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Maiden Point Farm - A Historic Jewel

Story by Kathy Warren and Photography by Robert Gerardy

Less than a century ago, the idea of one day inheriting family property and creating a home where your ancestors had once lived was the norm. Each generation adding their own sense of style to the home, while still retaining the character of the previous owners, was both a tradition and an honor among many families.

Today, with fast-paced lives and jobs, which move us far from our roots, it's hard to imagine living in the home our parents or grandparents-or even ourselves- used to call home. But for some families, a strong connection and sense of belonging to a certain house or plot of land is more than a birthright, it's a privilege.

Such is the case for Robinette and Bradford Ross of historic Maiden Point Farm. Though this unique home was built long before Bradford's family purchased it, the couple, along with their children and grandchildren, see themselves as stewards of both the land and its dwellings.

Though there is some dispute as to the exact year the 1 1/2 story, four square, center hall manor house was constructed, it is believed to date back to 1750, or as early as 1720. Originally patented in 1687 by James Turner as a 50-acre tract of land known as "New York," this tract, along with the adjacent property known as Maiden Point was acquired by Joseph Edelen in the early 1700s. Here, on more than 200 acres of land, Joseph Edelen constructed his Flemish bond brick home with its unusual jerkin head roof. Today, still a working farm, Maiden Point encompasses more than 120 acres and is situated on a pastoral peninsula facing Cuckold Creek in Newburg, Maryland.

By the late 1700s Maiden Point was a productive working farm, with records indicating numerous outbuildings such as a milk house, tobacco house and even servant's quarters. Like many Southern Maryland plantations over the centuries, the cash crop of tobacco continued to play an integral role in the success of Maiden Point Farm.

Following the Civil War, Maiden Point had lost much of its original prominence as a tobacco plantation and by the 1940s the home had fallen into disrepair. An unlikely owner by the name of Nellie Tayloe Ross came into the picture and purchase the farm in 1947.

Nellie Tayloe was born in Missouri in 1876, and following her marriage to a young lawyer named William Bradford Ross in 1902, the couple relocated to Cheyenne, Wyoming. In 1922, William B. Ross was elected governor of Wyoming and died tragically of a ruptured appendix in 1924. Wyoming democrats quickly nominated his widow, Nellie Tayloe Ross, to run in a general election to complete her husband's remaining two-year term. She did so, becoming the first and only elected woman to ever govern the state of Wyoming, and she also holds the distinction of being the first woman governor of any state in the Union.

This would start Nellie Ross down a long and successful road of public service that would lead her directly back to her East Coast ancestry and bring her to Maiden Point Farm. After serving as governor of Wyoming, Mrs. Ross was appointed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 to serve as the director of the U.S. Mint, a position she held until her retirement in 1952.

After moving to Washington, friends urged former Governor Ross to visit Southern Maryland to find property that she and her family could use as a weekend retreat. When she found Maiden Point Farm in the late 1940s, it was in desperate need of repairs. Undaunted by the rustic nature of the farm, which included chickens inside the historic house, she began the arduous task of restoring the old manor home. Current owner Bradford Ross recalls coming to the property with his grandmother and how they had to be brought to the house by tractor because a car wasn't able to traverse the lane leading to the home. By the early 1950s, Nellie Tayloe Ross had brought the structure back to its former glory.

Over the next 30 years, Nellie and her family would enjoy weekends and summers at the farm. Throughout this time, the farm always remained a working and productive entity. Nellie Tayloe Ross died in 1977 at the age of 101 and her son, William Bradford Ross II (Bradford Ross' father) inherited the farm. This next generation had already begun to improve Maiden Point with the construction of a pool and pool house in 1968 and the addition of central air conditioning in the early 1970s.

Like the generations before them, Robinette and Bradford Ross feel a strong sense of stewardship to Maiden Point and continue the task of restoring the manor house and its outbuildings. After visiting here with their three children nearly every weekend and each summer, they took possession of the property in 1999 and began putting their own unique touches on the house and grounds.

Today, Maiden Point is a testament to the Ross family and their love of history. Each generation has sought to maintain historic integrity while creating a warm and inviting home. The large entry foyer features an unusual freestanding corner staircase. With its center hall design, rooms flow from this main corridor, with a library to the right, off the entryway. Intricate raised pine paneling with its warm patina frames the large arched fireplace giving the room a masculine feel. Antique rifles, a slant front writing desk, and family memorabilia, including a framed poster from Nellie Tayloe Ross' gubernatorial campaign, fill the room.

The drawing room features wide crown and dentil molding, which frames the 10-foot ceilings. Cream colored wainscoting surrounds yet another original fireplace and highlights the furnishings. An electrified crystal gasolier and an oriental rug were gifts to Brad's grandmother by Spanish leader Francisco Franco. A mix of period antiques, such as the inlaid chest-on-chest the couple found in England, help maintain the historic sense of the home.

A sunroom off the back of the house provides the family an ideal spot to relax and eat breakfast while taking in the water and garden views. Just off the sunroom is the formal dining room. A large fireplace with lion and irons is juxtaposed against stark white raised paneling and cool green walls. The grand mahogany table looks as though it's been there since the home was constructed. An oil painting of Robinette's mother serves as guardian of the space.

Beyond the dining room is the "hunt" study rounding out the original footprint of the manor house. Currier and Ives prints adorn the walls while comfortable furnishings provide a place to sit and read the newspaper or watch the evening news.

Also on the main level is the kitchen, which was added onto the original dwelling. Modern conveniences such as the dishwasher and refrigerator have been concealed behind rich cherry cabinetry. Bradford and Robinette paid special attention to the kitchen during their remodel to try and create a space that was functional, but with a nod to its period roots. The brick floor and beamed ceiling, along with a collection of copperware, all add to the period feel.

Up the tiny winding stair are three bedrooms. The sloping floor at the top of the stairs leads to the master bedroom. An antique canopy bed is dressed in embroidered linens much as it would have been in the 1700s. Dormers look out over the manicured grounds and framed fashion prints from 1800s magazines adorn the walls, evoking images of what it might have been like to live in the home during that time.

Outside, a guest cottage (which once served as the farm's chicken coop), a tool shed, and potting shed have all been either built or restored by the owners to create the ideal family gathering place for their children and grandchildren. Robinette, a member of the Charles County Garden Club, has taken great care to create outdoor spaces that are as inviting and beautiful as the interior spaces.

Both Bradford and Robinette look to the future of this viable working farm while honoring its past. They hope to find ways to share their property and its historic significance with the community. As they decide the best way to pursue their vision for Maiden Point Farm in the years to come, it will always be a place they will call "home." Robinette sums it up best, saying, "Maiden Point is not large, but it is a little jewel."

This site contains select articles from our hardcopy magazine from the past ten plus years.
As such, some of the information in this particular article may no longer be current.

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