Friday, September 8, 2017

Daytripping along the Lafayette Trail in Havre De Grace

Located in Harford County Maryland at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, Havre de Grace is a scenic and small walkable town that is ideal for a laid-back getaway.

Those who read this blog regularly may have noticed a recent post about several beautiful B&Bs located conveniently within walking distance of restaurants and shops, specifically the Vandiver InnLa Cle D'or Guest House and the Spencer-Silver Mansion. The elegantly appointed Bed and Breakfasts are not only rich in history, but are also located on the Lafayette Trail, which is a fantastic way to see the highlights of Havre De Grace. The scenic walk is demarcated in blue on the sidewalks of the town and leads visitors on a three-mile-long path to highlights like historic structures, parks, museums, and marinas.

Traversing the Lafayette Trail

Located on the Western Bank of the Susquehanna River, the Susquehanna Museum at the Lock House is the first stop along the Trail. The private, not-for-profit educational institution educates visitors on the importance of canals in facilitating early trade and commerce in the area. Visitors learn about the building of the 45-mile canal that ran from Havre De Grace to Wrightsville, Pa and the "locks" that were devised to raise and lower canal boats to adjust for the difference in elevation as they passed through the channels. 
The Lock House Museum
A model interprets how the locks operated
Toll log at the Susquehanna Museum at The Lockhouse

The sturdy, two-story structure overlooking the Susquehanna was built in 1840 and was home to the lucky lock tender (what a view) and his family. The house also served as an office for toll collections. Free tours are available to the public from April through October.

Next stop is the Tidewater Grille where we enjoyed lunch and a nice view of the Bay. In keeping with the theme, I ordered a lunch of clams, shrimp and mussels.
The deck at the Tidewater Grille

Lunch of clams, shrimp and mussels

Further along the trail at 408 North Union Avenue sits the old Pitcock Hardware Building which dates back to 1890. Today it operates as the Bahoukas Antique Mall and Beer MuZeum.
Visitors can browse a large collection of antique toys, furniture, sports memorabilia and other vintage items. Be sure to visit the second floor to inspect the plethora of breweriana on display.
Bahoukas Antique Mall and Beer MuZeum is housed in a former hardware store that dates back to 1890.
Breweriana located upstairs at Bahoukas

Not far from Bahoukas is the old Chesapeake Hotel. The structure, built in 1896, is particularly noteworthy because it was a favorite of Al Capone, who would book a room there while visiting the nearby Graw Racetrack. We learned a little more about "The Graw" thanks to Annie McLhinney-Cochran, who operates McLhinney's Speakeasy Museum and International Market located in downtown Havre De Grace.

According to McLhinney, Maryland was the only state that refused to embrace prohibition. "Capone gambled here because he could drink," she said. Today the Chesapeake Hotel operates as a restaurant by the name of the Backfin Blues Creole De Graw.

Quite close to the Backfin Blues is a nondescript structure once known as the A.P. McCombs Building, built by the founder of the Havre Republican newspaper, now known as "The Record." Today it houses JoeRetro, a vintage Market, featuring gifts, vinyl records and new, used and upcycled items. I found a cool Pyrex necklace there. The store features the largest collection of Pyrex cookware I have ever seen.
Keep an eye out for another, much fancier A.P. McCombs building in town--you can't miss it. The beautiful pink dwelling done in the Queen Anne style is located at 120 S. Union Avenue and was built in 1880.
This attractive, pink Queen Anne style house once belonged to newspaper mogul A.P. McCombs
Statement necklaces crafted from broken Pyrex.
Drinking, smoking and cards--a convenient gift for the enablers out there

An A.P. McCombs building that is a little more utilitarian in style. Now home to JoRetro.
A little further along the trail is the Henry Harrison Hopkins House built in 1868. Today it operates as La Cle D'or Guesthouse, an elegant B&B which features an outstanding collection of antiques.
An alcove at La Cle D'or

