Friday, March 23, 2007

Cemetery Lodge: Sharpsburg's land-locked lighthouse

One of my favorite buildings, anywhere, is the Paul Pelz designed, lodge within the grounds of the Antietam National Cemetery.

This little high-Victorian gem has presided over the cemetery gates since 1868. An enchanted and very small building, the scale is perfect for its setting.

Its loaded with details like this fine, carved stone, Union shield.

Surmounted by this wonderful crenelated tower, our stone and stick-style edifice today serves as departmental offices for Antietam National Battlefield.

Dripping with gingerbread, the downside of this wonderful structure may be the amount of maintainence that is required for its continued upkeep.

There's a lot of original wood, like these ornamental ribs supporting the awning of the front entryway. This is typical of a Pelz design.

What the heck is this? Photographed here, completely out of context is...

a rain spout, pictured here in context. Hmmm... seems to me I must have been in an unusual position to record the previous image. Patience, all will be revealed.

The inviting entry to the lodge beckons. C'mon!

Recently, I asked my friend and colleague, Ranger Keith, if he'd take me through the lodge, and his answer was typical of the answers that I get from rangers at this park:

"Ahh, Christie, my car's in the shop, can I have a lift home?"
"Hey Brian, would you take me up to Nickodemus Heights?"
"Alann, could you fix me up with a picture of the original 90th PA monument?"

Like all of the above Keith gave me an enthusiastic "Yes".

So, here we go, through the front door of the lodge.

The inside of the entryway.

By the way, a sordid love-triangle murder occured in this very spot, way back when the park was still administered by the War Department...but that's another story for another time.

Check out the gorgeous Fireplace surround, which seems to be made of bronze.

One of the tower's ocular windows overlooks the administration building at the front of the cemetery.

This tower view is of the pergola/rostrum, site of all memorial day addresses since the beginning of that holiday right here in Sharpsburg (as ladybug looks on).

Note the distortion through the rippled glass.

The stairs up the tower start narrow...

and seem to get even more so.

Finally, we get to the iron spiral staircase and ranger Keith struggles to bull open the heavy trapdoor through the top of the tower.

A quick look back down the spiral staircase before pausing...

to catch our breath and survey just exactly where we are.

Looking down at the compound angles of the slate roof, and beyond to...

The Maryland monument in the far distance, between the pine trees. Click on this pic for a larger view...heck, click on all of them.

And turning south, we are greeted by the steady presence of "old Simon, towering, as always, above the bivouac of the dead that is Antietam National Cemetery.

And the "landlocked lighthouse" reference?

Seems that Paul Pelz, architect of this fine little building, the Smithsonian castle, and the Library of Congress building, was also a prolific designer of...


Like this one at

Now, every morning when I drive into Sharpsburg from Boonsboro I pass this lovely little lodge and think...


I think you might too.

Come see the light, just outside of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

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