Kitty Knight House closed, put up for sale

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE - By JA­COB OWENS

jowens@ce­cil­whig.com

— More than a month af­ter the his­toric Kitty Knight House restau­rant and inn closed its doors, its fu­ture is still un­cer­tain as its owner has put it up for sale.

The pop­u­lar eatery and wed­ding venue on the Kent County side of the Sas­safras River has been a main­stay for gen­er­a­tions, but it qui­etly closed on Sept. 11, ac­cord­ing to post­ings on its Face­book page.

Its owner, Ford Hall Sr., who also owns the nearby

GEORGETOWN

Georgetown Yacht Basin, did not re­turn sev­eral in­quiries from the Whig as to the rea­sons for the clo­sure or the potential fu­ture for the prop­erty.

The restau­rant’s ex­ec­u­tive chef Bruce Wet­terau, who owned both the Kitty Knight House and The Gra­nary at one time, has since an­nounced that he has moved to Hem­ing­way’s Restau­rant in Stevensville.

The prop­erty now fea­tures prom­i­nent “closed” signs and a “for sale” sign that lists the prop­erty as for sale by the owner. It does not present a sug­gested sale price nor could one be found any­where on­line.

Today’s Kitty Knight House is ac­tu­ally two con­nected build­ings that date their his­tory back sev­eral cen­turies. The older but less prom­i­nent Archibald Wright house, which fronts Route 213 in the south­ern po­si­tion, was built be­tween 1773 and 1783. The house that most iden­tify as the Kitty Knight House, which faces the Sas­safras River with its col­umns

and porch, was likely built around 1800 — al­though it orig­i­nally faced east like the Archibald Wright House and later re­ori­ented in the 20th cen­tury. The two build­ings were con­nected some­time in the 1930s or ‘40s.

While the build­ing’s age makes it his­tor­i­cally sig­nif­i­cant, it is the story at­tached to it that makes the prop­erty most mem­o­rable.

Kitty Knight — a so­cialite daugh­ter of John and Cather­ine Knight, niece of a mem­ber of the United States House of Rep­re­sen- tatives and sup­posed one­time dance part­ner of Gen. Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton — is re­ferred to as “the de­fender of Georgetown” by lo­cal his­to­ri­ans.

Dur­ing the Bri­tish in­va­sion of the Eastern Shore dur­ing the War of 1812, a com­mon de­fense tac­tic for the army was to burn wa­ter­front com­mu­ni­ties down in order to pre­vent re­sup­ply ef­forts of the Amer­i­cans. Bri­tish forces landed at Fred­er­ick­town, on the Ce­cil County side of the Sas­safras River, and the lower part of Georgetown, lay­ing siege to the com­mu­ni­ties.

Ac­cord­ing to the story, as the Bri­tish troops ap­proached the hill where the two brick houses were lo­cated, they were met by Knight. She stood her ground and pleaded with Adm. Ge­orge Cock­burn not to burn the houses af­ter they be­gan to torch the first, which was oc­cu­pied by a sick and el­derly lady.

Af­ter stamp­ing out the flames twice, Knight’s tenac­ity and ap­peal so moved Cock­burn that he or­dered the troops to their barges, leav­ing sev­eral structures stand­ing there as mon­u­ments to her noble and haz­ardous act.

While she is cred­ited with sav­ing the Henry home, she may not have even been in­hab­it­ing it at the time, let alone own­ing it. The home’s builder, Wil­liam Henry, died in the 1790s, and left sev­eral heirs, who ap­par­ently rented out the prop­erty, ac­cord­ing to his­tor­i­cal records. Knight pur­chased a river­side lot be­low the Henry home in 1803 and didn’t pur­chase the his­toric home un­til 1839 — some 26 years af­ter the burn­ing of Georgetown.

While Knight’s story of sav­ing Georgetown is widely re­counted by lo­cals, the his­tor­i­cal record has scant proof to back the claim — mainly an ac­count from her obit­u­ary and mem­o­ries passed down by lo­cals. If she was re­spon­si­ble for sav­ing the houses in ques­tion, how­ever, she may also be given credit for sav­ing Mon­te­bello and Val­ley Cot­tage as well as the Pres­by­te­rian church to the south.

While the Kitty Knight House is listed on the Mary­land His­tor­i­cal Trust’s In­ven­tory of His­toric Places, it does not have a state preser­va­tion ease­ment. The his­toric prop­erty is also not in one of Kent County’s six lo­cal his­toric dis­tricts, which es­sen­tially act as ease­ments on his­toric prop­er­ties pre­vent­ing dras­tic changes to their ap­pear­ance. That means that while any dras­tic changes made to the prop­erty in the fu­ture may draw pub­lic re­buke, such potential changes are cur­rently not pre­cluded by law.

Re­porter Ch­eryl Mattix con­trib­uted to this story.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

The Kitty Knight House restau­rant and inn in Georgetown has closed and been put up for sale, pos­ing ques­tions about the fu­ture of the his­toric es­tab­lish­ment.

Per­ryville Mid­dle School teacher Carol Leath wears pink every day for breast can­cer aware­ness.

CE­CIL WHIG PHOTO BY JA­COB OWENS

Owned by the Hall fam­ily for decades, the Kitty Knight House may soon find new own­er­ship af­ter the his­toric prop­erty was put up for sale.

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