2015, July 27 | Monday 4:49 am

by Peter Samuel

The Barbara Fritchie House, a Frederick historic landmark is due to be auctioned at the County Court House Wednesday 10am. The owner Margaret ‘Maggie’ Kline, 85, of West 2nd Street has a number of financially troubled properties around the historic district.

The Frederick News Post reports that the Klines defaulted on a $208k BFHseloan dating back about 10 years and secured against the Fritchie house. $192k is outstanding on the loan and has been due since March 2013, according to the lenders’ attorney.

Mrs Kline had been hoping to revive Community Commons her old public benefit corporation to upgrade the Fritchie House. The state agreed to a $50k grant but Kline needed to raise a similar amount in matching funds. Her group was unable to do that, though she was hopeful as recently as June. Her idea was to invest about $100k in upgrades needed to make the Fritchie House open to the public on a daily basis, or rent it out for events.

To be opened to the public the building – presently unused and closed – needs modern water and sewage connections, heating and cooling equipment and a bathroom and kitchen. And it needs roof work.

Mrs Kline was recently at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for difficult surgery to implant a new kind of stent in an artery close to her heart. She is currently recovering at home.

Government’s regulatory empire versus real, actual preservation by property owners

EDITORIAL COMMENT: There is something particularly perverse and self-indulgent in the way Frederick City government leaves the preservation and display of real historical gems like Barbara Fritchie House completely to volunteer effort while devoting ever-growing taxpayer resources to an expensive burdensome regulatory regime imposed on thousands of property owners – the real preservationists, the ones who actually initiate, design, and pay for real bricks and mortar preservation. This historic commission operates according to about 50,000 words of Guidelines based on no coherent philosophy or rationale about what it is supposedly preserving, riddled with contradictions, fudge words and ambiguity, weighed down with page after page of finger-wagging penny-ante pedantry… an intellectual disgrace for its incoherence, a standing insult to the citizens, and a procedure that is a constant invitation to favoritism and crony deals. Rotten to the core!

BFrPhotoSteve Sykes a New Market critic of Frederick’s handling of historic preservation issues writes us today:

“Barbara Fritchie House represents a perfect example of Frederick’s phony love affair with historic preservation.  It’s not the original house; it’s not in the original location; and it celebrates an event that probably never happened.  The owners don’t possess any of the original artifacts, and the building is not open as a museum.  It just sits there.

“Furthermore, it has neither bathroom nor kitchen, and to get either of those things would require city permits that the owners probably wouldn’t get.  It stands with 107 E 5th as an example of a supposedly historic building that suffers because it has no modern purpose other than as a storage shed.”

Some of this goes a bit far. I doubt new owners will have any problem with having utilities connected for bathrooms, kitchen and HVAC. But Sykes’ negative view of the Frederick HPC is quite widely held and undoubtedly discourages some potential buyers of real estate here.

Plus on the history:  it seems to be historically established that the famous Frederick figure 95 year old Barbara Fritchie (or Frietchie as she was styled in German) was a well-known and vocal champion of the Union  cause, but she was probably not the actual Union flag-waver on the day the Southern troops marched through Frederick. That was a lesser known woman in her late 30s, Mary Quantrell who lived further west on Patrick Street than Fritchie. Historians seem to have since established that the Confederate army marched south on Bentz Street and then west up Patrick Street. So they can’t have marched past the Barbara Fritchie House which is about 80 yards east of the intersection where the rebel army turned to the west on its way to Antietam.

So the famous “Up from the meadows rich with corn…” poem by John Greenleaf Whittier appears to have taken serious poetic license with the historical facts. Whittier seems to have taken two real figures and compressed them into one -  Fritchie famous for her feisty Union advocacy at an advanced age who was actually ill in bed, and Mary Quantrell who was the actual flag-waving taunter further west on Patrick Street.

Anyway thanks to Whittier’s superb poetic skills Barbara Fritchie and her House and the poem have become indelibly associated with Frederick’s history. It’s a darned good poem.

In  full:

Up from the meadows rich with corn,

Clear in the cool September morn.Drawing#1


The clustered spires of Frederick stand

Green-walled by the hills of Maryland.


Round about them orchards sweep,

Apple and peach tree fruited deep,


Fair as the garden of the Lord

To the eyes of the famished rebel horde,


On that pleasant morn of the early fall

When Lee marched over the mountain-wall;


Over the mountains winding down,

Horse and foot, into Frederick town.


Forty flags with their silver stars,BFHse3

Forty flags with their crimson bars,


Flapped in the morning wind: the sun

Of noon looked down, and saw not one.


Up rose old Barbara Frietchie then,

Bowed with her fourscore years and ten;


Bravest of all in Frederick town,

She took up the flag the men hauled down;


In her attic window the staff she set,

To show that one heart was loyal yet.


Up the street came the rebel tread,

Stonewall Jackson riding ahead.


Under his slouched hat left and right

He glanced; the old flag met his sight.


“Halt!”–the dust-brown ranks stood fast.

“Fire!”–out blazed the rifle-blast.


It shivered the window, pane and sash;

It rent the banner with seam and gash.


Quick, as it fell, from the broken staff

Dame Barbara snatched the silken scarf.


She leaned far out on the window-sill,

And shook it forth with a royal will.


“Shoot, if you must, this old gray head,

But spare your country’s flag,” she said.


A shade of sadness, a blush of shame,

Over the face of the leader came;


The nobler nature within him stirred

To life at that woman’s deed and word.


“Who touches a hair of yon gray head

Dies like a dog! March on!” he said.


All day long through Frederick street

Sounded the tread of marching feet.


All day long that free flag tost

Over the heads of the rebel host.


Ever its torn folds rose and fell

On the loyal winds that loved it well;BFwFlagClr


And through the hill-gaps sunset light

Shone over it with a warm good-night.


Barbara Frietchie’s work is o’er,

And the Rebel rides on his raids no more.


Honor to her! and let a tear

Fall, for her sake, on Stonewall’s bier.


Over Barbara Frietchie’s grave,

Flag of Freedom and Union, wave!


Peace and order and beauty draw

Round thy symbol of light and law;


And ever the stars above look down

On thy stars below in Frederick town!

NOTE: nowhere does the cutesy modern realtors’ rendering ’Towne’ with the ‘e’ appear in Whittier’s poem.

- editor 2015-07-26






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