Farmhouse has two front doors


The ambience at the house on Foreston Road is so congenial and open, its two front doors seem to symbolize a double welcome for family and friends.

But the architectural detail, says owner Joe Tillman, really dates back to the early 1800s. Residents of the once-bustling village of Beckleysville in northern Baltimore County probably borrowed the two-door tradition from Pennsylvania Germans.

"There's at least five houses like this in Beckleysville," says Mr. Tillman, who owns the home with his wife, Kate. "They used to use one door for every day and the other for guests and visitors."

Ken Short, historic planner for Carroll County, said double front doors on farmhouses are common in northern Maryland counties, but theories on why the tradition started vary considerably.

"There's at least five different theories," he said, adding that some historians believe the double doors were used to just give the houses a symmetrical appearance.

But whatever the reason, the Tillmans are fond of their front doors and equally smitten with the rest of the house. They bought the 1870 brick farmhouse in what is now a tiny crossroads village after relocating from Maryland's Eastern Shore because of a job change.

They were intrigued by the area's hills and dales; it's a five-minute walk to Prettyboy Reservoir and almost a dozen walking trails. Baltimore City owns more than 5,800 acres surrounding the reservoir that cannot be developed because they are part of the area's watershed.

"We have lots of trails up here.

We love to hike," Mr. Tillman says. "We love the hills. We love the vistas. It reminds us of Ireland because it's so hilly and it's misty in the morning."

When the couple decided to relocate 16 months ago, they started looking for a home in northern Baltimore County because both were raised in the Towson area and liked it. They looked at a number of newer subdivisions but weren't satisfied.

"We wanted old, mature trees," says Mr. Tillman, a real estate agent. "The subdivisions we looked at had beautiful homes but they couldn't give us the trees we wanted."

Then they saw the seven-room home on Foreston Road.

"We loved it from the start. This property gets better for us every day," Mr. Tillman says. The one-acre lot has many huge trees, including oaks, walnuts and some unusual species, such as the two Kentucky coffee trees that still produce beans (the Tillmans are saving them up so they can brew their first pot).

The old part of the house contains five rooms: one front door enters into a fully renovated kitchen, the other into what is now the couple's dining room (in years past, it served as a dining room or parlor).

A narrow winding staircase leads to two bedrooms on the second floor, which the couple uses as guest rooms. The previous owner also had added a full bathroom.

Another winding staircase leads into the basement, formerly a cooking kitchen that the couple has remodeled into a den and added a powder room. The room still contains the old cook stove, which is 4 1/2 feet high and 3 1/2 feet wide. All the rooms in the old part of the house have the original windows, chestnut flooring, wooden doors and hardware.

To the rear of the house the previous owner -- a builder -- constructed a three-story addition six years ago. The ground level, which connects to the den, houses a two-car garage, the first floor contains the 26-by-22-foot living room and a wider staircase that leads to the back half of the second floor and the large master bedroom and bath.

The addition, finished in cedar siding, has a porch on one side and a deck on the other, providing ample outdoor sitting and entertaining areas with beautiful views of the countryside.

"We love the windows and we love the light, especially at night. The moonlight comes right through the master bedroom window," Mr. Tillman says. "The outdoors are indoors and the indoors are outdoors in this house."

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