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Couple to level, then rebuild house For 18th-century log home, it's move it or lose it


WOODSBORO -- Doug Claytor and Judy Candela expect to pay off their mortgage next month -- and then step up plans to tear down their house.

The Frederick County couple have no choice if they want to save their historic, 18th-century log house, known as Wolf's Delight. They have to move it or lose it.

"Once we get it moved, it won't matter how long it takes to rebuild. I'm devoting the rest of my life to it. It's my job. My avocation is now my vocation," said Mr. Claytor, 39, a professional house restorer who took on the daunting project as a labor of love.

Said to be the largest log house in the county, Wolf's Delight lies in a gravel quarry amid rising blue mountains of crushed limestone. The Laurel Sand and Gravel Co. is developing the property, but its president, Caleb Gould, was aware of the

home's historic significance. He sought a rescuer and eventually found Mr. Claytor.

"It's a great old house. My interest was to get someone to make an investment in it," Mr. Gould said. "To do a project like this correctly is a painstaking job. It's a serious undertaking. Doug's an enterprising guy. We're really counting on him to be successful."

Ms. Candela, 44, a Hood College graduate and computer software specialist, said a job as a tour guide at Schifferstadt, a 1756 Frederick County farmhouse and historic showpiece, gave her a deep appreciation of historic buildings.

She said Mr. Claytor took her to see Wolf's Delight and asked if she would join him in the project. "I said, 'I can hold up my end of the log,' and we did it," she said.

They moved in three years ago, knowing they would have to move the house within five years and hoping they could reassemble it at the Claytor family farm seven miles away near Walkerville.

For nearly three years, Mr. Claytor looked for a spot on the family farm that would meet percolation tests and finally found one between the Monocacy River and Fishing Creek. They have two years to disassemble the house and move it, Mr. Claytor said.

They plan to rebuild it as a tenant house on the farm, said Mr. Claytor, who has restored many buildings in the area and is completing two 1859 townhouses he owns in the Frederick Historic District.

Mr. Claytor said he is considering offering apprenticeships to young people who want to learn restoration in exchange for help in rebuilding the house.

Wolf's Delight is significant for its size and the integrity of the building material in the original two-story log section and a two-story stone kitchen wing that was added later.

Jacob Wolfe, who built it, was a prominent local farmer and businessman and a good friend of John Ross Key, father of Francis Scott Key.

The earliest section of Wolf's Delight dates from the 1770s and was built partially with logs from an earlier building. Wolfe added several second-floor rooms and a stone kitchen wing with a large fireplace, Mr. Claytor said. The original stone kitchen building that once served the log house still stands behind the main building, along with a spring house.

The rescue of Wolf's Delight is important for Frederick County, said Joseph Lubozynski, former chairman of the Frederick County Historical Trust and a director of the County Landmarks Foundation.

"It's wonderful," he said, "I was amazed that Mr. Gould made the opportunity available, that he was actively seeking someone to move the house."

Mr. Lubozynski, a construction superintendent, said Wolf's Delight retains about 85 percent of its original material, including decorative trim and woodwork. "I've looked at 300 or 400 old houses and no more than 10 percent have that degree of integrity," he said.

After the Wolfe family sold the property in 1848, the only significant change occurred in the 1870s, when the pitch of the roof was altered, the front porch was added and white poplar clapboard covered the white oak logs, Mr. Claytor said.

The brick kitchen fireplace, with a lintel made from an oak log, lay hidden behind paneling until Mr. Claytor discovered it. "It was pure pleasure when I pulled away the paneling and the drop ceiling and exposed those smoke-blackened beams," he said. Mr. Claytor and Ms. Candela now cook in the fireplace.

About 40 percent of the 5,000 buildings constructed before the 20th century in Frederick County were log houses, but most have been covered with brick for many years, according to Mr. Lubozynski.

Mr. Claytor stripped away the clapboard from the front of Wolf's Delight to reveal the original logs. On the upper floors, he is removing the old plaster -- lime mixed with horsehair and straw -- and plans to re-cycle it.

"I don't think anyone has done this before," Mr. Claytor said, pointing to the stacks of plastic buckets, each numbered to identify the location of the plaster it contains.

Mr. Claytor said that with three helpers and a crane "I could have this house out of here in two months." But first comes the time-consuming task of removing the plaster and the decorative woodwork, such as the carved fireplace mantelpiece in Jacob Wolfe's office room.

Each room is numbered on a computerized plan and every piece from each room will also be numbered for reconstruction. Mr. Claytor said he's using a computer-aided design program, "a tool of the 21st century that will be very helpful to us with this 18th-century house."

He and Ms. Candela are also making a detailed photographic and videotape record of the house and each step toward disassembly.

Mr. Claytor got his first taste of heavy construction as a Navy Seabee in the 1970s and later worked as a plumber in Frederick, where he also took part in amateur theatricals.

However, he said, "I had an innate knowledge that I have to restore houses." After a two-year apprenticeship with a restoration contractor he started his own business, Renaissance Restorations, in 1982.

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