Daren Altieri ran his fingertips gently across ridges and bubbles in a small pane of glass.
"This stuff is handmade -- you can see it -- this was made and set in here years and years and years ago," the Elkridge builder said admiringly as he looked at the old farmhouse window.
It was hardly the kind of work his clients expected of him: flawlessly clear, multiple-layered panes set into a symmetrical frame.
"They didn't make everything perfectly level -- it was to live in," Mr. Altieri said.
The house on the Brown Farm in Woodstock may not be up to modern specifications, but it's still standing after three centuries.
And by June 5, Mr. Altieri and a group of his fellow builders plan to have it spruced up enough for a celebration of the 232-acre farm's passage into public hands for the next 300 years.
The first part of the house, believed to be its current dining room, was a log cabin built in the 1690s by Anne Arundel County pioneer Thomas Brown, known as the Patuxent Ranger. His last direct descendant died last year and in effect left the entire property to the public.
The restoration project is timed for the celebration, which is being put on by the Howard County Conservancy. The group has received 127 acres, including the house and outbuildings, and the state Department of Natural Resources has received 105 acres next to Patapsco Valley State Park.
The conservancy will manage the property and maintain an office in the front of the house. The back section, built in the 1950s, will be refurbished into a caretaker's quarters.
The group of builders who volunteered time and materials includes Catonsville Builders of Ellicott City, Dorsey Builders of Sykesville, Yorktown Homes Inc. of Ellicott City and Trinity Homes Inc. of Columbia. Work began yesterday.
As workers from Dorsey Builders cleaned the outside of the home with high-pressure water jets, others made arrangements tTC for paint and other supplies. They said they were soliciting donations from such businesses as Duron Paint Co.'s Baltimore office and John S. Wilson Lumber in West Friendship.
"They told us about it Friday, and we got all the guys together to start working, so we can meet that deadline," Mr. Altieri said.
Developer Donald R. Reuwer, who recruited the builders from his Turf Valley Overlook development, said the project resulted from the builders' initiative.
"Jim Eacker [the conservancy president] just called and asked for some help, and everybody jumped in," Mr. Reuwer said.
The Patuxent Ranger was commissioned in 1692 by the Anne Arundel County government to survey the lands at the headwaters of the Patuxent River and its tributaries.
The Little Patuxent River begins a short distance from the farm.
Mr. Brown's last direct descendant, Frances Brown, died last year, and her sister, Ruth Brown died in 1990. The two schoolteachers had no children.
An agreement to make the land public was worked out with the Browns' representatives, the Maryland Environmental Trust, the Howard County Conservancy, the state Board of Public Works and the state Department of Natural Resources.
Part of the arrangement involves the conservancy selling 45 acres along Woodstock Road to the county for a neighborhood park. The group will use $335,000 from that sale to create an endowment to help pay for preservation of the Brown property.
The farm, which has two streams that feed the Patapsco River, is across the road from Mr. Reuwer's most ambitious and controversial development, the 682-acre Waverly Woods II, which will include condominiums, business parks, a shopping center and a golf course.