Restorers work to upgrade Catslide House
Friday, Feb. 29, 2008
If an old house could talk the Catslide House in Port Tobacco would weave a fascinating tale.
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Staff photo by GARY SMITH
Steve and Tina Lohr of S.D. Lohr Inc. in Waldorf are working toward the completion of an historical restoration of the Catslide house in Port Tobacco.
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Located near the Port Tobacco Courthouse along the shore of the Port Tobacco River, the mid-18th-century house was only one of hundreds of buildings that provided services and shelter to people who once lived in the bustling harbor town.
The house’s proper name is Burch House, but the name Catslide stuck because of the steep slope of the roof. It is currently under historic restoration and due to be completed very soon, said Tina Lohr, a remodeling contractor with S.D. Lohr Inc. in Waldorf. Lohr and her husband, Steve, were contracted by Charles County to restore the house near the Port Tobacco Courthouse off Chapel Point Road.
The house was ‘‘pretty deteriorated,” Tina Lohr said.
The restoration project includes sinking a well and installing a septic system, building a bathroom, putting on a new roof and installing hand-milled cypress siding and trim done by Emanuel Kurtz, an Amish carpenter, said Cathy Hardy, the county’s community planning program manager.
The job also includes installing a heating and air-conditioning system and a new front door, Hardy said.
The house was last renovated in the 1970s and 1980s, Hardy said.
‘‘Before that it was virtually falling down,” she said. ‘‘The entire front of the house was falling down. One of the challenges of restoring the house was the sediment and drainage problems in the town over the years. The house is like a sponge. It holds the moisture, which is one of the worst things for wood frames. It really led to deterioration through the years.”
The restoration is being funded by a $55,000 Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant, Hardy said, adding that the town of Port Tobacco kicked in $60,000 toward the project, as well.
‘‘This grant is large enough to take care of the whole project,” she said, adding the Lohrs are doing an excellent job in restoring the house. ‘‘They’ve really worked hard on this. All of the details are well thought out and planned.”
Very little is actually known about the house other than it was a residence built in the mid-18th century, said James Gibb of Gibb Archaeological Consulting in Annapolis. Gibb is doing an extensive archeological dig for artifacts in Port Tobacco.
‘‘We’ve heard a lot of stuff about the house’s history, but it’s kind of vague,” he said, adding that it might have been used for a schoolhouse at one point.
It was once used as a children’s museum, said Roz Racanello, executive director of the Southern Maryland Heritage Area Consortium.
‘‘I’m very excited that there’s been some interest in the Catslide House and Port Tobacco, in general,” she said. ‘‘Port Tobacco is probably one of the richest archeological sites in Southern Maryland. I’m delighted that it is getting the attention and support that it deserves.”
It was during a test dig around the house that Gibb discovered the remainder of a brick floor and foundation that was apparently an addition made to the house during some point in its history.
‘‘If you saw the house in October of 2006 it was in bad shape, but I’ve got an historical photograph dating to the 1920s when it was in really awful shape,” he said. ‘‘It was close to collapsing.”
Restoring the house is important because it is one of only three structures still standing from the time when Port Tobacco was a bustling port town in the early 18th century, Gibb said.
Once the restoration is finished, Gibb said he plans to use part of the structure to store artifacts that he uncovers at the archeological digs at the site.
A wet and dry lab will also be installed in the house to prepare unearthed artifacts for storage.
Catslide will serve as the temporary headquarters for the newly established Charles County chapter of the Archeological Society of Maryland, Gibb said, adding more excavations will be done around the house.
‘‘There are rich deposits of artifacts from the 18th and 19th century that are very deep in the ground,” he said.
Hardy said the house is a perfect place for a meeting place for the county’s chapter of the archeological society.
‘‘It’s a great place for the chapter to call home,” she said.
Everyone involved in the project is looking forward to the full restoration of the house, especially in light of the county celebrating its 350th anniversary this year, Hardy said.
‘‘We’re all very excited about this and everything else that is going on in the village,” she said.