Everyone loves a good mystery. However, most of us would not anticipate a mystery in our own back yard, in the form of an ordinary old farmhouse near Laurel. How old? That’s part of the mystery!

In March 2021, a team of amateur sleuths assembled, intent on uncovering the mysteries hidden in what the Laurel Historical Society (LHS) now calls “the Adams Road house” (ARH). The eponymous ARH was located on Adams Road, off Rte. 24, just past the turn-off for Trap Pond, on the outskirts of Laurel. It was slated for demolition. The farm on which the ARH stood had been sold, but interior woodwork, timbers, floorboards, doors, and paneling were available to the LHS for the taking, if they could be removed within a week.

The exterior of Adams Road house, showing square attic windows.

The Adams Road house, to the passing traveler, was undistinguished. You may have driven by it hundreds of times and not taken special note. Based on exterior lines, outbuildings, and period features such as square attic windows, the ARH, prior to exploration of the interior, was tentatively dated to the early 19th century. Another mystery in this case was whether the ARH had any interior fixtures that might contribute to the accurate dating of the house. Such fixtures might also be of use to the LHS in the renovation and restoration of other historic properties.

What transpired on that day in March 2021 when the team of Laurel Historical Society sleuths was finally given access to the Adams Road house interior was beyond anyone’s expectation. In addition to piles of trash and old clothes, which themselves were enough to obscure significant features of the house, there were many recent (20th/21st century) additions – such as porches and siding – obscuring treasures yet to be discovered.

Some highlights uncovered by the Laurel Historical Society team:

1. An 18th century 10–panel door in good condition, which immediately suggested an earlier date for the Adams Road house then the previously supposed early 19th century period.

2. Original floorboards and ceiling rafters. These may be of use in the restoration of other historic LHS properties.

3. A fully paneled interior concealed layers of 18th century woodwork, which, again, could be used to renovate other LHS properties. After this first paneled wall, the team found that the entire two-story house was fully paneled from floor to ceiling.

4. Cedar shakes from the exterior were salvaged for use on another LHS property.

5. Last, but certainly not least, the initial layer of paneling in one room concealed a large rectangular panel with background yellow ochre paint intact. On top of the yellow ochre was painted an elaborate floral design in vivid colors – white, pink, blue, yellow, and green – in excellent condition. Comparison to a similar floral panel found in another Laurel area house, suggests that the same classically trained artist, perhaps someone passing through, painted both floral panels. The other similar panel was dated 1791, lending further support to an 18th century date for the ARH.

To bring us back to the present day, the Laurel Historical Society’s exploration of the Adams Road house interior happened five months ago. However, it was so momentous in scope that members of the LHS team are still in a state of high excitement. They are still pondering what they found and what they salvaged. They no doubt are considering the possibility that there is another ordinary-looking house on a quiet country road in Laurel, concealing more historic treasures.