Remembering Marshall’s Rest

Writer: L. Beth Bonifant
Photographer: August Seleckman
 
This mid-19th-century farmhouse once housed a store and post office. Now restored, the private residence remains true to its historical integrity

Opportunity knocked twice when Carol and Warren Teets purchased Marshall’s Rest in Newburg in 1998.
Years earlier, an investment of a 7-acre parcel of land in the same vicinity led to the home of the seller, Mary Elizabeth Reeder Tiller. Carol arranged a meeting for the purpose of exchanging documents, and as the women became acquainted, she was shown around the large, old childhood home of the owner.
Tiller and her house made a lasting impression, but it would be a long time before they spoke again.
 

A passion for old homes, gardens
Carol grew up in Pennsylvania surrounded by rich architectural influences and famous landscapes. School field trips to Longwood Gardens and Winterthur, and summers spent visiting family at the seaside resort town of Cape May, contributed to a passion for old houses and gardens.
It also helped shape her career, beginning as a manufacturer’s sales rep for Karastan Carpets, right out of college.
Carol worked 22 years at Craig Clark’s Waldorf Carpet. At the time, Waldorf Carpet and its design center was the premier source for Southern Maryland’s decorating needs. There she joined other well-known veterans of Clark’s talented team, John “Junior” Harris, Barbara Hudson and Diane Dries.
For the past 16 years she has been active with Charles County Master Gardeners and project manager for Rebuilding Together, formerly known as Christmas in April, an organization she has supported for 33 years. A new member of the Swan Point Social Club, she provides monthly garden tips for meetings.

 

Fate finds their home
Warren and Carol met while he was working at Bolling Air Force Base.
Warren is now retired. The Georgia native enlisted at age 18, traveling the world and honing golf skills while playing on the U.S. Air Force team. A former captain for Tow Boat U.S., Warren now focuses on his game at Swan Point and Wicomico Shores golf courses.
Back in the late 1990s, they were living on Washington Avenue in La Plata, when they began searching for a new home.
As boating enthusiasts, a waterfront location seemed ideal … until a real estate ad on the local cable channel caught Warren’s attention.
The house on the screen was the same one Carol visited years before, when she acquired the land in Newburg. They had driven by it many times and heard the house and property had been sold in 1988 to developers.
As fate would have it, the developers eventually experienced difficulties, resulting in a default of the sale.
This changed everything. Carol could not wait to call Tiller to tell her they were interested.
 

A house with history

The Marshall’s Rest property was originally 208 acres of land off the south side of Crain Highway. Owned by members of the Marshall and Higges families, the house was constructed in 1847 and operated as a local store and post office on the first floor, with living quarters above.
Ultimately the public spaces were closed, and the entire house became a private residence. Tiller’s father, John H. Reeder, inherited the house from Nannie Higges in 1951, and willed it to his daughter.
Described in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties as “a 2 ½-story, 3-bay farmhouse with Federal-style influences,” Marshall’s Rest has a large center gable front, with a two-story, side-gable addition on the south elevation, which once accommodated the original kitchen, with a quintessential back staircase. The house has wood clapboard siding, a standing-seam metal roof and three large brick chimneys.
The back exterior has a two-story portico at the center, where an outside entrance to the upstairs was enclosed during transition from retail to family dwelling. The only other significant modifications occurred in the 1960s, when Tiller installed a new kitchen, with attached breezeway to the circa 1950 garage. An appealing feature of the kitchen is its projecting bay with windows and pyramidal-roof.
The house was “livable with good bones” when they moved in, as Carol puts it. But naturally cosmetic improvements were in order. They determined to take it room by room, starting with the avocado green and mustard gold kitchen. Dark cabinets and ceiling beams were coated with light paint and glazed, while low hanging upper cabinets were raised higher, elevating the look. Resilient, natural cork floors complement the refreshed space; granite countertops with a new sink completed the makeover.
Located off from the current kitchen was the original, which had been repurposed by the Tillers as a den. Carol and Warren retained exposed clapboard walls and existing beams, but replaced dated turquoise and black floors with brick, contributing additional character and warmth in the cozy, step-down room.

 

Reminders of the past
Wood floors were refinished throughout, and a new HVAC system installed to provide central air and supplement original radiator heat. The contractor recovered a child’s petite pair of 1800s button up shoes from the recesses of a third-floor wall, a charming reminder of past residents. Doors, windows and moldings are genuine, including the tall handsome set of double front doors. Cracked paint is time’s artistry on the back door, character from a previous century.
The large center foyer came plastered with 1960s wallpaper, silver and pink tulips sprouting in a sea of metallic blue. The master bedroom had been victim of a similar fate, but both survived hours and hours of tedious removal tactics, resulting in a clean, smooth slate.
An elegant esthetic envelops the interior now, decorated with classic window treatments and bedding sewn by Carol. In a guest room she created a built-in headboard by installing a padded fabric panel over the fireplace opening and placing the bed against the mantle. The neutral toile print is tufted with special buttons, from Carol’s mother’s old coat.
Many furnishings throughout the house are from her parent’s collections. Meissen, Blue Onion patterned china was handed down from her mother, and the secretary in an upstairs hallway was built by Carol’s great-grandfather. Other items have been discovered during antiquing, thrifting and yard sale forays.

 

Changes inside and out
A former Charles County Garden Club member, Tiller left large, living legacies of magnolia, camellia, pin oak and walnut trees, including a cedar of Lebanon that had to be rescued from overgrown bamboo. The Teetses made

immediate improvements when they installed a brick patio outside the kitchen door, with boxwood lined garden paths leading to a potting bench and vegetable patch behind the garage. Carol created a perennial garden with goldfish pond in the center of the backyard; the foundation plantings in the front feature hydrangea and aucuba.
The Teets have accumulated approximately 70 acres from the original 208-acre tract.
Some fields are still farmed; outbuildings include a circa 1900 barn and corn crib. Carol hangs three wreaths every Christmas on the quaint corn crib door, and notes with each passing year, the little building leans more and more. It is said that old places are so full of memories, they resist collapse. I don’t know if that has ever been proven, but it sure is a great theory!

Dedicated to the memory of Mary Elizabeth Tiller (1926-2019).