By Becky Krystal
Friday, March 18, 2011; 1:35 PM
I was the only guest at the Currier House Bed and Breakfast in Havre de Grace, Md., one recent night, but somehow I knew that I wasn't alone.
It's not that I entertained any visitors of the spectral variety, although given the house's 1790s origins, it wouldn't have surprised me had one or two popped by. Instead, I felt wrapped in a powerful sense of lived-in-ness, a history as thick as the blankets piled on the bed in my room.
Owner Jane Currier wasted no time in acquainting me with the storied past of both the house and her family. After choosing the cheery Jeffers Room - a free upgrade from Jane, who said it had the best view for watching the storm that was coming in over the water where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Susquehanna River - I learned that naval officer William Nicholson Jeffers took command of the Union ship the Monitor after its famous clash with the Virginia during the Civil War. Among his other accomplishments: assisting in the return of suspected Lincoln assassination conspirator John Surratt after his capture in Egypt. He also happens to have been the great-uncle of Jane's mother.
Posted outside the room were photos of Jeffers, including one of him aboard the Monitor, a cannonball-inflicted pockmark just to his left.
The family love carried over into my room, where the decor included a colorful early-20th-century marriage certificate and a diagram mapping out various kinfolk. A cluster of photos of Jane's maternal relatives smiled at me from around the antique desk and mirror where I put on my makeup the next morning.
That evening, I hopscotched my way down the squeaky wooden stairs for a snack of tea and white chocolate chip cookies in the dining room. Even though I had the B&B to myself, the historical gravitas inspired me to behave with hushed respect. The electric teakettle, however, had no such scruples. It hissed and whistled enough to drive out any lingering spirits of the home's former occupants, whose visages populated the wall above the dining room sideboard.
A haunting of a different kind plagued me as I tried to go to sleep: a ticking clock. Somewhat redundant, given the modern alarm clock next to the bed, the old-fashioned timepiece sat on a bureau just a few feet away. I moved it to the farthest recess of the room near the door (avoiding the closet for fear of forgetting it there in the morning). But I could still hear the ticking. Finally, the only way I could silence it was to smother it with two throw pillows. The whole thing was a little too Edgar Allan Poe for my taste.
The next morning, Jane filled me in on more history, telling me that the house has been in her family since 1861. The man who bought it, her great-grandfather Matthew Currier, was a ferryboat operator. Jane believes that he was shot on his boat for helping runaway slaves escape across the water to freedom. A secret passageway that leads to the attic supports the idea that he was harboring fugitives.
Subscribing to the theory that more is more, Jane has unloaded her basement and brought her many family heirlooms out for guests to see. The dining room displays a saddle that belonged to a Union soldier and a collection of unfinished duck decoys by her late uncle, a well-known local carver.
After breakfast, I hated to leave. The cold morning had brought the promised rain in sheets. I would much have preferred to retreat back to my antique bed and nestle into the warmth of the blankets and of the house's radiating history.
Bed and Breakfast
800 S. Market St.
Havre de Grace, Md.
Rooms from $95 a night.