As I noted in one of my previous posts, Tudor Hall was not the original Booth family home in Bel Air, Maryland. At first, Junius Brutus Booth, Mary Ann Holmes and little Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. lived in a rented log cabin belonging to a Bel Air family by the name of Rodgers. As Ella Mahoney, the owner of Tudor Hall from when the Booth’s gave it up in 1878 to her death in 1948, wrote:
“The little house in which they were living had been occupied by the Rogers’, who some years before, having rented the farm and gone to live in town, becoming discontented and the lease not having expired, built this for a temporary home until they could regain possession of their house.”
When Junius Brutus Booth leased the 150 acres he and his family would live on in May of 1822 (he could not buy it outright because he was not a citizen of the United States), he purchased the cabin from the Rodgers and had it moved away from their house:
“The house was strongly built, and Mr. Booth bought and moved it. It caused quite an excitement in the neighborhood, people coming to witness the novel sight of a house being rolled across the fields, and many lent a helping hand.
Mr. Booth chose a location for his home near a fine spring. In front of the house stood a large cherry tree, and at the back a sycamore, which has grown to immense size, being now eighteen feet in circumference. In that house they lived until later they built this substantial brick house [Tudor Hall]…”
With the exception of the oldest and youngest children, Junius Jr. and Joseph Adrian Booth, all of the Booths were born in this log cabin by the spring.
Ella Mahoney goes on to describe this log cabin home even further:
“The old house still stood on the front lawn when I first knew the place. I remember it well. The main part of the house — the part that was moved — had had added at the east end a kitchen built of logs, a big stone chimney on the outside, and a wide fireplace within. At the west end also a log addition, which had never been finished, no floors laid above or below. As a child I used to play in that old house, and walk on some boards laid on the sleepers of the upper story.
The main part of the house consisted of one large room, with hall running through at one end. A door opened out at either end, and at one side a well preserved stairway and railing; a landing well up; a large closet under the stairway, and also a closet in the big room above, in which room as well as in the room below, was a fireplace, with shelves in the wall on either side. I remember these closets so well, on account of having seen a cross goose sitting in the room below, and another walk deliberately past us when we were playing in the room above, and go to her nest in the closet there.
The old house was so unattractive, standing as it did in front of this house, and in such a state of decay, that my husband had it removed when he began improvements about the place, as I suppose the Booths had intended doing. There were the remains of another building near the back of the house, a room perhaps for the servants. There was a log springhouse near the spring, through which the overflow from the spring ran; also the remains of an old cider press.”
The Booth log cabin was still in existence when Ella Mahoney’s husband bought the place from Mary Ann Booth in 1878. As stated above he, “had it removed”. But removed to where?
Reader Steve Lohrmann, who visited Tudor Hall when it was the private home of Dorothy and Howard Fox, recalls this story:
“I’ve been to Tudor Hall twice when it was a private residence, and met the owner of that time, Mr. Fox. He was very nice and showed me around the place. The little tour he gave me was very interesting, but there is one thing Mr. Fox told me that I forgot until I read about the cabin. He told me Tudor Hall’s kitchen is built around the old cabin. Is that true?”
After doing some research, I don’t believe this to be the case. If the log cabin was transformed into the kitchen when Tudor Hall was built in 1851/52, then Ella Mahoney would had never even seen the log cabin since she wasn’t born until 1858. In addition, in the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties report about Tudor Hall, no special mention is given to the kitchen in regards to it being the original cabin but, instead, implies the kitchen on Tudor Hall was created at about the same time as Tudor Hall and then later connected to the house:
“The separate kitchen house is a very late example of an earlier custom. Although it does not appear in the published plan, it is suggested in the published lithograph perspective…
Changes: In the late 19th century, the kitchen house was joined to the main house by infilling construction. The space thus enclosed was incorporated into the dining room. The kitchen chimney was reduced to a single stove flue and the kitchen stair was removed…”
So the Tudor Hall kitchen is not the original cabin. However, this Historic Property report for Tudor Hall does provide some valuable information on what did happen to the Booth log cabin.
Before getting to that though, I have to thank another reader of the blog, Elsie Picyk. Elsie is a resident of Port Tobacco, MD and volunteered during the archaeology project that occurred there. Back in October, she sent me the Fall 2012 edition of the Maryland State and Highway Administration’s Cultural Resources Bulletin. On page 8 of that bulletin appeared an article about the Booth Log Cabin:
Before reading this, I never even thought that the original home of the Booths near Bel Air could have survived into the present day. After reading it, I made sure this was a house I visited when I went to Tudor Hall. This article linked to the Historic Properties report for the “Booth Log House” and, despite a couple errors with dates, it explains how the house came to stand today.
As stated by Ella Mahoney in her book, her first husband Samuel Kyle, had the Booth log cabin moved away from Tudor Hall sometime after he bought the property in 1878. It was moved to its current location, at the intersection of Churchville Road and Prospect Mill Road in Harford County:
At that time, that land was still part of the Tudor Hall property. Over the years, the “Booth Log House” has been extensively changed. As described in the Cultural Resources Bulletin:
“As currently configured, the dwelling is an irregular amalgamation built in four different sections: the original side-gable log house is sandwiched between a circa 1900 single story hipped-roof kitchen addition and circa 1950 two-story shed-roof addition to the north and the circa 1925, two-story, gable-front Classical Revival addition to the south. The original log section is hard to discern from the other sections, only notable by its steep, gable ends incorporated into the east and west elevations shown by the arrow on the above picture.”
Though added to and changed over the years the middle portion of this house, noted by the gables on the ends, is the Booth family’s log cabin. This is the dwelling that Rosalie, Henry Byron, Mary Ann, Frederick, Elizabeth, Edwin, Asia, and John Wilkes Booth were all born into.
Here are some pictures I took of the house during our visit:
So, when you go and visit historic Tudor Hall, include a slight detour down the road to see what remains of the original Booth family log cabin – the birthplace of the Booths.
Update: As always, make sure to read the comments from others. It appears that there is some doubt as to the authenticity of this being the Booth’s log cabin.
Sketches of Tudor Hall and the Booth family by Ella Mahoney
Maryland State and Highway Administration’s Cultural Resources Bulletin, Fall 2012
Maryland Historical Trust Inventory of Historic Properties Report for Tudor Hall
Maryland Historical Trust Inventory of Historic Properties Report for the Booth Log House
Years ago, researcher/historian extraordinaire, John C. Brennan gave out sections of wood purportedly taken from the log cabin where JWB was born. I was lucky enough to be given one of these sections. I also visited with John, years ago, the site of the cabin. Hasn’t changed much in almost 35 years….I’ll scan in my section of wood with his notes attached.