For Ken Shapiro, it was love at first sight.
"I always wanted a stone house. I saw the listing that said, 'Stone house on half-acre lot.' I saw it and bought it that day," he said. He bought the house from a retired couple who wanted a lower-maintenance condo.
Mr. Shapiro had looked at pricier stone homes but, at $154,000, he knew the 3,600-square-foot house was for him.
He moved in at the end of June, and is still exploring his new home that really isn't new at all. The original log house dates from about 1798 and has a stone addition that was put on in 1832.
Months after moving in, he still marvels over his acquisition. "It has logs with the bark still on it," says Mr. Shapiro, a teacher at Orems Elementary School. "It has character."
The L-shaped house has one bathroom and three bedrooms -- four if you count the unheated room that appears unchanged since it was added in 1832. There are also features such as seven fireplaces and a ghost that has not made its presence known to the new owner.
The ghost is said to be that of Jacob Hiss, who built the house for his family and died there in 1839 when he was struck by lightning. Mr. Shapiro said the previous owners told him the spirit is most evident in the kitchen.
Mr. Shapiro, 40, likes to show off the house's idiosyncrasies. "I'll never replace the windows. They are drafty and don't operate smoothly," he said. But he says he prefers the charm of old windows that contain about 20 percent of their original lead glass -- complete with bubbles and waves -- over modern energy efficiency.
Many new homeowners spend time acclimating themselves to the peculiar creaks and groans of their homes at night. With 18-inch-thick ground-level walls, the Hiss house is ghostly quiet. "This house doesn't make a sound," Mr. Shapiro says.
Upstairs there is a servants' room still unheated and apparently untouched by later owners.
The main living room was once used by the Hiss family for religious services. And there is a small, rounded door in the entrance foyer through which, according to Mr. Shapiro, worshipers brought coffins for funerals.
The exterior opening has long been boarded up, but Mr. Shapiro plans to open it again -- in time for his Halloween party next year, he hopes.
The Hiss family moved the services out of their front parlor when they formed the Hiss United Methodist Church on Harford Road. The church still uses the original stone chapel the Hisses built in 1842.
Mr. Shapiro has made a small dent in his list of planned renovations by clearing the yard. He unearthed a pond buried for 40 years; once he cleared away the undergrowth, the fountain sent a steam of water gurgling once again.
He wants to remove some of the stucco and reveal the stone and original log walls of the oldest section of the house. Inside, he plans to strip some of the interior walls to expose the original beams and logs.
Tucked away on Willoughby Road in Parkville, the Hiss house once was the centerpiece of a 203-acre family property. Over the years the land was subdivided to create much of Parkville.
After watching urban sprawl obliterate other historic landmarks in the community, Terry Moore, the sole member of the Parkville Historical Society, said he persuaded the previous owners of the house to delay selling it to give him time to protect the house from development.
Now the house is listed with the Maryland Historical Trust, and any changes to the property would have to be approved by the trust.