I enjoy riding around the city with no destination in mind so that I can explore and find new things that I did not previously know about. On one such recent bike ride I discovered what is most likely the oldest existing structure in the D.C. area, “The Old Spring House,” which was built by English colonists in 1683.
Located within what is now the historic Fort Lincoln Cemetery at 3401 Bladensburg Road in Colmar Manor, Maryland (MAP), The Old Spring House is one of the few area relics of the Colonization era. By comparison, the Old Stone House in the Georgetown neighborhood of D.C., which is the oldest unchanged Pre-Revolutionary building in D.C., was not built until 1765, a full 82 years later. And the century-old cemetery in which the house is now located was not founded until 229 years after The old Spring House was built.
The historic marker next to the house helps explain its history. The inscription on the marker reads, “This venerable building dates back to the year 1683, when one of the early colonists built his home on the overlooking hillside. The spring still feeds cool water to the trough inside the spring house. This was the only method available in those days for cooling milk, butter and other dairy products.
“This land was a part of the original grant from Lord Baltimore to George Conn, and remained in the Conn family for more than 200 years. This is one of the oldest buildings standing in the state of Maryland.”
There is also an historic plaque affixed to the house which provides additional information, it reads, “This old spring house was built by English colonists who in the late years of the 17th century had established a residence close by, climaxing an ocean voyage which ended on the banks of the nearby Eastern Branch.
“Erected about 1683. The spring house is among the oldest structural relics of the American Colonization Era.
“The old oak tree according to qualified judgment was more than 125 years old when the spring house was built.
“This venerable old tree has come to be known as ‘The Lincoln Oak’ because of traditional conferences under its spreading limbs, between President Lincoln and the commanding officers of the nearby fortifications.
“It is not a fanciful belief that upon such an occasion, the Civil War president drank of the cooling waters which spring from among its roots.”
The stump of the “Lincoln Oak” next to The Old Spring House is also the subject of its own historic marker, the inscription on which reads “This gnarled and ringed stump, attesting to its age, is all that remains of the majestic oak tree that once shaded the old Spring House. Steeped in history, it was put to rest by the forces of nature. Its passing will never be forgotten and its existence will be remembered forever as a sentinel over these historic grounds.”
The greater D.C. has such a rich past that t is not that unusual to find this much history while going for a bike ride. And with all the history that’s currently being made in the present, there’s an almost endless supply of interesting things to explore and discover.