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Harford officials hope to preserve historic Bel Air house, golf course barn being dismantled

The Barnyard Boys are turning materials from a historic Bel Air-area barn into new construction materials

Harford County officials and the Historical Society of Harford County are working to move and preserve the historic Joesting-Gorsuch House, which had been slated for demolition to make way for five new houses to be built on the north side of the Winters Run Golf Club property near Bel Air.

The historic red barn next to the house is being dismantled this week, however, as golf club officials and Forest Hill home builder Gemcraft Homes go through the final stages of obtaining county approval to build the new houses on nearly 12 acres off of North Tollgate Road near the club entrance.

The Joesting-Gorsuch House dates to the 1730s, making it one of the oldest standing structures in Harford County.

"County Executive [Barry] Glassman stepped in and wanted the house preserved," county government spokeswoman Cindy Mumby said Thursday.

Mumby said the Glassman administration and the Historical Society are trying to work out the best way to move the house, which is unused and in disrepair, and then preserve it for public use.

"The plan is to dismantle the house and store it until a permanent location can be found and ultimately restore it, preserve it and open it to the public," Mumby said. "That's the hope, that's the goal."

The county was scheduled to issue a demolition permit to remove the house Thursday. A permit already was issued to allow for the dismantling of the barn.

Mumby said permits, that would allow construction of the new houses, have not been issued.

"We can't do anything until the [old] house is off the property," Chris Demetrakis, the golf club's board president, said Wednesday.

Demetrakis said the county has given preliminary approvals to the plans for the new houses, and the developer is just waiting for the final plat to be approved.

He said the construction timetable "is still up in the air."

"We plan on building homes as soon as humanly possible," Demetrakis continued.

The dismantling of the barn started last week. The Barnyard Boys company, of Lancaster County, Pa., is overseeing the project.

As of mid-week, the slate roof had been removed from the bright red barn, but the rest of the structure, with its exposed roof trusses, was still standing.

A plastic sign directing traffic on North Tollgate to the club for "Just great golf!" was still handing on the exterior wall.

Demetrakis said that sign will be removed, but it will not be re-hung at another location.

Barnyard Boys workers have been taking every piece of building material from the barn, including wood and slate, and repurposing it for sale for other construction projects.

"All the beams, the boards will be used for anything from flooring to wall paneling, wainscoting, furniture, crafts, just a whole host of things," manager Steve Hurst said.

The slate will be used for new roofs.

"All that will be left is the foundation," Hurst said.

Hurst said the wooden beams will be milled at a company sawmill and converted into floorboards with tongue and groove.

"It goes down like new flooring, but it still looks like reclaimed lumber with character," he said.

The barn dates to about the 1700s, and it was built with old-growth oak that has a "tighter ring" and is denser than wood from younger trees.

"The wood itself could be anywhere from 400 years old if you count from when the trees started growing," Hurst said.

He said the denser wood from older trees makes for a more durable product.

"Especially for flooring, it holds up really well because it's much denser and more durable than newer wood will be," Hurst said.

Hurst said he expect the dismantling of the barn to be completed by early November, "if the weather holds up."

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