One of the finest estates on Maryland's Eastern Shore has been revitalized magnificently after a close brush with oblivion.

The mansion, circa 1729, surrounded by once-splendid 200-year-old gardens, was in complete disarray when its new German owners and their German architect, Reiner Kramer, contacted Baltimore contractor Ilex Construction & Development Inc. Ilex was instrumental in selecting a Baltimore architect, Steven Ward Brown & Co., to work in tandem with the German designer, as overcoming language barriers and converting from the metric system were two elements crucial to the success of the project.

The well-coordinated effort by the contractors, architects and well-known historic landscape designer Rudy Favretti of Essex, Conn., together with Chapel Valley Landscape Co. of Woodbine and interior design by Robert Esterson of Easton, yielded satisfied clients and Professional Builder & Remodeler magazine's Grand Award for Best in American Remodeling.

A builder's challenge and restoration specialist's dream, the splendid Federal period mansion is as well an historic Greek Revival structure. While Ilex worked within strict federal and local guidelines for the exterior restoration, the interior was treated to a renovation that maintained the historic beauty yet included a new structural support system. The owners' request to eliminate the unfamiliar American floor "bounce" led to floor reinforcements of laminated veneer lumber, an extremely stiff material.

All 10 of the home's original fireplace mantels, the old bake oven, the brick chimneys, the exterior columns and all of the window casings were restored. New, true divided-light windows had to be approved by the historians, then built and retrofitted to the existing openings. Custom cabinetry and millwork for all five baths were made with great care to ensure that details and materials reflecting the time period were maintained.

The owners' special needs for security were met using a state-of-the-art multizoned security system.

Also, their desire to experience an interior environment more like that in houses in Germany led the American teams to section off the mansion, including the basement wine cellar and crawl space, into several individually controlled heating and cooling zones.

Completed just 12 months after beginning, the revitalized Eastern Shore jewel today combines high-tech livability and classical splendor.

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