The Lapis Lazuli room at La Cler D'or
The patio at La Cle D'or
La Cle D'or from the front
Next on the Lafayette Trail is one of the largest houses built as a private residence in Havre De Grace--the Spencer-Silver Mansion. It, too, operates as a Bed and Breakfast.
The Spencer-Silver Mansion dates back to 1896
An alcove in a bedroom of the Spencer-Silver Mansion
Within sight of the Spencer-Silver mansion is the Vandiver Inn. The Inn operates as a B&B and has been the site of many "I Dos," which is appropriate since it was a gift to a bride from her husband. Murray Vandiver served as State Secretary and Treasurer of Maryland and as Mayor of Havre De Grace.
Bed and Breakfast
A view from the front of the Vandiver Inn
This porch was made for relaxing at the Vandiver Inn
Take the Lafayette Trail down to the Bay and you'll see the old Bayou Hotel.  The four-story fieldstone building opened in 1921 when Jazz was all the rage. It was forced to close its doors in 1932 due to a fire. Upon re-opening, further losses were incurred when "sinkboxing," the favored form of duck hunting in the area, was outlawed. The Depression proved to be its death knell and in 1934, the hotel went out of business. The structure later became home to Franciscan nuns before it was sold in 1953 and converted to apartments. Years later, after a period of extensive renovations, developers transformed the hotel into luxury condominiums.
The Bayou hotel, popular during the Jazz Age, still stands today.
The Concord Point Lighthouse is stop number 41 on the Lafayette Trail. The oldest, continuously operating lighthouse in the country was once slated for demolition before a concerned citizen's group banded together to save it.  I was shocked to see how small it is!
The Concord Point Lighthouse is the oldest, continuously operating lighthouse in the country.
Nearby at 720 Concord Street is "The Keeper's Dwelling," which dates back to 1827 and served as the original lightkeeper's house. The honor of serving as lightkeeper was bestowed upon John O'Neill for his efforts in keeping the Brits literally "at bay."
A front view and the inside of "The Keeper's Dwelling"
The Keeper's Dwelling is open from 1 to 5 p.m.on weekends from April through October.

Further on down the road at 201 St. John Street is the Seneca Cannery, which has been repurposed into a large antique market. If you want to get a flavor for an area, visit a local antique market. A few months ago I visited Strasburg, Pennsylvania and discovered an array of old railroad artifacts from lanterns, to conductor's logs, time tables and an old doctor's case used on a train. Guess what I found at the Seneca Cannery? That's right, decoys--more than a few of them--and a lot of cool other things too. Oh and if your relatives have any old, wooden clothespins, it might be a good idea to keep them around. They're selling for $10 a pop.
Decoys on sale at the Seneca Cannery
An antique sewing machine repurposed into a lamp
And, of course, we know what these are--the one in the middle is selling for $10
There are many more stops along the Lafayette Trail. For those who enjoy shopping, Havre De Grace offers plenty of opportunities for that as well, with its blocks of shops selling anything from giftware, to jewelry, to art and apparel.
I purchased one this artifact candle at Blue Heron downtown. The artifact was a liberty coin. 
I think my favorite shop in Havre De Grace was Glyph. Located at 233 St. John Street, Glyph sells high-end stationery, writing instruments and other unique and interesting items that make perfect gifts. I just had to take a picture of this beautiful gift wrap.

There are plenty of restaurants from which to choose in Havre De Grace. For lunch, I recommend The Vineyard Wine Bar located at 142 N. Washington Street. While there, I enjoyed a delicious chicken salad wrapped in naan.
I finished every bit of this delicious chicken salad wrapped in naan and served at The Vineyard Wine Bar 
A unique place I stumbled on during my trip was Washington Street Books and Music. I entered expecting a typically sedate book store, but encountered something else entirely. Can I really call it "new age," these days? Abba blared over the sound system, while rows of 20-somethings browsed through comic books that lined one of the walls. Situated around the retail space chockablock with crystals, toys, minerals and other curiosities, were dozens of floor-to-ceiling glass cases displaying an array of costumes. I soon realized that this was more than a bookstore. The owner, seeing my quizzical look, explained that an adjacent room contained even more costumes. It turns out that he is a movie buff and is in the process of creating an entertainment museum. To date, the store boasts a collection of 250 movie costumes, scripts, and props from more than 70 different films. It's a shame I couldn't get decent pictures due to the glare, but I'll share one below just to give you an idea.

This dress was worn by Jennifer Lawrence in the movie, "The Hunger Games." 

Exploring Havre De Grace can be done leisurely in a period of two or three days and if the weather is nice, don't neglect to "walk the boards" of the scenic Promenade.
Sights from the Promenade above and below.

If you, too would like to walk the Lafayette Trail, brochures are available at the Havre De Grace visitor's center located at 450 Pennington Avenue, or you can download the mobile app by visiting and tapping the "Walk the Lafayette Trail" logo.

Now's a great time to visit since most museums close at the end of October and don't re-open until April.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Touring Historic B&Bs in Charming Havre de Grace

The Concord Point Lighthouse dates back to 1827
Some things remain a mystery, like why weathermen in the Harrisburg area appear to be fixated on a town that takes two hours to reach by car. For as far back as I can remember, local prognosticators have dutifully reported on the temperatures in Havre de Grace, Maryland, which makes little sense to me. After all, Philadelphia and West Chester are within striking distance, yet we rarely hear about the weather there.

