Paul Baker Touart
Academy Grove Historic District
Fairmount Rumbley Road (MD 361), Landonville, Somerset County
The Academy Grove Historic District comprises two Italianate-influenced frame buildings. These include the Fairmount Academy, constructed c. 1860-67 to serve as a public school for the Potato Neck District, and the Knights of Pythias Hall, erected adjacent to the Academy c. 1872 by the Fairmount Lodge No. 77 of the Knights of Pythias. The two buildings are similar in form, construction, and detailing. Both are rectangular frame structures, two stories high, with symmetrical three-bay principal facades facing southeast. Entrances feature double-leaf doors in transomed Classical surrounds. The buildings are sheathed in weatherboard, and feature bracketed cornices and narrow paneled pilasters at their corners. The Knights of Pythias Hall is gable roofed with 6/6 sash windows, while the Academy, with windows of 12/12 sash, has a hipped roof to which an open belfry was added in 1888. Interior plan and appointments are likewise similar, with a vestibule and stair hall across the front, opening into a large open class or meeting room on each floor. The two buildings served a common educational function as early as 1883, when the Knights of Pythias Hall was rented by the Board of Education; when the Fairmount Lodge disbanded in 1911, the Hall continued to provide additional classroom space for the Academy.
The Academy Grove Historic District is significant for its architecture, comprising two well-preserved frame public buildings showing the influence of the Italianate style, a style rarely used in rural Somerset County. Notable features of both buildings include bracketed cornices and paneled corner pilasters. In addition, the district is significant for its association with the development of public education and civic organizations in the county during the third quarter of the 19th century. The Fairmount Academy is the best-preserved survivor of the county's earliest efforts to create a public educational system. The c. 1872 Knights of Pythias Hall is the only known structure in the county erected to serve as a meeting place for that organization; it is also significantly associated with education, having provided additional classroom space for the Academy as early as 1883.