Miller House Museum
Plan Your Visit
135 W. Washington St.
Hagerstown, MD 21740
Tuesday – Saturday 9 am – 4 pm.
Tours available year-round.
To inquire about booking group tours, please contact us.
SELF-GUIDED AUDIO TOUR
$7/person Adults 18+
$5/person Students 13-17
$3/person Children 7-12
Free for children 6 & under and current WCHS members and partners
$5/current WCHS members and partners
Discounted guided tour rates are available for parties of 10 or larger. Reservations are required for large groups (25+).
On-street parking is available. Please note that on-street parking is metered Monday–Friday from 9am–5pm, and that staff may not always be able to make change for the meters.
Special Exhibit Now on View!
From above, Earth appears as a water planet with more than 71 percent of its surface covered with this vital resource for life. Water impacts climate, agriculture, transportation, industry and more. It inspires art and music. The Washington County Historical Society, in cooperation with Maryland Humanities, will examine water as an environmental necessity and an important cultural element as it hosts “Water/Ways,” a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street (MoMS) program. “Water/Ways” will be on view August 31st through October 12th.
The Miller House Museum and the surrounding community has been expressly chosen by Maryland Humanities to host “Water/Ways” as part of the Museum on Main Street program—a national/state/local partnership to bring exhibitions and programs to rural cultural organizations. The exhibition will tour six communities in Maryland from May 2019 through March 2020.
“Water/Ways” explores the endless motion of the water cycle, water’s effect on landscape, settlement and migration, and its impact on culture and spirituality. It looks at how political and economic planning have long been affected by access to water and control of water resources. Human creativity and resourcefulness provide new ways of protecting water resources and renewing respect for the natural environment.
History of the Miller House
The Miller House Museum serves as the headquarters of the Washington County Historical Society, and has served as a historic house and local history museum since 1966. The original portion of the house, a Federal-period ell-block brick townhouse, was built in 1825 for William Price, a prominent local attorney. The architecture and décor of his home were designed to be as ornate as possible to give clients and visitors a sense of his success. Particularly of note in the front hallway are the eleven-foot-high ceilings with elaborate dental molding and the main architectural focal point, the cantilevered or hanging staircase. The Price family lived in the home from 1825 to 1842. William Price’s law career would culminate in his 1862 appointment as the United States District Attorney for the State of Maryland by President Abraham Lincoln. He was also the paternal grandfather of etiquette expert, Emily Post.
In 1844, the ‘brick mansion house’ was sold to Alexander Neill Jr., another local attorney. The Neill family would live in the house from 1844 until 1911. They operated their law practice out of a small addition that they added onto the right side of the house, eliminating a small walkway between buildings. The Neills preferred High Victorian decoration and installed gas-powered lighting around 1865, and by 1910, the drawing rooms and dining room were lit completely via gas chandelier. Telephone service was added in 1904, and radiant heat was added to supplement the fireplaces.
In 1911, lacking any male heirs, the Neill family sold the home to Dr. Victor Davis Miller, Jr. Dr. Miller was the son of Dr. Victor Davis Miller Sr., a Union Army surgeon who settled his family along the Mason-Dixon line. Victor Jr. married Nellie Loose, the daughter of a prominent local family, in 1908, and they settled along with Victor’s brother, Dr. William Preston Miller, and his family at a brownstone they constructed called “Doctor’s Quarters.” By 1911, however, the growing family needed more room, and jumped at the chance to purchase the lovely brick townhouse down the street. Dr. Miller quickly set about extending the Neill’s addition and finishing the basement area. Once the renovations were finished in 1915, he opened a private medical practice that housed four additional doctors, complete with a small surgical suite and compounding pharmacy.
Dr. and Mrs. Miller would raise three children in the family home: Helen, Victor, and Henry. Nell loved the Federal-period history of the home, and began to reverse many of the changes made to the house. Relatives of the Miller family recall that some of the household antiques were given to the family in lieu of payment for Dr. Miller’s medical services. Victor and Nell collected other pieces on their own, and brought back the Federal-period atmosphere of the Price’s home. Some of the changes helped to make the home more comfortable as well, like adding electricity and interior plumbing around 1912. Dr. Miller ran the medical practice until his death in 1955. Nell Miller passed away in 1966, and at that time, both Henry and Victor III were heavily involved with the Washington County Historical Society and donated the home for the Society’s use.
