The Simple Pleasures of a Bed & Breakfast
The first time I visited Frederick, Maryland was in late May while on assignment for a travel piece on The Star-Spangled Banner trail. I was drawn to town by Francis Scott Key, the father of our national anthem, who grew up in the area and was buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery.
My home during the two-day stay was Hollerstown Hill Bed & Breakfast, a lovely Victorian residence nestled along tree-lined Clarke Place, a quiet neighborhood steeped in history. I arrived late afternoon to the ready smile of my hostess Betty LeBlanc. The soft music playing in the background eased the grip of a 15-hour drive. Within minutes, the home’s historic charm transported me to simpler times when ladies gathered in the parlor for afternoon tea. I pictured myself wearing a fancy hat like those hanging on the coat rack by the staircase – hats adorned in satin bows, poufs of lace and plumage.
The home emanates Victorian elegance, so I felt a bit out of place in walking shorts, sneakers, and nearly 800 miles of road-warrior grime. As Betty ushered me to my room with a warm welcome, I silently wished for a pompadoured head and a lacy, bustled dress nipped at the waist.
The B & B has four spacious guest rooms on the second floor, each decorated with themed furnishings. Turn-of-the century grandeur blends well with the modern conveniences of private baths, window air conditioners, TVs and wireless Internet connection.
My appointment was the snuggly comfortable Cottage Garden room with numerous windows overlooking the back garden. It comes with a private porch that runs the length of the home. Sometime during the past century, a stunning rose bush has crept its way to the porch, and its blooms were bursting with musky perfume during my visit.
After settling in, I found Betty in the kitchen. She showed me around, launching into the grand home’s history. It was built around 1901 by Sarah and Richard Dutrow who owned Dutrow Confectionary (mmm, gumdrops, truffles and fudge!). She said many of the high-styled homes along Clarke Place were built by merchants and bankers around 1890. The neighborhood soon became a gated community because homeowners didn’t like farmers cutting through their streets and making a mess on the way to the canneries. The iron gate was removed in 1920 when the city sewer came through. The home has been sold many times over the years. Betty and her husband Philip bought it eight years ago and lovingly began restoring it to its former glory. They opened the B & B 2002.
Prior to settling in Frederick, the LeBlancs had lived on both coasts and also in Australia. Betty retired from AT & T after 23 years, and Philip works as a computer networking consultant. While living Down Under, they took a class on hosting a Bed and Breakfast which led them to Frederick. “Phil’s next project was in Maryland, and there were some nice older homes on the market, so here we are,” Betty said.
The timing was right, according to Betty. “We hit the Baby Boomers, a generation that no longer looks for accommodations with a swimming pool and video games. They want something a little extra,” she said. As a Baby Boomer myself, I can relate to those “little extras” that often come with the Bed and Breakfast experience.
Sometimes, it’s just the personal touch, being called by name and not room number, when returning from a tourist-weary day. It’s retreating to the peaceful haven of a porch swing for some light reading, or drinking a glass of wine as the cicadas sing their evening lullaby. Sometimes, it’s just breaking away from the daily routine, feeling more civilized while reliving the splendor of bygone days, or basking in simple pleasure of smelling homemade bread as it bakes.
Hollerstown Hill comes with all of that, and it also comes with a wealth of history. It’s located across from the old Hessian Barracks that were built during the reign of King George II and served as a prison during the French and Indian and the Revolutionary wars. Later, during the Civil War, when Union and Confederate soldiers occupied Frederick, the barracks was converted into a hospital where thousands of wounded soldiers were treated.
Betty said guests at Hollerstown Hill often have a keen interest in history, especially the Civil War era. According to local lore, the area’s name came from soldiers who once hollered up and down the hill for supplies. Other guests come to enjoy the diversity of Frederick’s 50-block historic district which is within walking distance. Those who have a passion for antiques find Philip and Betty’s home an absolute treasure trove of period furnishings, reproductions and collectibles. I was drawn to the colorful collection of Blendo glassware that spreads across the dining room buffet like a rainbow, even though it was humbling to know that I was older than those mid-century pieces!
As she took me through each room, I marveled at the elaborate woodwork, typical of Queen Anne Style, which graces each room and the carved fireplace mantels adorned with glazed tiles. The lady’s parlor, a formal sitting room with comfortable décor, brought visions of ladies in needlework sessions, drinking tea and nibbling on delicacies.
The adjoining gentlemen’s parlor is furnished with a billiard table. History echoes from a nearby corner where detailed Civil War soldiers, sporting blue and grey uniforms, are poised for battle on a chess board. “When guests return from a day out, they’re not always ready for bed. They come in here to unwind. We have complimentary drinks and snacks in the butler’s pantry. We also showcase local wine and offer Australian varieties that we grew to enjoy while living Down Under,” Betty expressed.
By late afternoon, I found myself wandering through the backyard gardens, delighting in the blossoms, whimsical figurines and water features. The patio has a sitting area where guests can have a leisurely chat by the fire pit, or wax philosophical, while listening to the crackling wood and trickling fountain.
