Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The Harpers Ferry Crazy House---Weird Wednesday

From WV History On View
Usually if you say you're headed to the 'Crazy House,' it means you've finally lost ALL of your marbles and you're on your way to be committed. However, if you say you're going to visit the Harpers Ferry Crazy House, it doesn't mean you're off on a vacation to a room with padded walls---it means you're visiting one of the town's most quirky attractions!

The Crazy House, more politely known as the Curio House, can be found at 844 E. Ridge Road, overlooking the Potomac River. It was built between 1914 and 1915 by Eugene Shugart and his wife, Maggie. Shugart, born in nearby Charles Town in 1867, bought the land around 1910 and as his family and political career (he was elected for 7 terms as mayor of Harpers Ferry beginning in 1902) continued to change, constructed his unique domicile.

There's nothing super weird about the basic architecture of the home; its a classic Craftsman design of the period, although it was known as being the first 'modern' home built in that area of Harpers Ferry. Construction materials came were recycled from the old Federal Armory, made famous in 1859 by John Brown---which is an interesting little tidbit, but not what makes the house so one-of-a-kind. That honor goes to how the eccentric collector, Eugene Shugart, chose to decorate his abode.

From Goldenseal (Summer 2009)

Shugart liked to collect Civil War relics. He also had a soft spot for collecting fire-damaged pieces. In fact, in 1904, he contacted the mayor of Baltimore, asking for a 'souvenir' rescued from that city's recent major fire tragedy. He displayed these items by literally embedding them into the walls of the home, over doorways and windows, and even lining pillars and columns with them.It's not uncommon to see baby doll faces, pieces of China, seashells, you name it. In the free spaces, he tacked up various odd quotes, many dealing with worry. Shugart was especially worried about worry and even went as far as to bury "The Remains of Old Worry" in a coffin impression in the sidewalk in front of the home.

Photo from Unpopped Collar
But maybe he DID have something to worry about...Shugart only got to enjoy his Crazy House for a few short years before dying in 1919. In 2001, Chris Craig and Ed Wheeless bought the home. They were only the third owners of the property they would soon call Laurel Lodge. After renovations, the two opened up a Bed and Breakfast at the home in 2007. Unfortunately, it looks as if the B&B has just recently closed it doors to the public. If you're local to that area and have any insight as to the fate of Laurel Lodge, please let me know down below in the comments! I'd hate to see Eugen Shugart's strange legacy no longer be available to visit. (Further reading: Herald Mail Media)

May the weirdness live on. Stay spooky, ya'll!

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