Overview: Glen Burnie Historic House and Gardens
The Glen Burnie Historic House of Winchester, Virginia, played a role in the early settlement of the Shenandoah Valley. The site as we know it today began when surveyor James Wood received a twelve-hundred-acre land grant in the Valley in 1735. Wood and his bride, Mary Rutherford, settled into a house he built on his land, likely in 1738, the year of their marriage.
In 1744, Wood divided twenty-six lots of his land to plot a town, and donated four additional lots for the town’s public use. These actions founded a settlement called Frederick Town, which was later named Winchester, and was the first town in the Valley to be recognized by Virginia’s colonial government.
In 1794, Robert Wood, son of James and Mary Wood, built a house on the James Wood site. Perhaps this house was an addition to his parents’ log house, but more likely it was a separate structure. This house and what remained of its land-portions had been sold, or given to heirs over the years-passed to Catherine Wood, wife of Thomas S. Glass, in 1884. Glen Burnie then remained in Glass family ownership, and eventually came to be wholly owned by Julian Wood Glass Jr. in 1955.
Julian Wood Glass Jr. transformed the house, furnished it with a distinguished collection of decorative arts, and created the Glen Burnie Gardens. Prior to his death in 1992, he also formed the Glass-Glen Burnie Foundation. With support from this Foundation and additional funding from other sources, the Glen Burnie Historic House and Gardens opened as a museum in 1997.
The Museum of the Shenandoah Valley (MSV), which opened in the spring of 2005, is located just outside the gardens. The MSV expands the interpretive scope of the Glen Burnie House and Gardens by telling the broader story of the region in which they are located. The MSV is open year round. The Glen Burnie Historic House and its surrounding gardens are open seasonally.
The Glen Burnie Historic House: A Creation of Many Lives
Robert Wood, son of James and Mary Wood, built the central portion of the current Glen Burnie Historic House in two phases; the first room was completed by May of 1794, and the hall and parlor sections were added in 1797.
The central core of the Glen Burnie Historic House is a typical "I-House," a type of house that has been popular in the Shenandoah Valley since the early 1800s. These houses usually have two full stories and are one room deep, with an entrance on the long side of the house. They feature a central hall, flanked on each side with one room.
The Wood and Glass families changed the house over the years to fit their needs. By the twentieth century, wings had been added to the north and south ends of the house, which was then in disrepair. The wings were so badly compromised by 1955 that Julian Wood Glass Jr. removed and replaced them when he assumed the site’s ownership that year. The new south wing was designed as a drawing room on the first level, and the north wing was given a breakfast room and kitchen on this level. Glass then turned the dining room into his library, and the original parlor into his dining room. In spite of these changes, the oldest sections of the house retain significant original detail. This includes the hall’s front doors, a hand-carved dining room mantel, and the woodwork and moldings.
The house’s collection contains Valley objects that are original to the earliest Wood and Glass families. Examples are a Tall Case Clock, c. 1795 by Goldsmith Chandlee (1751-1821), and the largest single collection of portraits by artist Edward Caledon Bruce (1825-1900). In addition to the objects he inherited, Julian Wood Glass Jr. also purchased paintings, fine furniture, and decorative objects for the house. This collection includes furniture by Philadelphia and Massachusetts makers, and paintings by such artists as Lionel Constable (1828-1887), Philips Wouwerman (1619-1668), Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860), and George Romney (1734-1802). The collection is primarily presented as Julian Wood Glass Jr. personally arranged and enjoyed it.
The Glen Burnie Historic House is open April 1-November 30 in 2005, and thereafter March 1 to November 30. Its docent tours are included in the price of museum admission. An introductory video presentation and small Visitors’ Center explain the history of the house and its families.
The Glen Burnie Gardens: The Creation of a Lifetime
The Glen Burnie Gardens appear as timeless as the historic house they surround. In fact, in 1955, the grounds included only pastureland, trees, the tenants’ vegetable garden, and the historic family cemetery that was hidden by a tangle of overgrowth.
Beginning in 1956 and over the next half-century, Julian Wood Glass Jr. and R. Lee Taylor transformed this landscape into the six acres of gardens that greet visitors today. Surrounding these gardens are 250 acres of land that date back to James Wood’s original land grant. Still used for agricultural purposes today, this surrounding land contributes to the site’s rural air.
The Glen Burnie Gardens were created to provide visual beauty to the site, and support Julian Wood Glass Jr.’s formal lifestyle and entertaining. At first Glass primarily entertained friends and family here; he hosted many formal dinner parties and seasonal special events, such as Easter egg hunts. By the end of the 1970s, the entertaining scope had expanded along with the landscape; the site was then attracting private tour requests by garden clubs and other groups.
Julian Wood Glass Jr. financed the gardens’ creation and was involved in their design. The younger Lee Taylor was also involved in the gardens’ design, and provided much direct physical labor to create them. Taylor began that work in 1956; by the mid-1960s, he was living full-time in the historic house to direct creation of the emerging landscape, and supervise its maintenance. Taylor then served as curator of gardens when the site opened as a museum in 1997. He was working in that capacity when he died in 2000.
Today the gardens are part of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley complex, and many museum events take place here. The gardens are also a popular location for private weddings and receptions. The Glen Burnie Gardens are open seasonally, April 1-November 30 in 2005, and thereafter March 1 to November 30. Guided garden tours for groups of ten or more are available by advance reservation; otherwise, the gardens are open on a self-tour basis. By the fall of 2006, an audio guide of the gardens will also be available.
In 2003, the museum published The Gardens of Glen Burnie: The History and Legends of a Virginia Legacy. The 118-page book, available in both hard and soft covers, is illustrated with archival and recent color images, and presents a complete history of the gardens. The book is available for sale in the Museum Store; complimentary media copies are available upon request.
A listing of the individual spaces comprising the Glen Burnie Gardens is as follows.
The Glen Burnie Gardens: Rooms for Entertainment
• The Terrace, Knot Garden, and Parterre
The terrace and boxwood parterre, with the statue of Mercury at center, are positioned outside the drawing room. The boxwood knot garden is just outside the hall’s back entrance.
• The Grand Allée
This grand space of flowering crab apples provides a dramatic vista between the knot garden and the historic family cemetery, some 150 yards west.
• The Chinese and Water Gardens
These gardens are among visitors’ favorites, and include a pond with golden trout, the site’s first garden folly, many water features, a pagoda, and moon gate.
• The Pleached Allée
This intimate walkway of flowering crab apples is one of the gardens’ signature spaces; it connects the Historic House Visitors’ Center and the Pink Pavilion.
• The Pink Pavilion and Courtyard
This garden folly, with working fireplace, faces a sunken courtyard with an Italian fountain. It was furnished and much used for entertaining during Julian Glass Jr.’s lifetime.
• The Formal Vegetable Garden
This garden began as a traditional row-planted vegetable garden, and then transitioned into a vegetable garden with a formal pattern that was changed each year.
• The Perennial Garden
The perennial flowers in this garden have been planted in mirroring beds, and provide seasonal interest from spring through fall.
• The Sculpture Garden
This garden gives the most complete sense of intimacy, and is accessed by two entrances cut into its bordering hedges. Sculptures set into the hedges give the space its name.
• The Rose Gardens
The Glen Burnie Gardens are widely known for their roses. The gardens have more than 450 rose bushes in total, planted along brick pathways, as well as in large beds.
• Also Interesting: The small Herb Garden, the historic Family Cemetery, the tiny Hidden Garden next to the Pink Pavilion, and the expansive front lawn with its stream, natural spring, and springhouse.