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Schifferstadt Architectural Museum: Maryland’s Gateway to Germany

Schifferstadt Architectural Museum: Maryland’s Gateway to Germany

Schifferstadt Architectural Museum and Garden

An old stone house sits along Rosemont Avenue in the City of Frederick. It is the oldest house open to the public in Frederick County. Some people visit to see if the original owners haunt the building, as they are rumored to do. Others visit to learn about colonial German history and architecture. Whatever drives your visit, know that when you set eyes on Schifferstadt Architectural Museum, you will see a tribute to Frederick’s history, German pioneers, and the American Dream. 

History of Schifferstadt House

The Schifferstadt house was built in 1756 by the Brunners, a German family who came with major migrations of German settlers to the colonies in the 1700s. The Brunners spent some time in Pennsylvania before following the Monocacy River Valley to Frederick County, Maryland. They settled on a 303-acre tract and named it Schifferstadt in honor of their German hometown in the Palatinate region. 

The family built a log cabin. Not many years later, the youngest fully-grown Brunner son (Elias) and his wife (Albertina) built a house on the property using stones from the quarry in nearby Walkersville. The stone Schifferstadt house was relatively fancy by 18th-century standards. It had a barrel-vaulted cellar, four bedrooms, and cross-and-bible doors with elaborate wrought iron latches and locks. Multiple generations of Brunners lived in the house, which may have also been used for religious services and as a boarding house for travelers.

The Schifferstadt house remained in the Brunner family until 1899. It changed hands a few times after that and eventually fell into disrepair. In 1974, the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation (FCLF), a private non-profit organization, purchased the house and lovingly restored it to help preserve and promote its historical value. They opened it to the public as Schifferstadt Architectural Museum. 

In 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the site a National Historic Landmark. At the time, it was only the second place in Frederick County to be given this distinction.

when you set eyes on Schifferstadt Architectural Museum
Photo Credit: Anna Champagne

Visiting Schifferstadt Architectural Museum

The Schifferstadt Architectural Museum is a fun and interesting way to learn about Frederick’s German heritage. The building is an excellent example of colonial German architecture. It has thick stone walls, a symmetrical exterior, kick-up and flared eaves, hand-hewn beams pinned together with wooden pegs, and a wishbone chimney system. Original artifacts inside the museum, including a spinning wheel, traditional furniture, and a German-style five-plate jamb stove, help tell the story of the pioneering Brunner family and their Maryland house.

A small gift shop is attached to the museum. It sells colonial-era toys, local handmade art and crafts, and unique gifts like Scherenschnitte (German paper cuttings). 

Special Events at the Museum

The museum hosts several special events throughout the year, including Museums by Candlelight, a free self-guided holiday tour of Frederick’s historic sites and museums, and Schifferstadt Oktoberfest, a lively festival with German music, food and drinks, historical demonstrations, and tours. 

Photo Credit: Frederick County Landmarks Foundation

Schifferstadt Heritage Garden

While visiting the museum, you’ll want to go around back to see the Schifferstadt Heritage Garden, which was planted behind the museum in the 1990s. This award-winning garden is a historical reconstruction of the four-square kitchen gardens used by the colonial Germans to grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers for food, medicine, and household use. It has raised beds divided into symmetrical squares by packed earth paths and is bordered by picket fencing.

Today’s Schifferstadt garden contains plant species commonly used during the colonial era, including Costmary, Germander, and Egyptian Walking Onion. It also has indigenous Maryland plants that are pollinator-friendly. A Master Gardener and volunteers maintain the Heritage Garden. You can take a self-guided tour of the garden at any time by walking along the fence around the garden’s perimeter. 

Photo Credit: Frederick County Landmarks Foundation

Schifferstadt Adopt a Stone Program

Schifferstadt Architectural Museum is reliant on financial support from donors. To encourage donations, the museum has developed a unique Adopt a Stone program that allows supporters to get their name on a stone on the southeast exterior of the building in exchange for a donation. 

Donors get a picture of the stone they adopted and a thank you letter from the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation. Donation levels range from $50 to $500. The money raised from this program goes to required maintenance and improvements to help preserve the structure. 

Frederick’s Sister Cities 

Frederick has sister-city agreements with two cities in the Palatine region of Western Germany: Schifferstadt and Morzheim. Schifferstadt was the hometown of Joseph and Cathrina Brunner, who settled in Frederick with multiple generations of their family in 1736. Morzheim was the hometown of John Thomas Schley, who arrived in 1745 as one of Frederick’s earliest settlers​. 

The Frederick Sister Cities Association, an affiliate of the Frederick County Landmarks Foundation, encourages interactions between the residents of Frederick, Maryland, and the residents of Schifferstadt and Morzheim, Germany. You can learn about past and current events and find out how to share your ideas to promote cultural exchange on the Frederick Sister Cities Association website.

Getting There

  • The Schifferstadt Architectural Museum is at 1110 Rosemont Avenue in Frederick, Maryland. To get there from the north or south, take Route 15 and Exit 14. 
  • If you are coming from Downtown Frederick, follow the walking path through Baker Park. It will take you directly to the museum. 
  • Museum hours can vary. The museum is typically open for tours on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. 

Feature Photo Credit: C. Kurt Holter

About the Author

Anna Champagne

Anna Champagne is an outdoor writer, photographer, and traveler. She can often be found gardening and birdwatching in her backyard and exploring creeks, trails, marshes, and parks with her husband. Anna lives in Frederick County, Maryland. You can learn more about her on her website www.champagneoutdoors.com.

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