by Brian R. Waesche
Twenty-nine years ago, on Wednesday night, December 30, 1987, a crowd gathered outside the Thurmont home at 108 Park Lane as firefighters from five Northern Frederick County companies reported to a blaze that engulfed the large, historic home. Among the crowd, Randy Waesche; Gettysburg Times reporter, Erin Dingle; and Thurmont natives, Diane Weant and Rick Eyler, witnessed the event burn into the story of what many referred as the “Waesche home-place,” a story beginning 152 years before the blaze.
Shortly before 1835, Henry Rouzer wed Catharine Schlosser, and in 1836, the couple welcomed their first child, Josiah. The young family resided with Henry’s father until he placed Henry in possession of a tract of land on the fringe of Mechanicstown. On the property existed a two-story log cabin—constructed in the earliest years of the 1800s—that Henry and Catharine made their home. Henry operated a tanning business on the property for fifty years, his tannery located where Thurmont’s 112 E. Main Street stands today. The tannery’s location alongside the stream, flowing through the Memorial Park today, lent the creek the name “Rouzer Run,” its final course winding through the Rouzer property before joining Hunting Creek.
Henry grew to make a comfortable living, and in 1847, he and his wife and children moved next to his tannery along Main Street to a stone mansion-house that Henry enlarged from a one-room stone cottage. After retirement in 1877, Henry devoted the attentions of his later years to improving his home property. He was an excellent farmer and his lands were made valuable by his care and hard, persistent work.
Another son, John Henry, was born to Henry and Catharine Rouzer in 1839. John Henry assisted greatly with his father’s tanning and farming enterprises and, in May of 1870, was granted “for the sum of $1,015 and labor and services rendered to me [Henry]” 59 acres of his father’s estate, containing the Rouzer’s former cabin, John Henry’s birthplace along the tannery road at the rear of the Rouzer Mansion lot. Separate from Henry’s conveyance to his son was his stone mansion and several lots fronting East Main Street. John Henry’s elder brother, Josiah, had passed away in 1857, at just twenty-two years of age.
Two years after John Henry acquired the majority of his father’s holdings, he married Martha Ellen “Ella” Clugston in 1872; by 1892, he had five children, resulting in three sons. Two daughters, Mary (1881-1883) and Ruth (1891-1892) did not survive. After Catharine Rouzer’s death in 1885 and Henry’s in 1887, John Henry, executor of his father’s estate, sold at public sale his parent’s mansion to Daniel Osler for $11,205, and to others several separate lots were sold. In time, the Rouzer mansion became the Creager Funeral Home, and later Stauffer Funeral Home, which it remains.
Costing $87,000, 108 Park Lane, built from the now unrecognizable Rouzer cabin, was sold to Luisa Faux-Burhans Allen in the summer of 1984. Luisa, the widow of Amos Denslow Burhans, and her second husband, Richard C. Allen, moved to Thurmont, where her sister Anna Faux White resided. At the time of his marriage to Luisa, Richard “Dick” Allen was, too, widowed, in 1966, by first wife, Helen Faux, the sister of his second wife, Luisa, and her sister, Anna White. Allen was the Editor of Hamburg, New York’s The Sun newspaper that he, his wife Helen, and sister-in-law Anna founded in 1945. Under Allen ownership, only three-and-a-half years after purchasing the home, a dropped cigarette was rumored to ignite a carpet in the couple’s second-story bedroom. Fire tore through the two upper floors of the house, destroying them from the inside, and causing severe water damage to the first floor. Allen and wife were both taken to the hospital where Luisa Faux-Burhans Allen passed after becoming ill. The notification of her death requested condolences may be forwarded to her husband at “Frederick Memorial Hospital, Wing 4B, Rm. 45” where he was recovering from burn-wounds. Over a year later, in June 1989, Allen’s newspaper reported “We talked to Sun editor emeritus Richard Allen recently and he is doing quite well. He has moved back into his house and is enjoying a new basset hound puppy. His address is 108 Park Lane, Thurmont, MD 21788. Phone 301-271-3262.”
Seventy-two-year-old Allen modestly repaired the home to the form that stands today. Retained was the unconventional five-bay window arrangement around an off-center entry and decorative concrete porches, whose material spared them from fire damage. The most recognizable change made by Allen was the remittance of the walk-up third floor, not replaced during reconstruction. Using steeply raked gables in place of the former hip-style roof, 108 Park Lane was instead finished with two uneven roof planes, the portion over the westward section of the home being slightly raised and forming a jog in the façade’s shingled construct. Previously, the step-up in the second floor, hinting at the higher log walls of the original Rouzer cabin within, was disguised beneath a uniform ceiling height. Allen covered the blackened stucco with typical vinyl siding, replaced the large six-over-six sashes with basic units of smaller size, and added a contrasting, 1980s-style sloped sunroom to the rear of the home, connecting a summer kitchen to the main house.
Today, the home remains a 4 bedroom, 2.5 Bath, 3,000-plus square-foot dwelling, as Allen refashioned it. It features a decorative “U”-shaped stairway, partially exposed log interior, expansive attic accessible through a pull-down hatch, and a two-story summer kitchen with a walk-in fireplace. The home deteriorated during the late 1990s after Mr. Allen moved in with his nephew, late wife Luisa’s son, Amos D. “Den” Faux-Burhans, near Urbana in 1994. Neglected and rented until sale (at one point to several Mount Saint Mary’s students), it passed into the trust of Den Faux-Burhans in 1999 after his uncle’s death. Diane Weant and Rick Eyler, the same couple that watched the home burn twelve years prior, purchased the residence at 108 days before the new millennium. Rick, a skilled builder, immediately began to remedy the underlying problems that come with any old home. Siding was replaced, roof repaired, porches patched, surfaces refinished, stone foundations strengthened, and a concrete floor poured in the dirt cellar during his tenure. The Eyler family greatly improved the home, accomplishing a fine cosmetic result, with raised panel shutters, fresh colors, and the simple warmth of family that does a home so well.
The Eyler’s sold 108 Park Lane when they sub-divided and built a new home on the property, placing their former home in the care of Becky Brashear and Jenny Hankey for the past nine years. Brashear and Hankey tastefully adorn the home throughout the holidays and seasons, while continuing to make improvements. Since purchase, the original, bark-covered timbers holding up the original cabin have been checked for integrity, and stanchions installed to re-level the settling, kitchen floor framing. Avid entertainers, several outdoor living spaces, tiered patios, and decks, and a 3,300-gallon quoi pond have been added to the property as well. Becky states “We’ve worked hard to maintain the historical integrity of the home: the original wood floors in the living room and dining room, the deep windowsills, and the front porch.”
She and Jenny also spoke of some of the oddities of the home. The continual appearance of pennies found inside, outside, and in the strangest of places has become common on Park Lane, and more curiously (initially unaware that a cigarette may have caused the great fire at their home) is the scent of cigarette smoke that sometimes materializes in the air. Nine-year old Australian Shepherd “Parker,” named after his address, and Ms. Brashear’s mother also enjoy the lovely home.
Returned to more resemble a Maryland-farmhouse for the last thirty years, 108 Park Lane contrasts drastically to the pre-1987 federal-style appearance the home displayed for the majority of the twentieth century. Perhaps more interesting than how the once-stucco manor became the house we know today, may be how a three-room log-cabin transformed into a ten-room estate house, the events of which will be the subject of next month’s issue.
The December 31, 1987, Frederick News Post cover story showing the fire that occurred at the home at 108 Park Lane. Photo by Kelly Hahn
The house at Park Lane as repaired by Richard C. Allen. Photo taken by author, Fall 1999