That evening, I strolled around the Hessian Barracks, thinking about the heartbreak and suffering of soldiers who spent time there so far from home. How ironic that British prisoners were held there while Francis Scott Key was being detained on a British ship -- writing our National Anthem. Most of all, I thought about the Civil War, which pitted brother against brother and father against son – something I can’t even imagine. Those gut wrenching realities played heavy on the heart making it hard to spend much time at the site.
I returned “home” where I relaxed with a few glasses of wine on the porch swing and thought about the days when the B & B was built. It was a time of peace and prosperity as Americans welcomed in the 20th century. I imagined families sipping lemonade and playing croquet. Our country was two generations removed from a war. The historical contrast was staggering.
Come morning, I awoke to birdsong in the garden and sat a while on my little porch before heading to Mount Olivet Cemetery. I waned to see Francis Scott Key’s monument in “dawn’s early light.” Key was born during the Revolutionary War on the family estate nestled along Blue Ridge of the Catoctin Mountains near Frederick. and wanted to be buried “beneath the shadows of the everlasting hills.” The monument, erected in his honor, depicts Key at top pointing to the Star-Spangled Banner which flies there day and night. Nothing prepared me for the sudden rush of pride and patriotism I felt as I watched the stars and stripes waving in a slight breeze.
The aroma of fresh brewed coffee, mixed with the scents of sausage and maple, greeted me upon my return. Betty was busy in the kitchen fixing breakfast. She really outdoes herself for guests, setting out her best China to serve a gourmet meal that includes a scrumptious casserole, homemade bread and pastries, fresh juice, and coffee or tea. (I’ve included two of her favorite recipes below.)
After breakfast, I was off for a day of adventure in Frederick, also known as the City of Spires because of its 18th and 19th century churches. Although I’ve never been a history buff, I decided to visit The National Museum of Civil War Medicine (www.civwarmed.com) where I spent most of the day experiencing the battlefield through life-like dioramas. Each scene tells the story of love and compassion in the midst of a war that saw no enemies in the eyes of a wound soldier. The museum is an absolute must see and a worthy destination all by itself.
Late afternoon, I returned to Hollerstown Hill. I had already packed my bags but felt the need to sit on the porch swing a bit and reflect on my time in Frederick and the connection I somehow felt to its heartbeat. When I said good-bye to Betty, she was quick with the hug and wished me a safe journey. Recently, while spending time on the east coast, I stopped by to say hello. She remembered me with a hug. This time I didn’t feel out of place in my walking shorts and sneakers. This time, I felt “at home.” And so will you if you ever have the opportunity to experience the hospitality Philip and Betty offer at the B&B.
For more information, or to make a reservation, call 301-228-3630 or visit www.hollerstownhill.com. If you’re interested in Frederick and area highlights, stop by the Frederick Visitor Center at 19 East Church Street, request a visitor’s guide (800-999-3613), or visit www.fredericktourism.org
To read more about Francis Scott Key and the Star-Spangled Banner trail, Frederick's favorite son, Francis Scott Key," “Baltimore’s Fort McHenry,” and “Baltimore’s Star-Spangled Banner” in Maryland’s "Destinations" on this site.
Visit www.bedandbreakfast.com for a comprehensive worldwide listing of bed and breakfasts, B&B homestays, country inns, urban bed and breakfasts, guest houses, lodges, cabins, historic hotels, small resorts, guest ranches, farmhouse accommodations, working farms, and ranch vacations. The site offers a wide variety of additional property information to enhance your inn travel experience and find the best B&B. BedandBreakfast.com has over 100,000 consumer reviews and over 50,000 property photos and videos, more than any other bed and breakfast listing site.
There are more than 20,000 B&Bs in the United States. It’s time you discovered a better way to stay.
Below are two of Betty’s favorite breakfast recipes.
Sausage Oven Pancake Square
12 oz. bulk pork sausage
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded American-cheddar cheese blend
1/4 cup milk
2 T maple flavored syrup
1 T vegetable oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3/4 cup maple flavored syrup
Heat oven to 350. Cook sausage over medium-high heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until no longer pink; drain on paper towels. Spread sausage in an ungreased 8- or 9-inch square pan; sprinkle with cheese.
In large bowl, wisk together egg, milk, 2 T maple syrup and the oil until well blended. Beat in flour, baking powder and salt. Pour batter evenly over sausage and cheese. Bake uncovered 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. To serve, top with 3/4 cup maple syrup.
Glazed fruit-filled drop biscuits
2 cups original Bisquick mix
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 T sugar
2/3 cup milk or cream
1/4 cup preserves (any flavor)
vanilla glaze (below)
Heat oven to 450. Lightly grease cookie sheet. Stir Bisquick mix, butter and sugar in medium bowl until crumbly. Stir in milk until dough forms; stir 15 strokes. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Make a shallow well in center of each with back of spoon dipped in water; fill each with 1 teaspoon preserves.
Bake 10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Drizzle with vanilla glaze while warm. Makes 1 dozen biscuits.
Beat 2/3 cup powdered sugar, 2 tsp. warm water and 1/4 tsp. vanilla with spoon until smooth, stirring in additional water if necessary.