Since we moved to Delaware, looking at houses has become sort of an obsession of mine. It didn’t help when I realized how close we are here to Maryland, and beautiful Fair Hill with its horse farms and farm farms. Another breathtaking part of Maryland is the water: the Chesapeake Bay, the Susquehanna River, the C&D Canal, all combine to create miles of shoreline, right up against luscious green woods.
All this beautiful potential has me frantically crazed, my fingers fly over the keyboard, scouring the internet for possible bargains. Would we like more land and less house? Better house and less land? Out in the country or bike to town? Go cheaper and get solar panels? Room for fruit trees? Be near the water? And of course, no search of an area is complete without physically seeing it, and I have been more than eager to drag Kevin to some of Maryland’s coastal towns.
Maybe that’s why we ended up in Port Deposit. It wasn’t to look at houses per say, we really had a hankering for dinner by the water, but it would be untrue to say I wasn’t on a secret undercover mission as an ‘area sleuth’.
We pulled into town, admiring the tall cliffs and the narrow Main Street set between them and the Susquehanna River. The railway tracks also lay upon this small strip of land. We passed several Victorian homes and a huge stone house with an iron gate. “Oh… I love that one!” Kevin gushed (okay, I think he would rather I say: Kevin noticed with manly appreciation). Kevin loves stone houses. I love stone houses, wood houses, any sort of house with character, you see.
Just past the stone houses, giant stone terraces made their way up the hillside. Houses sat there atop the hill, overlooking the river. Kevin and I oohed and ahhed. “Wow!”
We found a place to park, and strolled along the water, where newer townhouses lined the shore. “This place is a real gem,” Kevin declared. I agreed.
We headed back up through town, deciding to explore the elusive road heading to the houses at the top of the cliff. We were met at the top with a gorgeous view of the water, houses in various stages of disrepair, and a bubbling creek running down the hillside.
We took the steps down and decided to check out Main Street on foot. Kevin started conversation with a man walking by, “This is a beautiful town here, a real hidden gem.”
“You like it?” the man smiled.
“Oh, yeah, we’re joking about moving here.”
“Well, I gotta house for sale right down there.” The man pointed.
Could it be?
“That one right there? The stone one?” I asked.
“Yep, that’s it,” he replied.
“Kevin it’s the house you admired,” I screeched as if Kevin couldn’t already tell that from the conversation.
“We love your house,” Kevin (ahem…) gushed. “Those wooden buttresses on top of the stone house are really amazing.”
After a bit more talking about the house: why the man was selling… mother in nursing home, when it was built… 1860, what its original purpose was… a carriage house, who grew up there… this very man was born in one of the rooms! the man, shall we call him Bob?, generously offered to give us a tour.
“I was on my way down the street to go do some shots. It’s been a long day on the water, but, hey, I got time.” From his pinkish nose, it seemed Bob spent a lot of time on this hobby, but that was his business.
“Well, if you don’t mind…” Kevin and I agreed.
Now this was a fun adventure. We happily “Ooohed and ahhed” as Bob opened the iron gate, admiring the cobblestone driveway, appreciating with all sincerity the arched door where the horses entered and the cement floor that was their stables and then for a time an auto shop. This was one giant room, sometimes used commercially, so much potential. “Eight thousand square feet of space in this house,” our host informed us.
We headed upstairs, to the room our host was born.
“Chamfered beams! Do you see these wood beams? They don’t make them like this anymore! Take a picture!” Kevin drooled.
We saw a bedroom, where the only new additions were some family made closets. We crossed the hall to the living room, covered in wood paneling, with a lowered ceiling. “You can take the ceiling out and it’s just like the rest with the wood beams,” we were told. I oohed and ahhed at the intriguing possibilities of a DIY project to restore the beauty of a piece of history. I would even blog about it, maybe create an entirely new blog about the whole undertaking! Wouldn’t that be exciting!
In the kitchen we met with an original 1940’s stove. “That is so cool!”
Then, we headed out to the porch, where we appreciated the wooden buttresses and heard the story of the time when our host almost had to blow up the nearby dam with dynamite. We agreed that would not have been a good scenario for the house or the town.
On the back porch we admired the cliff and stone trellises and walls covered in luscious green foliage, “Goes back two and a half acres.”
“Oooh!” Two and a half acres of woods to explore? Nice. And plenty of room to garden on the trellises.
“I usually have it landscaped,” Bob said, “Looks much better then. Now it’s all overgrown. And in the spring the water comes down off that hill; it’s amazing. They call it Cecil County’s Niagra Falls.” Well, that would be interesting to have in your backyard.
Bob decided to get down to the nitty gritty, “Well, I’m not sure exactly how much it costs. I had it on the market with the other properties across the street for a million, but they sold and I think this one was going for $600,000, but I’ll give it to you for $400,000. Let’s not get the real estate agent involved, then I don’t gotta pay her the twenty percent.”
Now, I’d done a little bit of prep work on Port Deposit before I’d come, and $600,000 sounded really high. Even $400,000 sounded kinda high, but I hadn’t really been looking at commercially zoned places. Was that it?
We bid Bob ado, telling him we’d think about it. We found a nice little restaurant to eat outdoors, where our dog was welcome to lay by our feet. Over dinner I could hardly wait to get out my phone. If a house has ever been mentioned in history, I will find it on the internet.
“Hmmm,” I said after I googled the address, “That house is listed on the market for $350,000.” Could it be true? Could dear Bob have made a mistake or…?
“That’s why he didn’t want us to go to the real estate agent. He’s trying to make a fifty thousand dollar profit!” Kevin looked slightly disturbed.
“And it’s not 2 and a half acres, it’s slightly less than one acre!” I said.
“No long walk through the woods,” Kevin sighed.
“And it’s not eight thousand square feet. It’s only five thousand.” I said, not that five thousand wasn’t plenty for us, but it currently only had two bedrooms.
“At this point, I don’t think we can assume anything we just heard about that house was true,” Kevin said. “Did you smell the alcohol?”
“No, but it doesn’t surprise me.” Bob was turning out to be quite the character. “It was a beautiful house,” I said, even though it strangely bothered me, the thought of living in a house I had been lied to about. “But it says here built in 1890…”
We enjoyed our meal. Our waitress was friendly and and the American Idol Show put on by the restaurant, entertaining.
After dinner we decided to explore the rest of Main Street. I enjoyed the pleasantly landscaped flowers, the old houses and the stone staircases leading up the cliff behind them.
Expansive stairs lead up to a large granite building which had bemoaningly given up its glory days when it was turned into apartment complexes. We ended up chatting with a man sitting on the granite steps. He explained to us that the building had formerly been a school and told us about how much of the town had been built with blue granite, unique to the area, and how Tome, who was the rich philanthropist of the town in the eighteen hundreds, had been quite a revolutionary for the time, insisting on building a school for the black children, too. We could go see that one further down the street. We might have continued the talk for quite a while if some inebriated fellow hadn’t insisted on butting in and asking Kevin to arm wrestle every few minutes. “Hey, man. Ten dollars. Let’s arm wrestle!”
Our further tour of the town found many historical signs to read and an old Firehouse with the original bell still sitting out front. The shops were mostly restaurants, and there wasn’t really much past them. A bit further down Main Street, the houses got a little more worn, a little less concerned with upkeep, but so many of them old, historic gems.
I still think a lot about the town’s potential. I’m sure it won’t be long before others fall upon this hidden gem and it remains hidden no more. With the Aberdeen Proving Grounds expanding nearby, and beautiful towns like Havre De Grace as an example, it might only be a matter of time.