News & Politics

Favorite Spaces: A Well-Versed Place

In a converted corncrib, Ruth Noble Groom gathers friends to read aloud from Yeats and Kipling.

There are many wonderful spaces at Mineral Spring Farm, Ruth Noble Groom’s 45-acre waterfront estate near St. Michaels—from a cozy stable room to a barn converted into a guesthouse to a mirrored shelter for her peacocks to a gazebo-inspired sleeping porch. But it’s the poetry shed she favors most.

“I honor ruins and relics,” says Groom, known as Baba to her friends. No renovations have taken place in the tiny converted corncrib, which is shrouded in honeysuckle and just large enough for the most intimate gathering of friends—seven at most.

Groom, who splits her time between her Eastern Shore farm and a former police station she calls home in Georgetown, is an avid reader whose first husband was Forrest Gump author Winston Groom and whose stepson, Daniel Wallace, wrote Big Fish.

Inside the poetry shed, shabby-chic antiques, a bold woven rug, and candelabra mingle with rusty farm tools. A walnut side table is set with Maker’s Mark and etched glasses, ready for cocktails. Then there’s the focal point: an antique bookcase stacked with selections ranging from Rudyard Kipling to former poet laureate Billy Collins to a collection of Bob Dylan lyrics—“for those people,” she says, “who come in thinking they don’t like poetry.”

Among her favorites are W.B. Yeats and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Groom has never electrified the shed, adamant that “candlelight and books civilize people.”

After dining in her Victorian farmhouse, special guests are led to the memory garden, where Groom’s second husband, Dan Wallace, and friends are buried. “We take cocktails and come out and pay tribute to them,” she says. “And then we step inside the poetry shed and read verse that honors the human spirit.”