This is the 188th in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County.
Near Smithsburg is a short road, once called Georgetown Road, that was recently renamed Federal Lookout Road to honor the Union's effort to keep track of J.E.B. Stuart as he protected Lee's retreat from Gettysburg, Pa.
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Federal Lookout Road crosses Crystal Falls Drive and heads up South Mountain. Homes along it are scattered. A small subdivision stands to the north.
Finally an imposing brick home appears, newly painted yellow with white trim. A porch with round, tapered columns wraps around its east side. A flag flies. Buntings swag. A porch swing sways.
For years, this area has been known as Goat Hill, named for the goats that ran free, foraging on brush up and down the mountain, cleaning the peach orchards planted there. The name passed to the farmstead.
Frederick Miller started collecting adjacent parcels of property in 1886, finally accumulating a little more than 44 acres. Charles F. Miller and his wife, Annie E. Miller, purchased this property for $3,000 in 1909. In November 1911, Lancelot Jacques purchased 44 acres, 156 perches from the estate of Charles F. Miller and his wife for $6,500.
The following year, Lancelot Jacques and his wife, Alice B. Jacques, sold this same land to their son, Lancelot Jr., and his wife, Margaret, for "$2,000 and other favors." The deed noted that the property was "for many years known as Frederick Miller's peach and fruit farm." Family tradition as well as architectural details say Miller's house was built around 1890, just after he had purchased his land.
The original section of this three-bay house had four rooms on both the first and second floors. Foundations are stone. A sturdy stone retaining wall runs along the road, leveling the yard behind it. Steps lead through the wall to a walk. Windows have two-over-two sashes, and bricks are laid in a five-to-one bond pattern, typical of the time.
A basement holds a large service fireplace, the only working fireplace in the house, and a plank door with the faintly painted inscription, "Marie Laura 1887."
The main door of the house opens in the middle bay of the front facade. When the house was first built, this door opened off the porch to face a central staircase. This staircase had a wall on its right side and a handrail ending in a volute on the left. Tapered round balusters supported the rail. The stairs were open to the room on the left, probably the living room.
Behind it lay the kitchen with a chimney and a mantel on the wall between the rooms, but with no fireplace.
Lancelot Jr. and his wife were to have 11 children, and the Jacques were the ones who added on to the house. An ell was built at the back of the original block, a brick addition one room deep.
The kitchen moved into this addition, leaving its original space to serve as a dining room. Another addition followed, frame this time, and again the kitchen migrated, now to the west side of the house.
The second floor was divided into eight bedrooms instead of four. A large double porch on the back completed the house. The upper level of this porch had windows on the south and on both ends. It was divided into two sections. Boys slept on one side while girls slept on the other in the summer time.
In 1915, Lancelot Jr. paid $750 for 13 acres and 14 square perches of adjoining land, giving him a farmstead of about 60 acres. Here he and Margaret farmed and raised their children.
In 1977, Margaret Jacques, now a widow, conveyed the property to her 29 grandchildren.
She reserved a life estate for herself and for her unmarried daughter, Nancy Catherine, who lived with her. Margaret died Dec. 3, 1984, and Nancy survived her by almost 25 years. At her death, 28 grandchildren still lived to inherit the property.
An auction was held Oct. 3, 2009, offering the house with its tenant house, a barn with several horse stables beside it, a garage, smokehouse and summer kitchen, all little altered since they had been built about a hundred years before.
Hugh and Rayetta Schindel attended the auction. Rayetta wanted a house in the country, a farmhouse like her grandmother's, with a porch for a swing and crannies for grandchildren to play in. They won the bid.