John and Sandi Kroh are leaving Appler-Englar Farm after more than 40 years of meticulously restoring the old farmhouse near New Windsor. The retired Baltimore County school principals are downsizing and moving to Baltimore, where they can walk to shops and restaurants.
But before they sell, the Krohs thought they would offer tribute to their Carroll County home by entering it in The Baltimore Sun's first Historic Homes Contest. The idea was a winner, and so is the house, chosen from among more than 30 entries and five finalists.
"This house has been our life for so long that it is nice to showcase it in this way," Sandi Kroh said through tears. "To say that this has been a labor of love doesn't even capture our feelings after all these years."
"I won't miss the work," said John Kroh. "But I will miss the countryside and the solitude and the history."
Contest judge Lisa Craig, chief of historic preservation for the city of Annapolis, was impressed with the years-long dedication of the owners.
"The Appler-Englar house retains the most historic integrity, demonstrates a sustained commitment to historic preservation, demonstrates a consistent approach to restoration and rehabilitation that protects the character-defining features of the property."
Craig also remarked upon "the sensitive reversal of inappropriate alterations through the years."
The Georgian-style house was built in 1790 by Jacob Appler on land left to him by his father, Everhart, a millwright who came to this country from Bavaria. When he died in 1843, he specified that the property be sold and the proceeds be distributed among his heirs.
The farm was deeded to Joseph Englar a couple of years later, and it appears he gave it to his son, Hiram. It remained in that family until 1947.
It became a boardinghouse for men in the 1950s, and when the Krohs bought it in 1972, it had been empty for about a year.
"I think John and I both wanted something different," said Sandi Kroh. "We both wanted an historic house, a challenge."
There was no kitchen in the house at the time, so the Krohs, who would have their son, Andrew, several years later, cooked on a hibachi and did dishes in the tub to start.
For more than a decade, John and his father, also named John and a retired shop teacher, would use their skills to peel back the layers of the house and restore it so that it would qualify for a place on the National Register of Historic Places.
The biggest challenge? Having engineers install the rods that would stabilize the structure. The best surprise? Dismantling a makeshift wall and finding a cooking fireplace, complete with a pot crane.
"I have wanted to downsize for a long time," said Sandi, who is hoping to find owners who will cherish the house and its 61/2 acres as much as she and John do. "But when it happens, it will be very upsetting."
About the contest
The Baltimore Sun Historic Homes Contest launched in October and was open to Maryland homes that are at least 50 years old and owner-occupied. Entries were submitted online and via email. The finalists and the winner were selected by a panel of judges that included Lisa Craig, chief of historic preservation at the City of Annapolis; Walter Schamu, president and founder of Baltimore-based SMG Architects; and Marie Marciano Gullard, a freelance writer for The Baltimore Sun. The winners receive a two-night stay at the Hotel Monaco Baltimore.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun