The Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantsville, MD, is located in the Allegheny Mountains region, west of the Appalachian Valley. The village is home to six artists in residence as well as visiting artists who open their studio space and sell their work to visitors. The unique artists’ market allows guests to meet the artists, see their work in progress as well as their studios, and ask them questions about their craft. The artists’ studio spaces are located among a collection of a dozen cabins and log and frame structures, some of which date back to the time of the Revolutionary War.
Highlights of the collection include Alta’s Cabin, a small log cabin built as a childhood reward for the village’s founder, Alta Schrock. As a child, Schrock helped her father collect on delinquent business accounts in exchange for the backyard hideout. Her cabin, named ‘The Sanctuary,’ was brought to the Spruce Forest site in 1970 and houses visiting artists today. The Compton One-Room School log cabin was donated to the village and restored with a grant from the Maryland Historical Trust. Western Maryland’s last one-room schoolhouse is outfitted with historic books, supplies, and furniture that illuminate the history of education in the Casselman Valley. The schoolhouse was likely built by Robert Compton, who served as an errand boy for George Washington as a child. His family moved to the Allegheny Region after the end of the Revolutionary War. The Eli Miller shed is a new construction, built at Spruce Forest from the parts of an old wood plank house. The 1976 home serves as a blacksmith shop and is host to metalworking artisans.
John Hochstetler’s Little House is among the oldest of Spruce Village at 200 years old. The simple post and beam building was built in 1800 by John Hochstetler, the first white settler in the area. The home teaches the history of the Amish, who settled the Alleghenies to avoid attacks by Native Americans and establish peaceful farming communities. In the summer months, the house is occupied by artisans and has hosted basket weavers and quillers, among others. The Miller House Peace Center of 1835 was moved to the site and restored in the mid 1980s. The home is furnished with memorabilia of the Miller family, an Amish family whose home served as a school and place of worship. While many of the structures host visiting artisans, both the schoolhouse and Peace House have summer hosts whose purpose is to teach guests about the history of the structures.
Additional features of the Spruce Forest include Casselman’s Bridge, a stone arch bridge with a single 80-foot span, built in 1813 along the historic National Road. Stanton’s Mill is a 1797 gristmill, which was in continuous operation until 1994. Today, the water chase adjacent to the mill is dry, but the wheel spins on electric power, allowing guests to see the restored building operating as it did for hundreds of years.
In this particular area of the Allegheny Region, known as Little Crossings, artists and artisans have been honing their crafts for over 200 years. Much of the work is specific to the region, and a large part of the village’s mission is to preserve the local craft and history. The village was founded in 1957 by Alta Schrock (1911–2001). Alta demonstrated her love of nature at a very early age by establishing a natural history museum in her school’s basement before she reached the 7th grade. She wrote nature essays and identified local herbs, flowers, ferns and trees.
After living in Indiana and working as a school teacher, Schrock returned to the area in the 1950s to establish the village and give back to her home community. The first Mennonite woman in the United States to receive a PhD, Schrock founded the Springs Historical Society and Museum, and later opened the Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop, which still operates today adjacent to the Spruce Forest Village. She was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to preserving the state’s history as well as her efforts in job creation in the historically impoverished region. The Penn Alps Restaurant and Spruce Forest Artisan Village provide opportunities for artisans to make a living by working with their hands, and have provided a value for many that is much greater than the checks received. Today, the Spruce Forest Artisan Village hosts 60,000 visitors each year.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Workshops at the Spruce Artisans Village are offered all year round, and include wheel thrown pottery, weaving, jewelry making, feather carving, and a variety of painting and drawing workshops.
177 Casselman Road, Grantsville, MD 21536, Phone: 301-895-3332
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