July-August 2011 | TAYLOR MADE

The Taylor House Museum in Berlin



A local landmark is ready for summer following months of authentic renovations

Written By: Nick Brandi | Photographer: Stephen Cherry

The house at 208 Main St. in Berlin may be called the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum, but the illustrious attorney-turned-banker was not its original owner. That distinction
belonged to Isaac Covington, who had the house built in 1832. Covington was a plantation owner, trader, schooner owner and maybe even shopkeeper who kept the property in the family through the Civil War, ultimately selling it in 1866 to Robert J. Henry, a prominent local businessman who is credited with having brought the railroads to Berlin.

The Taylors actually acquired the house circa 1894, whereupon they proceeded to add the back wing in addition to some smaller touches, like stained glass and pocket doors.
The Berlin Heritage Foundation was constituted in 1981 for the express purpose of preserving the home in its historical form — a task that continues to this day. Recently, the foundation commissioned some upgrades to the house to make it more like it once had been than ever. To do the job right, down to the last detail, they met with consultants Jean Dunbar of Historic Design, Inc. in Lexington, Va. and Baltimore-based paint-finishes expert Matthew Mosca of Artifex, Ltd.

It began in the front foyer with hand-blocked French coffered wallpaper en grisaille, circa 1820-35, with a lion frieze border, circa 1830, supplied by Adelphi Paper Hangings and
installed by Brian Conn of Ocean Wallcovering, Inc. in Berlin. Meanwhile, Mosca dove into the museum’s baseboards, researching and stripping them down like an archaeologist in search of a holy relic before Virginia-based graining specialists Croxson & Ward replaced them with a fresh, hand-painted marbled version in lead white that faithfully replicated what the home would have had originally.

The foyer’s restoration was complete with a black-and-white diamond-pattern painted-canvas floor covering with marbling veins and corner medallions by local artist Miriam Riggs of Onancock, Va.

All of this primping set the stage elegantly for the unveiling of the museum’s 2011 season on May 28, marking the 30th year of the Berlin Heritage Foundation’s stewardship of the historical institution.

There’s certainly plenty of interesting things to do and see at the museum. On the second level, for example, there is furniture that came from the family of Betsy Ross and a tribute to Man o’ War and War Admiral, the legendary equine father-son tandem that trained at the nearby Glen Riddle farm, where the GlenRiddle residential development now sits.

There is also an evocative historical-garments gallery that displays the various looks of yesteryear from 1912 through the ’40s, as well as displays devoted to local luminaries such as surveyor William Pitts, inventor Jesse R. Hollins — who held over 100 patents, including one for the automotive turn-signal indicator — and magician Ned France, who had electric shoes that he used to furtively tap a sensor board that triggered the eerie effects he liked to conjure during his many séance sessions.

Back on the first level there is the Harrison Room, which is devoted to the local family of the same name. The Harrisons may be known now for their hotels and restaurants, but back in the 1920s they were even more prominent for their nurseries, which at the time were considered the largest in the world.

That’s the spirit museum curator Susan Taylor was invoking when she proposed resurrecting the annual peach festival that Harrison Nurseries used to sponsor back in the good ol’ days. August 14 marks the third outing of this modern festival, which will include a lawn concert by local band Peter’s Voice. Appearing July 10, meanwhile, is the Chesapeake Brass Band, which, if reputation means anything, should be a great day out on the lawn of the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum.

Calvin B. Taylor House Museum
, 410-641-1019

There are no comments. Be the first to post a comment.