Big Settings for the Big Day

With Sweeping Views and Bucolic Scenes, Many Historic Barns and Farms are Finding New Lives as Wedding Venues

By By Karen Gardner | Posted on 06.01.19 – Feature, Food & Drink, History, Lifestyles

Shabby chic decorations. Rough-hewn beams. Hay bales. Wooden barrels. White lace and promises. If these sound at odds, they’re not. Rather they’re clues that a farm wedding celebration is on tap.

At a farm wedding, white lace may be combined with boots. Groomsmen may sport jeans and cowboy hats. Farm weddings offer a mix of formal and fun that appeals to many couples planning to tie the knot. Here in Frederick County, where farms, complete with old barns, are a part of the landscape and heritage, couples can choose from truly rustic farm surroundings to enclosed, heated venues. Farm weddings offer views of farm fields and ponds in a setting that is vintage Frederick, typically followed by receptions in barns. What better way to spend your special day than by celebrating in a barn?

Most of the following farm wedding venues offer bank barns for receptions. Common to Frederick County, these are traditional German-Swiss style structures with stables below and storage areas above. Such designs made life on the farm easier, and as wedding reception venues, offer separate cocktail and dining/dancing areas.

These farm owners didn’t typically start out in the wedding business. Most wanted to preserve the buildings, while still generating income. In Frederick County, barn venues must be brought up to county code, which means they need modern electrical systems, indoor plumbing, sprinkler systems in case of fire, and disability access. That’s not an easy process for owners, but for most, it’s a way to preserve a valuable part of Frederick County while contributing to the area’s economy.

For those who have trouble getting around, most farms offer golf carts. All of these farm venues also offer guests the use of the farm for most of the day, giving the wedding party ample time to set up and enjoy the surroundings. 

Ostertag Vistas

Ostertag has been hosting weddings for more than 20 years, since Don Easterday restored the buildings on his Myersville family farm. Initially, he just wanted to preserve all the buildings on the 160-acre farm which dates back to 1711. As a child, he won a national 4-H award in home and grounds beautification, and restoring the farm was his lifelong dream.

“People started asking about getting married here,” says Wanda Easterday. Don died in 2016. Wanda and daughter Donna now set up the weddings that liven up the farm just off Pleasant Walk Road from spring through fall. 

The fully enclosed barn offers heat, while massive wooden sliding doors open to provide cross breezes on warm days. Outdoor wedding ceremonies take place by a pond filled with water lilies, in a meadow, in a forested setting surrounded by tall shade trees, or near a log cabin built in 1750. 

The barn itself, built in 1928 after the original barn burned, still has the 91-year-old chestnut beams. Tiny white lights twine around the tall, rustic wooden poles, and the wavy floor reminds guests they’re not in a hotel ballroom. Wagon wheels and grapevines with strands of white lights are further reminders. 

On the floor of the reception area, artist Dave Moreland painted the Easterday family seal, which includes relics of family history. The barn’s lower level, where the stables once were, is usually where cocktail hour occurs. Visitors can see the massive chestnut logs that hold up the main floor. The cement floor of the stable area is painted to resemble slate.

There are five restrooms and three fireplaces in the barn. Fully enclosed rooms in upper lofts on both sides of the barn serve as dressing areas for bridal parties. The bridal dressing area is plush and carpeted, with tall mirrors. Above this suite is a skybox, perfect for photos of the bride, where slats from the barn roof fan out in a geometric pattern. The groom’s changing area includes Don Easterday’s extensive model railroad collection.

Golf carts take visitors around the farm, and the barn is accessible for people with disabilities. Outside the lower level is space for cornhole and other outdoor games.

Caboose Farm

A slice of nature, up close and personal, is offered at Caboose Farm. The fully enclosed barn, with its stone foundation still intact, offers three levels of space for guests. The surrounding property is part of the Maryland Environmental Trust, and boasts wooded areas, a meadow, a pond and several streams.

Caboose Farm is located near the western entrance to Catoctin Mountain Park and, in summer, cool mountain breezes beckon guests to wander the farm. Next to the farm pond is a restored B&O Railroad car, where kids can explore.

There are several outdoor wedding spots on the 68-acre farm. Owner Peter Fedak says that in six years of operations, weddings have only needed to be moved indoors on three occasions. There’s a glade deep in the woods near a stream, another clearing near the meadow and several field locations, including one which offers a vista of the surrounding area.

A weekend package includes use of a restored farmhouse, which started out in 1860 as a log house. Additions were made over the years, and it now sleeps 16. The wedding party frequently stays at the house the night before the wedding, Fedak says.

The barn itself isn’t just for those looking for country weddings. “It’s not a rustic feel,” Fedak says. “It’s more of a modern look.” The first level is typically used for wedding receptions. On the barn’s second level is a mahogany bar made in 1912. Fedak’s great-grandfather, a Hungarian immigrant, owned the bar in New Jersey. This is where cocktails and appetizers are served.

Guests who want to entertain themselves inside while photos are being taken can use the game room on the upper level. Kids are often drawn to the modern movie theater, on the second level.

Caboose farm is also LGBTQ friendly, and at least once a year, the farm hosts a same-sex wedding. 

