1893 as a wedding gift, Mary's Hope on Church Cove remains a symbol of
love and gracious living more than 110 years later. The home was a
showpiece of its time and was the namesake of a previous owner, James
Angel, who stated in a will dated May 10, 1736, that land referred to as
Mary's Hope, "being part of The Cross Manner, adjacent to land that was
Luke Herbert's, and now in occupation of Richard Barnhouse, whose
courses and bounds is according to a deed of gift made and signed by two
Justices of the Peace 1730, not recorded," was bequeathed to his
daughter Mary and her heirs.
John Grey Hopkins Lilburn, an industrious planter, waterman, and later
president of the St. Mary's County Commissioners, purchased the property
known as Pleasant Valley in the late 1800s to create a home for his
fiancée, Annie Elizabeth Thomas. Miss Thomas was also from a
well-respected local family and her great grandfather, James Thomas, had
served as governor of Maryland from 1833 through 1836. Annie herself was
well educated and served as principal of the St. Mary's Female Seminary,
which would later become St. Mary's College of Maryland. A portion of
Mary's Hope is believed to pre-date the 1893 wedding of John Lilburn to
Annie Thomas and its exact age or who owned it is unknown.
By 1910, the successful Lilburn family had a modern and spacious home,
which included such luxuries as running water and a septic system,
something quite unusual for rural St. Mary's County at the turn of the
century. Just three years later, in 1918, Lilburn passed away leaving
the house to his wife who died in 1932.
More than 50 years later, another successful local businessman, William
E. Raley, purchased the home and began renovating the house. "Bill"
Raley and his wife Judy, owners of Raley's Furniture, began the arduous
task of restoring the home to its former grandeur. A practical man by
nature, Raley decided that a brick façade was a much better choice for
the home's exterior and so the old wooden siding was replaced with brick
and later painted white.
During the renovations, an exciting discovery came while replacing
boards in the porch roof. An old pine board had been placed there years
ago, which upon closer examination revealed the names of Augustine
McClanahan and John Haman. The two men had been working on the house and
had signed the board saying they would "dine and sup tonight at the
wedding of John Lilburn and Annie Thomas." They dated the board July 26,
1893, and the board remained hidden for nearly 100 years. Today it is
proudly displayed in the "Lilburn" room located just off the front
Over the years, the house underwent extensive renovations and several
additions to create the structure we see today. Although the property
still remains in the Raley family, it now serves another purpose. After
years filled with many happy memories from three generations living in
the home, the Raley family decided in 2002 to share the property with
the public by turning the home into the ideal spot for social
gatherings. The idea was sparked when one of the owner's daughters
decided she wanted to hold her wedding at the house.
Today, one of Bill Raley's daughters, Betty Woodburn, along with her
mother Judy and seven brothers and sisters own the property. While Betty
and her daughter Erin Lord help coordinate the many events that take
place each year at Mary's Hope on Church Cove, other family members
often pitch in to provide the support needed to keep the large home and
grounds running smoothly.
With its idyllic waterfront setting on a point high above Church Cove,
the grounds are adorned with old growth oak, walnut and poplar trees.
Crepe myrtle, magnolia, and lilacs are just some of the many flowering
trees and plants found on the grounds. A gazebo overlooking the water
provides the perfect backdrop for wedding portraits.
The house lends a sense of stateliness to any function. The grand foyer
features antique furnishings and original pine flooring. The large
staircase with restored hand-carved oak newel post gives visitors their
first glimpse at a bygone era. Grand windows with an unusual mullion
pattern and original wavy glass fill the Lilburn room with plenty of
natural light, which plays off the cheerful yellow walls. A large turret
filled with windows and views of the manicured lawn is a fitting spot to
place a cake table.
The Raley Room, with its ethereal sea foam-colored walls, has expansive
views of the creek and provides room for additional seating for larger
gatherings. A kitchen located off the Raley Room provides easy access
for catering any size event.
The Mueller Room, named for Erin's great grandfather, features a beamed
ceiling, wide beadboard paneling and a fireplace. More large windows let
in natural light and soft green walls give a soothing feeling to this
Upstairs, several bedrooms, divided by "groom's side" and "bride's side"
give anxious brides and grooms-to-be a place to relax and prepare for
the festivities. Also upstairs is access to the two-story balcony, which
overlooks the front lawn and is a favorite place for brides to throw
With its majestic setting and connection to the past, Mary's Hope
continues to stay true to John Lilburn's original vision of home-a place
built in the name of love, which provides love and hope to those who
To find out more about Mary's Hope, visit
www.marys-hope.com or call