are all multi-taskers.

"Jefferson teaches English and is an art historian. Cindy runs a small gallery of local arts and gifts in the hotel, called Room With a View, and consults with people on window treatments and creates them in her shop. Barbara has a cleaning business in addition to her duties at the hotel," said Rieman.

Built onto twice over the years, the hotel features all the original doors, but some woodwork has been necessarily replaced.

The wood plank floors in the hallway and living room are also original parts of the first-constructed part of the hotel in 1810, the Federal era.

"The floors were pretty well taken care of with Danish oil; but when we started restoration, it took five to 10 coats before the Danish oil finally soaked in," Boyer said.

William Morris wallpaper was chosen for some of the wall covering because of its historical designs of the 1880s. His dragon fly design covers the ceiling in the upstairs hall.

Three staircases lead to the second level from the main floor, but today two are hidden and used infrequently.

"Each wing of the house had its own staircase, which provided safety at night," said Curran.

The mantel pieces are original from the Federal Era. Jacob's ladder and reed work can been seen on the fireplace in the parlor.

"The mantel pieces were probably made in Philadelphia and shipped here," Boyer said. "A dog's paw print is preserved in one of the bricks of the fireplace hearth in the parlor. As a matter of fact, these bricks were made here in Whitehaven, whose brickworks also produced the bricks to rebuild Salisbury after the fires and some of the bricks at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. "It's ironic that there is only one brick house in Whitehaven, Bolton, which was built in the 1730s."

Oyster shells were added to the hand struck mortar and put in the cinder block, according to Boyer. The outside of the building was put back together, and the porch was recreated from old photographs. The gingerbread survived, and the cornices on the posts, except for one, are original.

"Just the one cornice needed to be recreated. The 10 porch posts are recreated, also," said Boyer. "However, the posts had recessed panels, which were kept and reused."

oyer added that the only major change was the color of the kitchen walls. They were originally black, but it was decided to change the color to green. Rebuilt, but not replaced, the windows have the original glass, also.

In 2005, the Whitehaven Hotel won a preservation award for its restoration project from the Maryland Historical Trust.

"Whitehaven is a great place to come and relax. Guests hug us when they leave and when they return for more relaxation. Several of our guests have moved to Whitehaven and/or bought property here after experiencing the serene atmosphere of the town and our bed and breakfast," said Curran.

"All the hotel's rooms have private baths. Two rooms have access to the second-floor screened porch and two have working fireplaces. The bed and breakfast is open year round."

For more information, call the hotel at 410-873-2000 or toll free at 1-877-809-8296 or visit www.whitehavenhotel.com.

Reprinted with permission of The Daily Times (Salisbury, MD)


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