Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

War & Wine: Boonsboro, Md.–Come for the charm, stay for the medical history.

Some of the most interesting places are discovered by accident.

Such was the case with Boonsboro, Md., a small town that I drove through while visiting Sharpsburg last year during the holidays. I was particularly drawn to a cozy little inn decorated in dozens of twinkly Christmas lights. It drew me in like a hug, and I vowed to return when the weather warmed.

That opportunity occurred last month when I cleared my schedule, booked a room at the Inn Boonsboro and set out to find what other gems were waiting to be discovered in the historic little town.


Turn the Page

One of the first things I learned upon arriving was that bestselling author Nora Roberts lives in nearby Keedysville, and several Boonsboro properties have connections to the prolific writer.

Fans of Roberts will find a comprehensive collection of her works at Turn the Page bookstore, located just off the square in a pre-Civil War townhome. Nora’s husband, who owns the business, works with local authors to promote their works, and Nora herself sometimes can be spotted signing books there. Fans can schedule their visit well in advance by keeping an eye on the website.

Downtown Boonsboro is also home to a number of boutique shops, offering everything from apparel to jewelry to home décor. Those seeking a unique item for a special someone will likely to find it at Gifts Inn Boonsboro, a shop that works with 75 different artists who specialize in items like jewelry, fiber art, pottery and more.

Antique enthusiasts will find a plethora of interesting items at Market Place Antiques & Collectibles, located just a short drive away. The sprawling shop features 130 vendors selling everything from Civil War memorabilia to furniture, ephemera and Victorian-era items.


History Lessons

Those who enjoy learning about old buildings will find a walking tour map in a weatherproof box downtown. The brochure lists 34 historic places, with interesting details about each structure.

Among the standouts is a log home located at 14 N. Main St., which seems to sigh with the burden of age, but has nonetheless managed to stand the test of time, operating as a grocery from 1802 to 1983.

A short drive away takes visitors to another historic property, known as the Pry House Field Hospital Museum. What was once a peaceful farm turned into a scene of chaos for the Pry family, whose lives were forever changed when Union Gen. George McClellan decided to use the house as his headquarters during the Battle of Antietam. The Pry’s best parlor furniture was tossed out onto the lawn, fences were knocked down, and livestock were taken to feed the army. One of the exhibits memorializes the family’s extensive war claims, which were never fully paid.

The museum inside the well-preserved home focuses on the history of hospitals and medical care during the war. On the second floor is a collection of graphic photos taken in the aftermath of the battle, considered the bloodiest single day in U.S. history.

The family barn, located a short walk from the house, offers an additional glimpse into what took place during the occupation of the property, with stretchers and a Civil War ambulance on display.


Eat, Drink, Stay

Big Cork Vineyards is worth the 15-minute drive from Boonsboro to Rohrersville. From the bucolic setting amidst the rolling hills to the sleek, contemporary décor to the exceptional wines, it’s a visit you’ll share with your friends upon returning.

For $10, visitors can taste a total of six wines, most of which are dry, all of which I found to be excellent. The off-dry “Russian Kiss” is described on the tasting menu as a “one-of-a-kind blend of Muscat and Russian grape varietals.” All I know is that it’s delicious, with a unique flavor derived from vines that hail from eastern Europe.

The vineyard also offers quite a lineup of musical entertainment. On tap for this summer is the “Big Concert Series,” with tributes to Frank Sinatra, ABBA and Bruce Springsteen.

Another local business steeped in history is the Old South Mountain Inn perched atop Turner’s Gap in Boonsboro. The inn was founded in 1732, and speculation has it that Gen. Edward Braddock, accompanied by a young Lt. George Washington, may have passed by on his way to Fort Duquesne.

The South Mountain Inn served as a stagecoach stop for traffic passing on the National Road after it was surfaced in the 1820s. In the years that followed, the inn had its share of high-profile visitors, including statesmen like Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and several presidents.

In 1859, the inn was captured and held overnight as an outpost by abolitionist John Brown’s followers and later became the headquarters of Confederate Gen. D.H. Hill during the Battle of South Mountain, which preceded the Battle of Antietam and was, in fact, the first Civil War battle fought in Maryland.

Today, the inn is as popular for its food as its history. Visitors come from miles around for old-school favorites like crab imperial, chicken marsala, beef Wellington and pasta primavera.

I stayed at the Inn Boonsboro, which originally drew me to the area. It’s owned by none other than Nora Roberts, who named each of the eight rooms for couples in literary works. I stayed in the Eva and Roarke room, named after a couple in Robert’s “In Death” series, written under her pen name, J.D. Robb.

I was impressed with all the extra touches, from the scones and cookies in the dining room to the accessible decanter of whisky for guests to indulge for a nightcap. As is often the case in Boonsboro, the inn has an interesting history.

These are just a few recommendations for a long weekend in the Boonsboro area. If you’re like me and love walking around small towns, patronizing local businesses and learning about old buildings and the history behind them, you can’t go wrong in the quaint town of Boonsboro.


For more information

Inn Boonsboro:
Turn the Page:
Pry House Field Hospital Museum:
Big Cork Vineyards:
Old South Mountain Inn:
Gifts Inn Boonsboro:

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