A Historical Inn-vestigation

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Report on UMD’s Oldest Building Examines Its Past and Future
by Sala Levin ’10 | Photos courtesy of University Archives

Over its 214-year history, the Rossborough Inn has taken on many identities besides a resting place for weary travelers: a Civil War encampment site for Confederate soldiers, a laundry, a photo studio, a weather station, a museum, a library, a restaurant and office space.

What role the campus’s oldest building should play next is the subject of a new report by graduate students in the Historic Preservation Program.

Commissioned by Facilities Management in advance of Metro’s proposed Purple Line crossing through campus, the report investigated the Rossborough’s past and imagines its future as a social hub for the campus community

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“We were essentially tasked with doing a full study of the history of the building to understand its significance, how it’s changed and to think in terms of how this building might be best utilized in light of all the development” on campus, says Dennis Pogue, adjunct associate professor in the Historic Preservation Program.

Land speculator Richard Ross constructed the building in 1803 for people following a dusty road between Baltimore and Washington. A later owner, George Calvert, left it to his son, Charles Benedict Calvert, who founded the Maryland Agricultural College, predecessor of UMD, in 1856.

Over the following decades, the Rossborough housed everything from the president to a chemistry lab. In 1939, the federal Works Progress Administration restored the building according to its original plat map, and it briefly served as a house museum. In its longest iteration, the Rossborough hosted a restaurant and faculty/staff club for nearly 70 years.

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Around 2006, budget cuts—combined with the opening of Adele’s in the Stamp Student Union—shuttered the club, and the Rossborough became office space, currently for the Office of Undergraduate Admissions.

“Right now, students don’t have a reason to come here, and the only time they do is before they’re even students,” says Melissa Butler M.H.P. ’17. She and her classmates hope that the proposed placement of the light-rail Purple Line along Rossborough Drive might jump-start the building’s revitalization.

The students suggest that the Rossborough Inn could serve as exhibit space, classrooms, a residence, a café or some combination of the four.

“Before McKeldin Mall really became the social center that it is today, this part of campus was where students would come and hang out,” says Camille Westmont M.H.P. ’17. “So we’re hoping that the new developments will help invigorate the Rossborough.”


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3 Comments

Scott Rupert

Awesome. I am a horticulturist with the UMD Arboretum/Gardens and Landscape Services. This location is one of the sites I take care of and this story is interesting. Cool

Chris Bonner

While it was a faculty club in the 1970's I worked and lived at Rossbourough Inn while a student. I lived in the third-floor front right room. I was a cook, bartender, and caretaker. In exchange for working at Rossbourough, I received room and board. There is the legend of a ghost living at Rossbourough. The legend has it that after Rossbourough Inn opened, a duel was held in the courtyard. The loser of the duel was carried into the inn and died. His ghost has lived there since. I will say, that there were some strange things that happened for which logical explanations failed to account. These were among the best years of my life.

Taras Lychuk

Very interesting read, thank you for sharing this, as UMD alum I enjoyed reading this and have not realized about rich history behind Rossbourough Inn every time I passed by this beautiful building.

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Spring 2017 Campus Life