The Green Spring Valley Hunt Club

On Friday, October 9th, 1926, The Sun announced that the Green Spring Valley Hunt would take possession of the “Chilcoat” Farm the following Monday and host a 1:30 hunt luncheon that Saturday. The Green Spring Land Company, a group of members headed by Mrs. Ottolie Y. Wickes (whose son, Dan Brewster, was Master of Foxhounds), acquired Stamford in 1925 for $35,000. In 1972, the Green Spring Land Company, with Mrs Wickes’ daughter, Elizabeth W Nichols, as President, transferred the deed to the 196 acres to the Green Spring Valley Hounds, Inc. Mrs. Wickes had retained the 9.5 acres site of the mills, while Philpots Inquiry, the old 25 acre woodlot on the east side of Mantua Mill/Dover Rd, had been sold to George Carey in 1937. In 1925 the buildings at Stamford were in disrepair. Kitty Hoffman remembers her mother finding all the dining room woodwork stored in the stable. (The Sun notes that the interior was to be restored and refurbished.) Unfortunately, within the year, on January 2, 1926, the stable burned down – a disaster repeated in 1965. Thus, as 2021 begins, that stable is the only stone building lost of those listed in 1890.

The other outbuildings – the stone barn/ carriage house, now a tack room; the two-story brick mansion; the stone smoke house; the two-story brick tenant house; stone dairy; and a last stone building of indeterminate use (cold cellar?) all remain. The “rarest of the six outbuildings,” the brick gable- roofed privy, or “necessary,” was restored in 1977 under the supervision of architect Allen Hopkins and House Chairman Margaret Brewster. Remarkably few alterations have left the original buildings mercifully intact. The Hunt Club was founded in 1892 in the Green Spring Valley. Margaret Worrall’s history, published in 1992, records the first 100 years. Development in the Green Spring Valley crowded the sport, provoking the move north. (One Thanksgiving hunt fox ran from Owing Mills to Reisterstown, to Catonsville, and back to Owings Mills.)

The Hunt is now run by a governing board, consisting of nine members, headed by its Masters of Foxhounds, the President, Secretary, and Treasurer. The Club supports activities relating to the sport: providing hunt staff and their horses, breeding, training and caring for hounds, cleaning trails, and paneling the country. The hunted country runs north of Tufton Avenue, west to Reisterstown Road, and east to 1-83. Through the last 96 years, the pack of around 100 cross-bred (American and English) foxhounds has been maintained by a professional huntsman, whipper- in, kennelman, and grounds-keeper. Strict pedigree books are kept as hounds are bred for voice, speed, and conformation.

The season starts in June with the training of year-old puppies, coupled with older hounds as they enter the pack. Early morning cubhunting in August trains horses and hounds alike and prepares all for the Opening (afternoon) Meet around November 1st. Hounds go out every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday until the end of March. Hound shows, new litters, and the summer heat signal the season’s end.

Foxhunting is enjoyed on many levels by people of all ages and backgrounds. Some follow the breeding of hounds, their training, the skills of houndwork, and the intricacies of scent. Others focus on horsemanship, the thrills of big fences, and fast gallops. The fellowship of shared risks and joys is there for everyone – for all ages on an equal basis.

There is also the beauty of this countryside, its views, early morning mists and afternoon skies, the feel of the turf, be it treacherously frozen, deeply muddy, or deliciously spongy, the soft warmth of August breezes, and the icy bite of winter winds. The fox is seldom caught; one living near the kennels teases the hounds. Riders return with a high feeling of well-being despite aching muscles.

In 1993, the GSVHC put Stamford’s fields (168 of the total 196 acres) into the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Program. Major increases in the costs of farming with no increase in income, coupled with flight from the city, have put tremendous pressure on farmers to maximize equity and develop their land. Those with large equipment to combine wheat, corn, and soybeans (10 or less in number in all of Baltimore County), must lease large tracts of land to pay for their equipment. Small farms no longer carry labor, machinery, and cattle herds as they did after World War II. Fox-chasing enthusiasts with a love of the land have worked strenuously to promote agriculture, wildlife, and open spaces in Baltimore County. Under the Maryland Land Preservation Program, development rights are given up in return for a one-
time cash payment. Thus, Stamford’s farmland and food production are saved, promoting both the program’s purpose and Stamford, the lovely mansion, serves as clubhouse for hunt teas and
dinners, a residence for staff members, and the location for parties and wedding. More than two centuries after it was built, Stamford remains structurally sound and regularly used. Maintenance, upkeep and historical preservation is now managed by the 501(c)(3) organization, the Stamford Historical Preservation Foundation.