Exhibits at the Miller House Museum
The Miller House Museum, built in 1825 to house local attorney William Price and his family, was a private home for 141 years before becoming the headquarters and museum of the Washington County Historical Society. Permanent exhibits highlight the rich history and heritage of Washington County and explore the day-to-day experience of life in the 1800s. Quarterly special exhibits explore topics in local history in greater detail. For more information on rotating exhibits, please see the Calendar page.
The furnishings and décor of the Miller House Museum help to tell the story of everyday life in 1820s Washington County. Authentic to the Federal Period and Gilded Age time periods, many of the collection highlights were constructed in Hagerstown or Washington County, including pieces by prominent cabinetmakers Samuel Bloom and George Woltz. Local silversmiths Arthur Johnston, Henry Biershing, and Frederick Posey are also featured in a large collection of fine silver and china objects, which also features a large collection of the well-known Kirk “Maryland Rose” repousse silver. Rounding out the collection are imported décor and furniture, which would have been used heavily in the original decoration of the home. Highlights of the import collection include a beautiful Hepplewhite tambour desk attributed to the workshop of prominent Boston cabinetmaker, John Seymour.
Tall Case Clocks
The creation of elaborate tall case clocks was a longstanding crafting tradition in Washington County, and the Miller House Museum showcases the work of several prominent clockmakers. Featured in the museum collection are two fine walnut clocks by renowned Hagerstown cabinetmaker, George Woltz; a clock by Arthur Johnston, who was later commissioned to build the Hagerstown City Hall tower clock; and an elaborate astronomical clock built by Hagerstown silversmith John Reynolds.
Bell Family Pottery
Prior to the construction of the brick townhouse, the property at 135 West Washington Street was home to a series of potters. From 1803 to 1823, Shenandoah potter Peter Bell lived, worked, and trained his sons on the site of the Miller House. Trained by the father of the Shenandoah pottery movement, Hagerstonian John George Weis, Bell trained three of his sons in traditional pottery methods. John, Samuel, and Solomon Bell would go on to become well-known potters of their time, establishing family workshops which would operate until the end of the 1800s. The Miller House Museum Bell Pottery collection features over 225 distinct works by the Bell family and their contemporaries, as well as personal artifacts of John Bell.
Civil War Collection
Washington County was heavily embroiled in the events of the American Civil War, and the Civil War exhibit of the Miller House Museum explores the experiences of both soldiers and civilians during this pivotal moment in American history. Documents, images, and artifacts recount the Battles of Antietam and Hagerstown, including pieces pulled from the sites of both battles shortly after fighting ended.
Civilian life was heavily impacted by troop movements, as evidenced by the letters and artifacts featured in the exhibit. Of note is the display covering the 1864 Confederate Ransom of Hagerstown. The artifacts on exhibit, recount the fascinating story of Hagerstown’s brief time under Confederate control and the stories of the citizens who helped to save their town from destruction.
Soldiers from Washington County have been involved in every armed conflict of the United States, from the time of the French and Indian War to the present day. The exhibit of military artifacts explores the county’s longstanding martial tradition. Highlights of the collection include a selection of artifacts from George Washington. America’s first president was good friends with Williamsport founder Otho Holland Williams, and Washington County, Maryland, was the first Washington County in the United States, which reflected the area’s close relationship with one of our founding fathers.
Another highlight of the collection is the only known cavalry jacket used during the War of 1812. Worn by local soldier Sergeant Jacob Huyett, the jacket and its accompanying helmet a part of a collection of artifacts which recount local participation in the Battle of North Point and the Defense of Baltimore in 1814. The military collection of the Miller House also features artifacts, documents, and uniforms from the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.
The textile collection of the Miller House Museum is extensive, hosting almost 1,900 individual textile pieces. Ranging from locally made table linens and quilts to couture pieces created by noted fashion designer Ceil Chapman, the collection provides an extensive look at apparel and home goods from the late 1700s to the mid-1900s. Collection highlights include Jacquard-loomed coverlets created by Boonsboro weaver John Welty and a large collection of historic wedding gowns, including a rose satin gown worn during an 1828 wedding which took place in the drawing rooms of the Miller House.
Make a fully tax-deductible contribution to Washington County Historical Society and help us bring the past to life. Our mission to connect people to the those who have gone before us has never been more relevant—donate today and extend the experience for all. WCHS is a 501(c)3 not for profit institution. All gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.