The Samuel Riddle Farm
Man O' War Spent a Brief Time Here
The old farmhouse was remodeled into a magnificent country manor with fifteen rooms and eight baths. The floors were painted a brilliant white and were always kept spotless. Mrs. Riddle combed the countryside searching for antiques. She filled her home with furniture such as Chippendale and Duncan Phyfe. In the glassed verandah, she placed beautiful old chairs, tables, cupboards, ship's lanterns and stone implements. Her strange collection of miniature ships was also placed there. Local seamen, knowing of her interest in ships, frequently visited the farm with ships? models they had carved. Mrs. Riddle usually bought the models that each man offered to her.
While Mrs. Riddle was concerned with things from the past, her husband was concerned with the future. In 1919 he had an electric light plant installed on the farm. Later he decided to purchase electricity from the local supplier and had new poles and lines run to the farm at his own expense.
In 1925 Riddle found that he needed assistance in managing the estate, so he hired a local resident, William Whaley. Mr. Whaley recalled Riddle saying, "Mr. Whaley, I'd like for you to come over and become manager of my farm. I think you won't have to spend more than a couple days each week looking things over. You can probably handle it as a sideline in addition to whatever you're doing." William Whaley soon discovered that this was a full time job. He once remarked, "If each week had forty hours, I couldn't likely get caught up with all the work this job entails. After I took this job I had to devote long hours, seven days a week just to keep this big operation running smooth. I often laugh at Mr. Riddle's two-days-a-week prediction."
At first the horses which Riddle owned were merely used for show and hunting. But soon he started raising horses for the purpose of racing. His most famous horse Man O' War was the greatest money making horse of all times. In 1923, Man O' War was shipped to Riddle's farm in Kentucky for breeding purposes.
In order to keep such a vast farm in operation, it was necessary to employee about fifty men. These men worked as jockeys, trainers, waiters, cooks, grooms, house servants, veterinarians, and bus drivers. Most of the men spent their time tending to the fifty-odd thoroughbred colts stabled there. Four men were required to keep the stables clean. Each horse was given a separate stall, which was kept raked and swept at all times.
The great majority of the colts on the farm were descendants of Man O' War. War Admiral, another famous Riddle horse, was sired by Man O' War and was trained on the farm. These colts were animals of great value, so they received the best of care. Often the animals were high-strung, flighty, and had trouble settling down, so a groom was forced to stay with the colt both day and night until it calmed down. Colts behaving like these were called stable walkers. Often after the colt had quieted down it was placed in a stall with a trained goat. The goat served as a companion and settled him down the same, as a man would do. Each year at the end of April the colts that had been trained were shipped off to race at tracks all over the East Coast.
Most of the food for this operation was grown on the farm, but it was necessary to buy such things as hay, oats and grains. In the winter months at least two hogs and steers were butchered each week. Mr. Riddle believed in keeping his help well fed. His cooks were renowned throughout the Eastern Shore for the fine meals they prepared. A typical lunch at the farm consisted of roast beef, string beans, sweet potatoes, homemade bread and strawberry shortcake, in season. To keep his large number of employees contented he bought a bus that ran to Berlin and Ocean City twice daily and two nights during the week.
Riddle spent much time and money on making the farm a place of beauty and luxury. One of the first things he did was to have a beautiful, mile-long lane constructed from the highway to the house. Along this lane hundreds of cedars and trees were planted. On Turville Creek which was adjacent to his property, Riddle had a huge boat dock built. Then he purchased a large yacht that he kept there. A regulation size racetrack that could accommodate hundreds of people was constructed next to his house. This was done solely for the entertainment and enjoyment of his friends. Several smaller tracks were constructed throughout the farm. Also, for the benefit of their friends, the Riddles held a large New Year's Eve party, annually. High society's most important people always attended these parties.
The interior of the home was kept as attractive as the exterior. Upon entering the home one found himself in a huge and elegant hall. Plush antique furniture was standing in the hall and on the walls were beautiful pictures. Adjacent to the hall was the library and the dining room. In the dining room, unique and beautiful windows were installed which stretched from the floor to the ceiling. Extending along side of the house was a grand, plush parlor. At one entrance to this room was a heavy door that dated back to colonial days. The lock on the door was made of brass plate and was about a foot square. A tremendous chandelier that dripped with prisms highlighted the living room. Covering the floors were elegant oriental rugs which depicted Man O' War and other famous horses belonging to the Riddle Stables.
After mounting a magnificent staircase one would find himself in a hall on the second floor. From this hall one could reach any one of the four master bedrooms. All the rooms were adorned with colonial furniture such as four-poster beds. On the walls were original pieces of art by Currier & Ives. Also in the rooms were such things as bed warming pans and hand carved bowls. All together the Riddle home portrayed a perfect example of style and good taste.
Mr. Riddle seemed to be the perfect boss and made many warm friendships on the Eastern Shore during his lifetime. He remembered several of these employees in his will. In January of 1951 Samuel Riddle passed away at the age of eighty-nine, and with his passing much of the charm and excitement of the Riddle era passed away with him. The Riddle family and their farm did much to draw attention to the Berlin-Ocean City area. Even today (1967) hundreds of tourists still visit the farm to see its famed beauty and elegance.
Presently the Riddle farm operates much the same as it did in the past. It was purchased at public auction by Walter Jeffords, Sr., one of Samuel Riddle's friends. When Jeffords died he left the farm to his son who is presently running the farm.
Democratic Messenger, Thursday June 15, 1967.
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