Discovering Eaglehead, Part 1

January 28th, 2014 No Comments

Part 1_1

The Man, The Vision & Lake Linganore’s History

by Charissa Roberson

I stared out the window of the car as I drove home. I passed the welcoming Lake Linganore sign, and followed the gentle curves of the road through the tall trees. It was so well-known to me, and yet it felt strange. I was seeing my world through new eyes…now that I knew the man who had conceived it. Everything, the lake, the dam, the buildings—this place I had known all my life—was born from his mind. How could it be that I knew so little of him? There was so much to know. Scarcely half an hour ago I had been to his home and in his very office.

“Welcome!” A cheery blonde lady greeted me with a smile and led the way to the front door. With my head tucked against the numbing cold, I stepped onto the threshold. The door was an impressive piece, mahogany set with an old-fashioned leadlight window. My hostess, Carolyn Anderson, held it open for me, and I slipped inside. “I’m glad you came,” she said, closing the door behind us. “I wish Dad were here to show you around himself.”

I took a slow step into the warm, quiet house—the home of J. William Brosius, Jr., the founder of Lake Linganore. The rich gold of natural wood gleamed in the walls and closets and ceiling—everywhere—mixed with darker swirls of cinnamon brown grain. To the left, a flight of steps curled upwards into the second floor of the house, twisting around a halved black cherry tree trunk that was erected as the central pole; a second set of stairs led to a sitting room below. Both staircases were fashioned with handrails formed from slices of black cherry limbs that had been cut and smoothed to reveal their inner beauty. Rising from the floor of the sitting room, two complete tree trunks met the ceiling above, natural pillars that fit perfectly with the ambiance of the house and the countryside surrounding it. The trunks supported a huge hand-hewn wooden beam, which I later learned had been rescued by Mr. Brosius from the old barn on his property, and incorporated into the structural design of his home. At the far end of the room, a wall of windows looked out from the sitting room over a tiled solarium, and then beyond to the sloping meadow and the wooded hills and the rippling Linganore Creek running west. I was struck by the way the architecture gave the impression of light and openness, achieved by floor-to-ceiling windows, skylights, and mirrors that reflected sunlight even into the spaces that had none.

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Carolyn led me down the hallway and into the kitchen, a rustic, homey room. Pale sunlight illuminated a rack of spices and cabinets filled with porcelain mugs. While Carolyn heated apple cider on the stove, I peeked through a doorway into another room. It was a dimly lit dining room; a long table of dark walnut ran down the middle, set with candles. The walls were crafted of old, thick fieldstone and rough-cut beams of wood. It was like stepping back in time.

Carolyn followed my gaze. “This part of the house was a one-room log cabin with a loft, built in the late 17oo’s next to a mill race. A stone addition—which includes the kitchen—was built later. When our family bought the house, the log cabin and the stone addition were covered with whitewash and drywall. My mother stripped the whitewash from the outside walls; later my father tore the drywall down to reveal the bare stones and logs inside the house. And then he found this.” She pointed to a deep, natural stone fireplace, set back in the far wall. “It was an exciting discovery for him.” She smiled fondly at the memory. “And see that black kettle there? The metal piece it’s hanging from is the original hand-forged iron arm. Dad found it buried in the dirt floor of the old barn. He brought it inside, and it fit perfectly into the holes at the side of the stone hearth.” I couldn’t help grinning. What a find!

Around the corner I discovered a hallway, the “gallery,” as Mr. Brosius had called it. One side showcased photographs of his family and friends; the other was lined with bookcases built into the wall. The bookcases were overflowing with literature—books stacked double, sitting on the wooden stools, wherever there was space. There were books on houses, architecture, wars, history, as well as dictionaries, classics, novels, adventures…knowledge of every kind. There were ancient books. One was a dictionary from the 1700’s, completely in French, and falling apart with age. I nearly gasped with delight as I saw some of my favorite books in leather bound covers on Mr. Brosius’ shelves. I felt a sudden connection with the man who owned these books, and obviously cherished them. How I wished I could have met him. But he had passed away on May 31, 2013.

