The Lohr building

In 1871, John Lohr commissioned a three-story, brick building on a lot along North Church Street just outside of Mechanicstown (now Thurmont) and opposite the road to Emmitsburg. It isn’t clear what motivated Lohr, because apparently he had no plans to occupy the building himself and wasn’t a merchant, but it probably was an investment vehicle. Earlier in 1871, the Western Maryland Railroad reached Mechanicstown and its first depot, at the Chew & Stocksdale warehouse on Carroll Street, was a short distance from Lohr’s new building.

The railroad brought a boom of new commerce to Mechanicstown. The size of the Lohr’s structure suggests he may have imagined a potential hotel; however, an August 1871 item in the local newspaper hinted that the building might become a school instead. But, in October of the same year the paper announced that Joseph Wierman, from Adams County, PA, rented the building for the purpose of a boarding house, which he subsequently named Spotswood Hotel. Wierman advertised his hotel continuously between May 1872 and January 1873: 16 rooms, well furnished, excellent water nearby, and great views. However, Wierman’s association ended abruptly without a public explanation, and in September of 1873 Martin Overholtzer advertised his new “Western Maryland House” inside Lohr’s building, which he pledged would accommodate permanent residents and transient visitors.

But, Overholtzer’s enterprise only lasted about six months. In April 1874, Lohr himself established a general store in the building. Lohr may have continued boarding, because he was unmarried at the time – and didn’t need 16 rooms – and he used the Western Maryland Hotel name again in an 1876 advertisement, but the store itself is mentioned repeatedly for a few years. In September 1876, Lohr married Jennie Heller, of Adams County, PA, and a few months later, in January 1877, the Catoctin Clarion informed its readers that Lohr intended to retire from his store by April 1 of the same year. Unfortunately, Lohr wasn’t able to pay off his creditors, and in April he signed a deed with his oldest brother, Abraham, that named Abraham his trustee to sell the building and remaining contents at auction.

Abraham tried to sell the property in May, then again in October, and finally accomplished a sale in December 1877 to Simon Lohr, another brother. Simon bought the building for $2,100; John’s original investment was about $4,500, according to the Clarion. So, if the building was an investment for John it didn’t result in the outcome he imagined, we have to assume. He and his wife moved to Hagerstown where he worked as a cigar manufacturer; he died in 1916. Simon owned a 200-acre farm between Thurmont and Mount St. Mary’s and rented the brick building briefly, but he ultimately made it his residence and he and his family lived there until his death in 1919 and his wife’s death in 1931. Their daughter Rosa owned the property until 1937; it’s functioned as a private home or multi-family/apartment building ever since.

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