The Rossborough Inn on the Campus of the University of Maryland

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2017

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Abstract

This study of the Rossborough Inn was undertaken by graduate students in the University of Maryland Historic Preservation Program under the aegis of the university’s Office of Facilities Management. The goal of the project has been to trace the history and determine the significance of the Rossborough Inn and to use those findings in critically assessing options for its future role in the evolving campus. Each of three major campus projects that are currently in the planning stages have the potential to dramatically impact the Rossborough Inn and Gardens, either as significant threats to the integrity of the site or as exciting opportunities to return the historic structure to its earlier prominence. The proposed Purple Line light rail system is slated to be built directly north of the Rossborough Inn, with a stop positioned nearby. The Discovery District redevelopment scheme is envisioned as transforming the character of the Route 1 corridor, to include erecting a satellite museum of the Phillips Art Gallery. The potential sites for the new building for the School of Public Policy are located directly south and/or west of the Rossborough Inn. From circa 1803, when a local entrepreneur named Richard Ross constructed the Rossborough Inn, the building hosted a variety of influential leaders of the day. By the 1830s the Rossborough Inn had been converted as a private residence on the “Rossburg” tenant farm; in 1858 it was sold by the Calvert family to the newly established Maryland Agricultural College. Over the next three decades the building was pressed into a variety of uses: as a residential rental property, then as the residence for the college president, and finally as the college laundry. When the Hatch Act was passed by Congress in 1887, the Rossborough Inn was selected to be the home for the Maryland State Agricultural Experiment Station. After serving in that capacity for almost 50 years, in 1938-39 the vacant structure was restored under the direction of the Works Progress Administration. The Rossborough Inn operated as a tea room and house museum until it was turned into the University of Maryland Faculty Club in 1954. After another half-century serving as a focal point of dining and special event activities on campus, the Rossborough Inn was converted once again, this time as administrative office space. The decades of the 1930s-1940s were a pivotal period for the University of Maryland. The Rossborough Inn played a crucial role in helping President Harry “Curly” Byrd promote his vision of transforming the university from its agricultural roots to a major academic institution. Over 15 new buildings were erected, following popular Colonial Revival architectural designs. Along with restoring the Rossborough Inn to evoke its historic past, the nearby Dairy building was dressed in Colonial Revival finery, and by 1941 the gardens and landscape surrounding the buildings were configured to provide a new formal pedestrian entry to campus. One of the primary statements of significance for the Rossborough Inn is its pre-eminent place within the ceremonial campus entrance. The ensemble composed of the inn building, Turner Hall (formerly the Dairy), and the surrounding area, remains largely intact and deserves to be recognized and preserved as a significant designed historic landscape. We believe that there are opportunities to preserve and enhance the Rossborough Inn and the historic landscape as prominent features of the university, while respecting the character and the contributions of the oldest building on the campus.

Notes

Study undertaken by graduate students of the Historic Preservation Program, School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, University of Maryland, College Park. January 2017. Dennis J. Pogue, faculty advisor; Donald J. Linebaugh, program director.

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