Dulany’s Overlook

Ashley Armes wanted an unusual venue for her wedding last year, but she also wanted elegance. She settled on Dulany’s Overlook, a restored barn near Mount Pleasant. She was drawn by the refined outdoor wedding spots, which include a rose garden and shaded clearing. 

She was also drawn by the historic house, which offers luxurious changing rooms for the bridal party. The house is furnished with comfortable antique upholstered furniture. Owner Mark Lynch picked up many of these pieces for very low cost or free. Since her wedding, Armes has become the venue’s marketing coordinator.

The 75-by-45-foot barn was restored with clapboard siding and painted a traditional barn red. Enormous wooden sliding doors open on opposite sides of the barn to let cool breezes in. Chillers and heaters are provided when needed. Miniature lights are twined around thick barn beams and natural light pours in through slatted openings.

The barn overlooks fields of corn, hay and soybeans. Below the barn’s main level is an area perfect for cocktails and appetizers. There’s an elevator for guests who need assistance. Near the parking area is a shed with a fire pit and outdoor games. 

The original 1791 barn foundation survives and support beams are also original. Much of the material to rebuild the barn at Dulany’s Overlook came from Walker’s Overlook in Walkersville. Mark Lynch owns both venues and decided to use the material from a barn collapse at Walker’s Overlook as the donor barn for Dulany’s Overlook. “I hate seeing all these structures go by the wayside,” he says. “Barn weddings preserve agricultural farmland and saves the barn.”

The lawn at Dulany’s Overlook provides a view of Frederick and Catoctin Mountain beyond. A thick forest surrounds the farmland, shielding guests from the outside world.

Springfield Manor: Barn Interior

Springfield Manor

Elegance is nothing new at Springfield Manor, near Thurmont. This farm dates to 1774, and was built for James Johnson, brother of Thomas Johnson, Maryland’s first governor. The Johnson family founded Catoctin Iron Works near the farm, with the 130-acre estate now a winery and event venue. 

The barn, built in the late 19th century, still has the look of a German bank barn, with lots of ventilation and thick structural beams. Like all barns used for weddings in Frederick County, it’s been updated to meet building code standards, but the barn feel remains.

“It was used as a dairy barn, and still had the stanchions and dairy apparatus when we bought it,” says Amie St. Angelo, who owns Springfield Manor with her husband, John. They bought the farm in 2004, originally planning to subdivide it for several houses. But after the housing market downturn, county officials suggested they convert the farm into a winery and event venue. The chance to preserve the farm and barn appealed to the St. Angelos.

Springfield Manor opened in 2011 as a winery and distillery, and now also features a brewery. Weddings and events were a natural fit for the farm, which boasts vineyards, mountain views, lavender fields and fall foliage for creative photo backdrops. Wedding ceremonies often take place framed by mountain views, but the main floor of the barn has seating for up to 300 if the ceremony needs to be moved indoors.

Below the main floor is the tasting room, and guests can sample the farm’s products. Couples planning their wedding have the flexibility to provide their own alcoholic beverages, St. Angelo says.

“The barn is climate-controlled,” she says, and couples can use rectangular wooden farm tables, or round tables with tablecloths, or a combination. “Some people open the barn doors to extend the party onto the terrace outside, with mountain views.” Glass garage doors on one side of the barn provide spectacular mountain views even to those who prefer to remain indoors.

“It’s a beautiful palette, to create whatever you’re looking for,” St. Angelo says.

Crown Rose Estate

The whitewashed barn at Crown Rose Estate opens to a view of the fields and mountains of southwestern Frederick County. Couples often choose to be married in the rose garden, which dates to 1935, in a nearby field by a pond, near a spring house or before the spectacular columned house, built in 1856.

The barn can be decorated in an elegant or country style. Guests can have appetizers and cocktails in the lower level of the bank barn where the stables were, and some couples choose this spot for the wedding ceremony. “It’s a place people are just discovering,” says owner Tara Lehtonen.

Inside the classic barn are twinkle lights and several elegant chandeliers, which light up the massive, airy main level. The barn was rebuilt on the 19th-century foundation after a fire in the 1960s, and much of the original floor beams were salvaged, along with the structural beams.

Two large china cabinets, brought from the mansion kitchen, fit right into the main level reception area. There are changing areas for the bridal parties. The accessible bathrooms feature composting toilets, in keeping with the farm’s intention of being environmentally friendly.

The main level has plenty of room for a DJ and dance floor, along with kitchen space for the caterer and a spacious eating area. Picket fence panels line the interior barn walls, giving a homey feel. Solar panels help provide much of the electricity, and the fields are farmed with the latest conservation methods. “We want to protect and preserve the property for generations to come,” Lehtonen says.

Westhills Manor

This farm is familiar to anyone who drives U.S. 340 through Knoxville. “Westhills Manor, 1772” is painted on the side of the traditional red barn. The farm itself, however, was neglected for many years, until Allison and Jeremy Nemcosky bought it in 2016.

The farm has horses, chickens, a tranquil pond and surrounding pastures. For now, weddings and receptions take place spring and fall, outdoors, with tents serving as shelter. Eventually, however, the 1772 barn will be used for wedding receptions, after the couple restores it and brings it up to code. They also plan a bed and breakfast in the sprawling historic farmhouse, which they hope will appeal to bridal parties. “The barn is what drew us,” Allison says. “The beams are fantastic.” She’s looking forward to the day when it will be restored and hosting wedding receptions.