A Sense of Place

Where We Come From- Part 3

The Farm Transforms

 photo by: Mountain Soul Media

photo by: Mountain Soul Media

In 2010 Leigh Clarke, a city-dwelling MBA-type with a corporate background in finance and consulting, stepped foot on Chanteclaire Farm and fell madly in love.  She purchased the farm from Christiane and Fred Bergheim, who retired to the beaches of South Carolina, and began the happiest period of her life, starting with the 2011 wedding season.

The farm had been a wedding venue for a decade.  Having spent years living in Italy, France, and England, she was immediately drawn to the farm's European vibe.  Leigh's passion had always been the creation of beautiful businesses that are constantly evolving and growing.  She brought her discerning taste in food, decor, and design to the farm, and began her quest to make Chanteclaire a nationally recognized, top-notch wedding venue. 

 

She instituted a deep involvement in guiding each couple through the wedding planning process, spending time creating a mood and avoiding any pitfalls of a poorly orchestrated production.  Her ability to connect deeply with people means that couples don’t feel like just clients, but partners and even friends.  Because she has a profound reverence for weddings, she focused the business entirely on this one type of event.  As Leigh would say, she has no interest in catering parties, but in creating weddings, because they are filled with so much meaning and importance.

Leigh’s first mission was to upgrade the property to match modern tastes in a way that would last for many years.  This meant balancing a cleaner and more streamlined aesthetic without losing the "quirky European sensibilities" that set the farm apart.  A roof was added over the upper deck, changing the profile of the structure from a barn to an estate.  New, larger bathrooms were built, and storm drainage added.  

The Friend family cabin and farmhouse, described in Part 1 of our series, were renovated and redecorated to become gorgeous rental properties where brides, grooms, and their wedding parties spend the weekend connecting with the farm and one another.

The farmhouse, where the Bergheim's once lived, is now where our brides gather with their bridesmaids.  It is a historical wonder and a modern woman’s dream.  The original plaster walls still exist and in one room the lathing beneath has been exposed as a design element.  Central AC, a massive master suite and classic European decor have been added to make the home the perfect place to spend a wedding weekend.

  photo by  : Leigh Clarke

photo by: Leigh Clarke

The cabin is the groom's domain.  Built in 1840, its hand-hewn logs and chinking are masculine in a way that reminds us of how life used to be on a farm.  Even the nails in the walls are hand forged, evidence that it was crafted with care and meaning.  We love sitting on the porch swing under the metal roof overlooking the pond during a rain storm.  The sounds and view are so cozy and intense at the same time – it’s an experience that almost makes you long for rain. 

 photo by: Higher Focus Studios

photo by: Higher Focus Studios

In late 2014, the farm's most impressive upgrade was completed, transforming the barn's silo into a steampunk-themed bar.  For a peak at the process, which was televised by Animal Planet. (see our blog post)

 photo by: Vision Quest Studios

photo by: Vision Quest Studios

In 2015, Chanteclaire launched a new website that would better display the property’s personality and atmosphere.  Leigh is now creating an online wedding planning platform that distills her experience and advice into an easily accessible app.  Future plans include publishing a book on the art of wedding planning.  Leigh wants to create a roadmap for all couples that challenges old traditions and infuses weddings with deep personal meaning all while creating a party so epic that it becomes a family legend.

 The new website launched in 2015.

The new website launched in 2015.

We hope you have enjoyed our three part series on the history of Chanteclaire Farm.  As you can see, Chanteclaire is constantly evolving, so be sure to check back often to see our latest projects.

 

Where We Come From-Part 2

A Wedding Barn is Born

 Chanteclaire Farm in the early 2000s

Chanteclaire Farm in the early 2000s

In 2000 Christiane and Fred Bergheim purchased the Elder Hill farm in order to transform it into the area's only professional farm wedding venue.  The Bergheims had previously owned Cornish Manor restaurant in Oakland and a French bakery before that, so they brought decades of catering and wedding experience to the new business.

 

 The barn at Chanteclaire Farm prior to renovation

The barn at Chanteclaire Farm prior to renovation

Before the barn was opened for events, a major renovation occurred.  The flooring in the upper level where hay had been stored was almost completely deteriorated.

 A view of both stories of the barn at Chanteclaire Farm prior to renovation

A view of both stories of the barn at Chanteclaire Farm prior to renovation

The Bergheims replaced it with hardwood Ash flooring reinforced with steel and concrete supports to create a safe and attractive dining and dancing area. 

 The top story of the barn at Chanteclaire Farm during renovation.  The ceiling work has been completed, and work has begun on installing the gorgeous Ash hardwood floors.

The top story of the barn at Chanteclaire Farm during renovation.  The ceiling work has been completed, and work has begun on installing the gorgeous Ash hardwood floors.

The basement where the cows were housed required repair to three walls.  The floor was stained to mimic old European stone. 

 A closer view of the lower story of the barn at Chanteclaire Farm.  Shown prominently are the supports which would be created with steel and concrete to ensure a safe and beautiful dance floor in the reception space above.

