A house in Brunswick, so old that it even predates the name “Brunswick,” has recently been tapped for preservation after a Maryland-based preservation society received a $150,000 state grant.
That grant comes as the result of some hard work to make sure “Snoots House” is saved.
Located at 9 Maple Ave., the home is one of only a handful of buildings remaining in the small city that actually pre-date the city being named Brunswick, according to James Castle, local historian of the Brunswick Heritage Museum.
Before 1890, Brunswick went by the name Berlin, and Snoots House is one of only 12 buildings old enough to have seen that transition.
According to Castle, though, a lot of what makes the house so interesting is how up-in-the-air many of the specific details are.
“We don’t know more than what we do know,” he said. “That’s what makes it so intriguing.”
Castle, along with Laura Houston, redevelopment manager for Preservation Maryland, said the plot of land upon which the house sits has been deeded since 1787, but it’s difficult to point to exactly how long the house has been standing there. Both agreed it was built at some point between 1830 and 1850.
Houston said she hopes to learn more about the house during the course of the preservation project.
“These projects allow an opportunity to dig through those stories,” she said. “I think as we get to know the home better we’ll know more.”
The project in question comes as a result of Preservation Maryland receiving $150,000 in funding from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Community Legacy Program.
Currently, the house is owned by the development firm Taft-Mills Group, which is in the process of transferring ownership of the house to the city. Preservation Maryland will then oversee the process of restoring and preserving the house on the city’s behalf.
Houston said Preservation Maryland will be working to preserve the house in accordance with the secretary of the interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, which sets forth, among other things, standards on what period to make the house look like during restoration.
For example, one might wonder, “If a home was occupied during the 1850s and the 1950s, which is the correct time period to make it look like?” Houston said the standards answer that question.
“When looking at what details to keep, what to remove, you pick a period of significance,” Houston said. “Often that’s around the time it was built, or the time it had the most activity.”
So while the house has seen some extensive remodeling over the years — with Castle even saying there’s evidence the second floor was added on at a later date, and there were definitely rooms added to the first floor at some point, as well — the house will ultimately be restored to reflect roughly how a house would look during the Antebellum period in which it was built.
What exactly is the history of the house? According to Castle’s research, it seems as though it was owned by a history of ordinary, everyday people throughout its nearly 200 years. Castle said census data dating back to 1790 shows the plot of land — and eventually the house that stands on it — being passed between a number of families, before ultimately being purchased by a family with the last name Snoots.
That family, Castle said, occupied the house between the 1940s and the 1990s, leading to the colloquial name residents of Brunswick may know it as.
“Snoots House isn’t a historical name for the home,” Castle said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if the name gets changed at some point.”
As for what is to happen with Snoots House once its restoration is completed, plans haven’t been finalized, but Castle and Houston, along with Brunswick Mayor Nathan Brown, all suggested the possibility of it becoming a living history museum of some form.
Brown said he hopes the historic nature of Snoots House and, indeed, much of the rest of the city, could be used as a draw to tourism.
“We’re playing on the history of this being one of the oldest structures,” Brown said. “It could be used as a historic space, perhaps as an educational piece to walk through.”
Brown said the house’s proximity to the outdoor activities afforded by the Potomac River and the city’s own campground could help make its potential educational experience just another thing to do while visiting Brunswick.
Regardless of what specifically comes from the restoration of the house, Castle said he is happy that it is being preserved. He and Brown said Snoots House was initially slated for demolition as part of the planned housing project by Taft-Mills. Another one of the city’s 12 houses that date back to the Berlin era, immediately next door to Snoots House, will still be demolished as part of the project.
Castle said, in many ways, preservation is about compromise between the existence of historic properties and the needs of people of today. Still, the Snoots House preservation is a win in his mind.
“I think it’s a great project, and I’m happy to be involved in it,” he said. “The big thing that I like to tell people is there’s an interesting story in Brunswick. We have to do our part in telling our unique story, and preserving this house is part of telling that story.”
Follow Patrick Kernan on Twitter: @PatKernan