The Gate House was once an entry point to Springfield Hospital, Maryland's second state-run instution dedicated to the care of individuals with mental illnesses. Parts of Springfield Hospital are still part of the state's healthcare system, and, in recent years, many of the buildings have undergone change, renovation, and restoration. Today, Highway 32 obscures the view on the banner above, but a pedestrian tunnel and paved walkways of Carrie Dorsey Park allow you to explore parts of the hospital and land that's importance to the town goes back much further than the that of the 1896 hospital.
Before the town of Sykesville and before the founding of the hospital, or, most of the homes, businesses, and farms, George Patterson managed his vast property, Springfield. This huge tract was purchased with wealth obtained from the forced labor of enslaved African Americans, primarily in the form of care, trade, and sale of Devon cattle.
It is through the Pattersons that Sykesville has claim to an erstwhile princess. In 1803, George Patterson's sister, Betsy, married Jerome Bonaparte, brother of Napoleon. Napoleon did not approve of the marriage and had it annuled, returning Betsy to her home here, but the story created scandal both here and abroad.
The family of George Patterson eventually sold the property of Springfield to Frank Brown, the only person from Carroll County ever elected governor of Maryland. After his term in office, Frank Brown heavily advocated for the use of Springfield as the site for the Hospital and sold the land to the state.
At the edge of all this was the town of Sykesville. Founded in 1904, the town was once known simply as "Horse Train Stop," holding a smattering of businesses and homes along the railway line. Floods, changes in transportation modes, and population migration have radically changed the look of the town, but many of its structures still stand as a glimpse into the past.
The Gate House Museum seeks to preserve the memories of Sykesville and connect its current residents to the history of this now boisterous little town.