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Finding the Unexpected in Chestertown

Jan 07, 2014 10:11AM ● By Cate Reynolds

Anna Wolgast and her husband Ed Hugler had been visiting the Eastern Shore from their McLean, Virginia, home for decades since Ed’s father had a home there. “We’d bring the kids down all the time and they learned all kinds of things down here,” the couple says. On one of their visits to Chestertown, they saw a late 19th-century house in the Historic District, across from the Chester River and a block and a half from the commercial center. “This is a problem,” they said to themselves, not having seriously considered moving to the area just then. The house though was just “too cool” to pass up, and six years ago, Wolgast—retired from the Environmental Protection Agency—and Hugler—deputy assistant secretary for administration and management at the U.S. Department of Labor—made the full-time move (though Ed keeps a small apartment in Arlington when he needs to stay in town for work).

Though the house had been remodeled in 2004, it still needed the couple’s attention, and they tick off the improvements they have made, including installing hardwood hickory floors on the second level; adding custom-made, 6-inch crown molding in the foyer, living room, and dining room; putting in a custom-designed HD TV/stereo enclosure and companion bookcase in the living room; adding new wallpaper in two bathrooms and foyer; installing two under-counter refrigerators in the kitchen; and taking on myriad painting projects and small hardware details throughout the interior.

The exterior received just as much attention, with a complete patio makeover that included a new brick-and-slate design, new brick stairs replacing the wood porch, and the addition of a small roof over the door with matching decorative architecture echoing the front porch; a decorative fountain, iron fence, and gate; re-landscaped front beds and patio; a custom-made front porch railing; new shutters replicated from the originals; new gutters with underground drainage to the street to eliminate the risk of a wet basement; and a repainted exterior.

As much as the couple enjoys their historic home, they’re just as enamored with Chestertown itself. “It’s an 18th-century town that looks like Washington’s Georgetown or Alexandria’s Old Town, just in a smaller format,” Hugler says. “We even have the same upscale amenities…just less of them.”

Washington College also adds much to the way of life in Chestertown, the couple says, from lecture series to performing arts to “a youthful infusion.”

The couple has been so taken with Chestertown’s artistic vibe that they have become avid art collectors. “There are many lovely historic houses here, but we wanted to make an effort to purchase from local artists and artisans as much as possible.

“There’s so much artistic talent in this region, it’s amazing,” Hugler says.

Working with Chestertown interior designer Lauren Ames, the couple added several unique features such as etched glass front door panels by artist Marcy Dunn Ramsey (that are not only decorative, but also ensure privacy from interested day trippers wanting to peek through the window), artwork that reflects the nature and occupations of the region—from river grasses to watermen—and contemporary custom furniture by Robert Ortiz Studios. “For Anna and Ed, this house is all about the art,” Ames says.

It’s also all about having the last laugh…in a gentle way. “When our D.C. friends heard we were moving here, they thought we were nuts,” the couple says. “But now they get it…and come back with regularity!”

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