A closer view of the lower story of the barn at Chanteclaire Farm.  Shown prominently are the supports which would be created with steel and concrete to ensure a safe and beautiful dance floor in the reception space above.

The barn was completely closed in and insulated to keep out unwanted critters.  A commercial kitchen was added, and designed to be so warm and inviting that it looks like a dream from a magazine.  Four bathrooms were built, along with decking and awnings.  

 The upper story of the barn at Chanteclaire Farm during renovation.  Note the work occurring on the roof.

The upper story of the barn at Chanteclaire Farm during renovation.  Note the work occurring on the roof.

Christiane added eclectic touches all over the barn, creating a highly decorated venue.  This is where our "quirky European sensibilities" began. A French native with a heavy accent and dramatic flair, Christiane forged the original aesthetic of the barn from her intense and colorful creativity.

In 2001 Chanteclaire Farm opened its doors for weddings....

 An original ad for Chanteclaire Farm

An original ad for Chanteclaire Farm

 A 2003 ad for Chanteclaire Farm

A 2003 ad for Chanteclaire Farm

From 2001 through 2010 Christiane and Fred grew the Chanteclaire Farm wedding business.  They laid the foundation for our process of controlling event timing and flow.  Christiane developed some signature menu items like slow cooked braised beef and chicken stuffed with apples and brie.  They formed a relationship with Jonny Rock, owner of Sounds Fun Entertainment, that resulted in a permanent installation of sound and light equipment.  Twenty speakers were positioned throughout the facility, creating unrivaled sound quality.  Christiane cooked, decorated the cakes, and managed the planning process, while Fred maintained the property and the administrative tasks.  

 The outdoor wedding ceremony location in the early 2000s

The outdoor wedding ceremony location in the early 2000s

 The Lower Grange, home of cocktail hour, in the early 2000s.  

The Lower Grange, home of cocktail hour, in the early 2000s.  

 The reception space in the early 2000s.

The reception space in the early 2000s.

 A wedding cake created by Christiane 

A wedding cake created by Christiane 

In 2010 the Bergheims sold the business to Leigh Clarke and retired to Myrtle Beach.  They follow the activities of Chanteclaire Farm actively and still keep in touch with Leigh.  In Part 3, we explore the most recent updates and changes at Chanteclaire Farm.

Where We Come From- Part 1

A Farm is Born

Three miles southeast of Friendsville, MD lies a parcel of land known as Elder Hill.  While those frequenting our blog have come to know this area as Chanteclaire Farm, a breathtaking haven for elegant country weddings, the history of the spot runs much deeper.

 Photocredit: A. Burns, 1980

Photocredit: A. Burns, 1980

Friendsville was named for it’s first European settler, John Friend.  If you spend any time in Garrett County, you are sure to run into several people with the surname Friend.  John first entered the area known to the Shawnee as the Hunter’s Bowl in the mid-1700’s.  By the 1820s lumber, coal, mining, and the railroad created a population big enough to sustain restaurants, saloons, three hotels, and an opera house. 

John’s grandson, Jonathan, purchased what is now Chanteclaire Farm in 1835 and had built the log cabin for himself and his family by 1840. 

 From the article  Jonathan Friend House at Elder HIll , by Ina Claire Hicks-  Friendship News , May/June 1996

From the article Jonathan Friend House at Elder HIll, by Ina Claire Hicks- Friendship News, May/June 1996

Jon was known for building sides so straight you could immediately cover them with siding.  This is why, from the outside, the cabin looks sided, but inside you see the original log and chinking.  Our favorite part of the cabin, by far, is the attic.  Take a peek up there and you’ll see tree trunks, still with their bark, holding up the roof.  

By the late 1970s the cabin had fallen into disrepair.  In 1981 a Garrett County native who spent his childhood at the farm began restoring the cabin.  He dismantled the fascia of the cabin, rebuilt its supports, and then replaced every board and stone exactly as it had been.  To maintain historical integrity, each board and stone was numbered as it was removed, and replaced in its exact original location.

 Photocredit: A. Burns, 1980

Photocredit: A. Burns, 1980

In 1870 Jon’s son built the bank barn in which we dine and dance today.  At this point the farm was fully productive, with cows in the lower level and hay upstairs.

 

By 1896 Jon’s grandson was now involved in the family farm, and they were prosperous enough to build the farmhouse where today’s brides love to ready themselves.  

 Photocredit: A. Burns, 1980

Photocredit: A. Burns, 1980

These buildings are surrounded by half a dozen outbuildings holding farm equipment and sundries.  The old carriage house is a favorite for photos – you can still picture bringing horses to it and attaching them to the carriage for a ride into town.  Below, a cooling room stored milk and other goods the family wanted to be able to dip into the passing stream to keep cold.

 Photocredit: Leigh Clarke

Photocredit: Leigh Clarke

 Photocredit: A. Burns, 1980

Photocredit: A. Burns, 1980

Our connection to the community through the Friend family homes is one we cherish. John Friend’s descendants founded the Friend Family Association 40 years ago, including the National Headquarters and Family History Museum, both located in Friendsville, MD.  For more information, please visit their website at www.friendfamilyassociation.com.