My curiosity eventually got the best of me and I began researching the little town of less than 15,000. I learned that in 2014 the area was named by Smithsonian Magazine as one of the top 20 best small towns to visit, so I decided to travel there earlier in the month to learn more about what makes it so special.

I now understand why the place is so highly regarded, although I'm still a bit flummoxed as to why local weathermen are so entranced, other than the fact that it always seems warmer there than in my neck of the woods.

In my next blog post, I'll share more about this scenic area situated at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the head of the Chesapeake Bay, but for now, I'll share a little more about three historic B&Bs, which are all located conveniently near shops, restaurants, and other destinations.

The Vandiver Inn
Located at 301 S. Union Avenue, the Vandiver Inn is known as a premier wedding destination, so chances are you may see a bride or two during your visit.

The mansion dates back to 1886 and is named after Murray Vandiver, who served as Secretary and Treasurer of Maryland and as Mayor of Havre de Grace.Vandiver built the large Victorian "cottage" as a present for his wife, so it seems quite fitting that today it is a popular wedding venue.
The Vandiver Inn
For a time, the house served as an apartment complex, but in the 1980s it was restored to its former glory. Stained glass windows which had previously been removed and sold were amazingly tracked down by the new owners and returned to their proper place.
An attractive bronze lights the way to the rooms upstairs.
Guests can choose from among three houses when staying at the Vandiver Inn. We spent the weekend in the comfortable Cockburn Room in the Kent House located right next door to the main mansion. The attractive room features a sitting area, a private entrance, and a porch overlooking the lawn. Breakfast is served at the main house each morning and can be enjoyed on the lovely and spacious front porch during warmer weather.
A lovely setting for sipping on a large cuppa Joe. 
The sitting room at the Vandiver Inn
Guests help themselves to ala cart breakfast items here. Our hot morning dish was crab quiche.
The inside of the Cockburn Room

hotel room
The sitting area of the Cockburn Room.

What's happening behind me? We could have had a birds-eye view to an "I-Do" or two, but we decided to allow them their privacy. 
The Spencer-Silver Mansion
The Spencer-Silver Mansion dates back to 1896 and is known as one of the largest historic houses in Havre de Grace built as a private residence. Crafted of granite from nearby Port Deposit, the structure is recognized as the only High Victorian stone mansion in the city.
The Spencer Silver Mansion
The house was constructed for John Spencer, a merchant and foundry owner and was later purchased by Charles Silver, the owner of a local cannery.

At one point in time, according to owner Carol Nemeth, a group of doctors joined together with the intention of gutting the stunning structure to make way for a clinic. Luckily, Nemeth was willing to pivot from her occupation in International Banking to proprietor of a bed and breakfast.She used her passion for historical preservation to restore the home to its former glory and has been lovingly caring for the property for the past 29 years.

The main house consists of four guest rooms furnished with Victorian antiques. A two-story cottage tucked away behind the mansion features a whirlpool bath, a spiral staircase, a living room with a working fireplace and a queen-sized bed.
Sitting room of the Spencer-Silver Mansion 

Second-floor sitting area of the Spencer-Silver Mansion

An alcove in a bedroom in the Spencer-Silver mansion
A working antique phone from France
A sitting area on the second floor of the Spencer-Silver mansion
Porch of the Spencer-Silver mansion
Guests are encouraged to relax in the secluded backyard garden

La Cle D'or GuestHouse
Antique lovers will find something of interest in every turn of the head at La Cle D'or (Key of Gold) Guesthouse located at 226 North Union Avenue.

The home dates back to 1868 and was once the home to Henry Harrison Hopkins, a pharmacist who built the structure in the Second Empire Style. The Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties describes the home as having "an eclectic, even eccentric style that became popular after the Civil War."

Owner Ron Browning is always ready, willing and available to discuss the provenance of each antique with an encyclopedic knowledge and guests are encouraged to inquire about the pieces, many of which are for sale.

The former history teacher owns furniture that dates back to the 1700s, Delft pottery dating back to the 1600s, an 1800's "flow blue" china collection, documents signed by Lafayette and Louis XIV and an authentic Renoir, to name just a few of the impressive items on display.
A front view of La Cle D'or Guesthouse
A lion guards the front of the La Cle D'or Guesthouse

Living room of La Cle D'or

Alcove at La Cle D'or

Dining room at La Cle D'or

Antiques at La Cle D'or

The Lapis Lazuli room at La Cle D'or
The Russian Room at La Cle D'or
Back patio at La Cle D'or
These interesting, excellent and comfortable lodging options are just a few that are available for your stay in Havre de Grace. For those who enjoy architecture and history, they also have the added advantage of being located on the Lafayette Trail.

Many thanks to Tyler Buck for taking the time to show me around the town during my stay and for literally opening the doors to these beautiful venues.

Next Up: Exploring Havre de Grace