Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Ruth Noble Groom's "Mineral Spring Farm"

Talbot County, the geographic and spiritual center of Maryland's Eastern Shore, was founded in 1662. By local standards, the Victorian house at Mineral Spring Farm, in Claiborne is not "old." It was built in the late 1850s and has belonged to Ruth "Babba" Noble Groom since she and her late husband Dan Wallace purchased it in 1990. "I love it more with each passing year," she says of the forty-five acre estate she shares with an English mastiff, an English bulldog, five cats, two retired racehorses, an Appaloosa, a Belgian draft, and a burro.
The main house sits on the mouth of the Miles River a mere 200 feet from the Chesapeake Bay, yet prior to Mrs. Groom's renovations the water was visible only from the kitchen sink. Consequently she opened up the rooms by knocking out walls, raising the ceilings to their original height and enlarging the windows. A central hall was constructed, another floor was added, and voila, a gorgeous tidal vista! What had originally been a farmer's home, and "an ugly house" at that, according to Mrs. Groom, suddenly took the form and function of a vacation retreat. It is "a wonderful escape" from the hustle and bustle of big city life, and "so totally different" from the former police precinct house she occupies on Volta Place N.W. in Georgetown.

Mrs. Groom employed Julie Hodgess, her friend and decorator, to give the home what she descibes as a Victorian feel with Edwardian flavor.

In addition to her "country barefoot home" which Mrs. Groom describes as "an eclectic place" filled with "paintings of creatures," her estate also has two quaint guest houses known as The Barn and The White Rooster Cottage. Both have a fireplace, are charmingly decorated, and can comfortably accommodate several overnight guests. The Barn even has a pool table and a summer kitchen on the back porch, ideal for breakfasting while enjoying the view.

Besides the residential structures, the grounds also boast a swimming pool; a pier; and an extensive network of winding riding trails, a fox den on the point, and a graveyard dating back to 1730. There is also a "memory garden" and a "poetry shed," both of which epitomizes the peace and tranquillity of the Eastern Shore.

The poetry shed is a particular favorite among overnight gruests. Sometimes after dark they enter the small shed through an old Greek revival doorway entwined with honeysuckle to read from an extensive collection of verses. Illuminated only by candles and lanterns, the poetry shed is a magical setting in which to share one's views on life, love, and mortality.

So secluded is the property that Mrs. Groom cannot see another light from her private estate, but she can hear the cacophony of night creatures in the land, air and water. Her summer bedroom with its gazebo and balcony is her favorite place in the house and the ideal venue for experiencing nature's nocturnal noises. Visitors to the estate can also expect to hear the soothing strains of classical music wafting on the summer breeze as each evening and every morning Mrs. Groom's horses dine to selections from the Masters. The horses also like blue grass music, she says, but "they don't like rock 'n roll," perhaps because it is less conducive to the sense of serenity they have come to expect at Mineral Springs Farm.

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