July 9, 2002
Young visitors can get a taste of colonial life as docents lead them on a tour of the mansion's rooms, including the kitchen, two large parlors, and the upstairs bedrooms. Children get the opportunity to card wool, help make a quilt, pop popcorn, play with period toys, and dress in colonial garb. The buildings outside the mansion house a blacksmith shop, icehouse, carriage museum, and a simple one-room cabin. The entire tour is well planned, with plenty of hands-on activities and thought-provoking leading questions.
When I first visited Rose Hill, I was charmed by the gracious house but - need I say it? - as a parent chaperone I was somewhat distracted. I had long wanted to return on my own and do a non-kid-oriented tour, and finally did so this past spring.
Rose Hill was even lovelier than I had remembered it; the gardens were ablaze with red poppies and the numerous shiny-leaved leatherleaf viburnums had just set out new crinkly dark-green foliage. However, it seems I had come at an inopportune time as the staff was short one docent that day and everyone was busily leading first graders through the house and grounds. No matter; I wandered around until the schoolgroup left, which it did shortly.
I strolled through the grounds, past the neatly pruned orchard and around the handsome outbuildings, then rested a spell in the garden, with its wisteria arbors, pink rugosa roses, tidy beds of herbs, and those blazing poppies. The front of the mansion is handsome, with stately columns and the Stars and Stripes waving from a tall flagpole, but I found I preferred the view of the house from the garden. From that vantage point, the house displays less pomp and reveals a tidy, almost demure façade. I began to play a favorite architectural game: which Jane Austen character would be most suited to live in this house? Sensible, outspoken Elizabeth Bennett, I decided. Mr. Darcy would approve of the front of the house, while Lizzie would fall sway to the charms of the back.
It does the heart good to see the past treated with such care and respect, not to mention veracity. When the schoolchildren departed, I had the chance to be shown round the house on a private tour. I asked the docent questions about the restoration of the manor, a conversation that soon veered off onto a discussion of the restoration of our respective old farmhouses, the enduring preoccupation of inmates in aged dwellings. We both agreed that it would be a fine thing indeed if our homes were as lovingly restored as Rose Hill Manor.
From journal Frederick, Maryland: Bridging Past and Present