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Carolyn gestured to the books with a wide sweep of her hand. “He loved to read. He was driven by an insatiable quest for knowledge.” I read the titles of the dozens of architecture books, many by renowned architects Frank Lloyd Wright and E. Fay Jones, and was astounded by how much research Mr. Brosius had given to his career. “He always thought things through in detail,” Carolyn said. “He wanted everything to be the best possible.”

We drank our cider, and then I followed Carolyn upstairs for the rest of our tour. The walls, as we walked up the stairs, were decorated with black and white photos taken by Mr. Brosius. Carolyn pointed them out. “He was constantly recording his observations in his travels, especially for future ideas and inspiration, the details of land planning, design, construction and landscaping.”

“Did he travel a lot?” I asked, mounting another stair.

She laughed. “To all seven continents, more than seventy countries and almost every U.S. state. He would study quality living environments all over the world, always gathering ideas for his project.” His project: Lake Linganore—a revolutionary idea in a time when people were just beginning to think of ways to preserve the environment and build in sympathy with the land.

Upstairs, we quietly moved through the house’s unique historical design: the most recent addition, built by Mr. Brosius; the mid-19th century stone portion, added generations earlier; and the late 18th century log cabin, which was the original structure.

As we stepped into the 18th-century section of the house, the floorboards beneath our feet creaked with age, and again I had the tingling feeling of walking backwards into a different time than my own.

But for me, the best was still to come—it was time to visit Mr. Brosius’ office.

Collecting our coats from the foyer, Carolyn and I bundled up, preparing to face the chilly outdoors. “Did I tell you about this door?” she asked, gesturing to the front entryway I had noticed upon my arrival. “It was saved from an old building in Baltimore when it was torn down. Dad was always saving things and reusing them; he grew up during the Great Depression, so that became a habit early on in his life.” She tugged the door open and we stepped out into the frosty wind, heading across the driveway to the barn beside the house.

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Hurrying into the building, I found myself at the foot of a short flight of stairs. I eagerly climbed the steps, and emerged at the top into the office. It spanned the entire middle floor of the renovated barn. The southern wall was paneled with glass, offering a picturesque view of Mr. Brosius’ favorite landscape—the unaltered beauty of nature. There were multiple tables and desks, and folders, drawers, and lines of filing cabinets stuffed with maps, papers, and sketches. Every flat surface was covered with paper.

The room was arranged as if Mr. Brosius had just stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. I almost expected to see him in a corner, intently occupied with pencil and paper. But the room was quietly still. Many notes written in Mr. Brosius’ careful, elegant script were scattered throughout the office: personal reminders, spontaneous observations, and promising ideas. He had labeled everything from boxes and cabinets to his father’s pocket-watch and a piece of twisted wire. A corroded metal cylinder had been tagged with the emphatic statement, “Copper does (NOT) last forever!” I smiled at that.

Carolyn opened one of the drawers and pulled out a sheaf of blueprints, sorting through it until she found the plans she wanted. “Look,” she said, pointing to the detailed drawings. Curious, I gazed at the beautiful, lodge-style building that was depicted. “This was his plan for the Coldstream community center. It was designed by E. Fay Jones,” she explained. “What is built now as the LLA office was only meant to be the first stage.” She showed me an adjoining piece on the plans, to the side of the large main building. I was amazed. Imagine if people knew of this plan, and all the others—hundreds more—that filled the cabinets. Mr. Brosius had so many ideas that were never realized.

I crossed the room and walked over to one of the big windows, peering out at the twilight gathering beneath the trees. The glass was cold from the outside air. Then I noticed something stuck to the window in the top corner, a sort of sticker. As I stood on my tip-toes, I read: “’America is too great for small dreams’- Ronald Reagan.”

I paused for a moment. None of us would be sharing in this beautiful community if our founder hadn’t believed in dreaming big. Without Mr. Brosius, Lake Linganore wouldn’t exist. But by working to make his vision a reality, J. William Brosius, Jr., has left every resident of Lake Linganore a legacy—both to cherish and to fulfill.

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