What stories hide amongst the corners of rooms settled with age? What could fields of today’s harvest tell us about yesterday’s harvesters? What would a grave tell if able to divulge its secrets? The stuff of life is born and nurtured in common places — the babe in the nursery, the farmer at his plow, the beloved laid to rest in the dust of the earth. If one were to divorce one daily moment from all the moments before and after, it would likely appear quite ordinary, but then again, life in all its sweetness and sorrow is but a chain of ordinary moments. For those who care to think on what past generations have experienced in their attempts to face the everyday, the Crown Rose Estate harbors many rich deposits of history. The estate has been a cherished home for all classes of society, and within her borders, many have faced the delights of simple triumphs as well as the aches of human loss. Known as Oakland for the majority of its existence, the Crown Rose received its new name when Todd and Tara Lehtonen purchased the estate in 2009 — a tribute to the circular rose garden that has become a defining attribute of this historic residence.
Before it was known as Oakland or the Crown Rose, the land that now comprises the estate was part of a tract known as “Hawkins’ Merry Peep O’Day,” a large parcel of land owned by Thomas Hawkins Esquire in the late eighteenth century. One of the wealthiest men in this region, Hawkins worked for the Maryland province as a surveyor, selling and leasing his sizeable landholdings quite frequently. As a prominent citizen of the budding Frederick County community, Hawkins assumed a patriotic role in the acquisition of arms and ammunition in the Revolutionary War. Hawkins died in 1821, and his sprawling properties were divided between his two daughters and their husbands.
The portion of land on which the Crown Rose manor now rests passed to Hawkins’ son-in-law, Dr. Grafton Duvall, in 1822. A highly respected citizen in the county, Dr. Duvall had obtained a medical degree and practiced medicine for a number of years in Frederick City before moving to Oakland. Records show that he served on several community councils, was an able advocate for the political opinions he espoused, had excellent literary tastes, and was a man of blameless morals who discharged his duties with faithfulness. In addition to these public roles, Dr. Duvall led a successful farm life raising hogs, cows, and horses, and planting crops of wheat, rye, and oats.
Dr. Duvall did not live without his share of heartache, however. Four of his eleven children died in their youth, and his wife Elizabeth died in 1831 at only forty-six years old. Her youngest child was five years old at the time, and she left three children under the age of ten. Dr. Duvall never married again, living out the remainder of his life as a single father. Though he was the prosperous owner of land and slaves at the end of his life, Dr. Duvall found himself in debt, forcing him to sell parts of his land and instruct his heirs to do the same. Dr. Duvall died at age sixty-two in 1841 due to what his contemporaries called “congestion of the brain.”
Upon Dr. Duvall’s death, Oakland passed through various hands — never owned by one person for more than a few years. Eventually, the land along with the house was purchased by Dr. Horatio Claggett in 1856, a prominent physician during the mid-nineteenth century and the first of a long line of Claggetts to own the estate. Dr. Claggett was considered among the most eminent men of the state of Maryland, as well as one of the most renowned physicians in Washington County.
The current residents of Oakland point out that there was a fire inside the Oakland manor during the 1850s, after which the house was rebuilt. Maps from this time period indicate that today’s manor is located further back from the Jefferson Turnpike than the original manor was. The roofing and inside walls show varying eras of architecture spliced together, and it is likely that the kitchen is one of the few remnants left of the original house built by Dr. Grafton Duvall. It is possible that the kitchen was originally detached from the house and that, after the fire, the Claggett family moved the house back and attached it to the already standing kitchen. The fire was not the only struggle that the Claggett family faced during these years. Dr. Claggett and his family possessed the plantation during the dark years of the Civil War. The Turnpike was a heavily traversed road for Union and Confederate troops, and evidence suggests that Rebel troops camped on the edges of the estate while moving from one battle to the next.
Childless and lacking another heir, Dr. Claggett left the estate to his wife Mary, who in turn passed the estate on to her surviving relations. The estate remained in the possession of the Claggett family for a number of decades before Charles Delmar purchased the estate in 1935. When Delmar bought the farm, it still bore the marks of its years as a slave-owning plantation, as well as the remnants of its many facelifts over the years. Charles Delmar added the four pillars to the main house that now distinguish the front porch. He also extended the house, adding a library, upstairs nursery, guest rooms, and bathroom. The farm was being prepared for its use as more than a family residence, for it would become the destination of hundreds of guests – both prominent and obscure – over the next six decades. A successful businessman, Charles Delmar did not intend to live full-time at Oakland. He was never there for more than a few weeks at a time, most often coming to the farm for a weekend to get away from the city or to entertain friends. The parties that Charles Delmar hosted were legendary for their gaiety, their size, and their important guests.
This pattern continued when Delmar passed the estate to his son, General Roland Delmar in 1963. Prestigious figureheads crossed the Oakland threshold frequently, and the estate’s practical needs were left to James and Estella Belt — individuals whose faithful services are honored still today by those connected with the estate. The Delmar family enjoyed the serene nature of their beloved get-away until the end of the twentieth century.
Today, new stories continue to join others associated with this well-loved estate. Continued research and future publications will further illuminate the tales of those who have lived in her walls and labored diligently on her grounds. Some were leaders of their own times, others were the unassuming faithful of common people, but all knew the familiar joys and struggles of human existence, and their stories are worth telling.
This brief history was made possible through the research of Caroline Byrd and Jody Brumage. Their work has provided a fuller understanding of the Crown Rose’s history, as well as needed documentation for registering the estate with the National Register of Historic Places. Help support the preservation of this historic landmark by purchasing upcoming publications about the estate and its inhabitants.