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Victorian house becomes a home

The Baltimore Sun

Denise Bowman said that the first night she went to sleep in her three-story Victorian house on Twelve Hills Road in Clarksville, she was most impressed with one thing - silence.

Considering the house is about 200 years old and was hauled over three miles of highway, farm fields and suburban yards to its new location a year ago, she was expecting some settling sounds or some country noises from outside. She thought just maybe she would hear a ghost.

"It's wonderful," Denise said. "It's peaceful. You expect to hear the wind or creaks and noises, but it's just quiet. It's solid."

The house that once stood at the corner of Route 108 and Ten Oaks Road in Clarksville has been through a lot in the past decades, from having been divided into offices to being ransacked by thieves while it stood empty to being relocated by truck to its new spot when Denise, 37, and her husband Glenn, 36, decided to save it from demolition.

Two weeks ago, the couple made the house into a home again for the first time in at least 40 years when they moved their furniture, clothes, coffee mugs and beloved boxer Murphy from their townhouse near Columbia.

"It's always felt like we belong," Denise said. "She's happy that we saved her."

Having spent the past year getting the house into livable shape, Denise said without hesitation, "The move was the easy part."

The first job was to have professionals build a new foundation, which gave the Bowmans a large, full-height basement that they are using as a workshop.

Then, the couple had a new roof, central heat and air, plumbing and electrical systems installed.

Friends and family helped demolish interior walls that were put up when the house was used as offices, including a dental practice. The couple added kitchen appliances, removed a wall to make a large master bedroom and installed a new bathroom on the main floor.

Glenn has done a lot of the construction work himself and with help from friends. He has been searching salvage shops for doors, wavy glass for the windows, lighting fixtures and other old pieces that fit with the house.

"We're really trying to keep the integrity of the old house," Denise said. "We want to keep it in the style it was built in."

The couple found a piece of walnut banister and a wood newel post to replace the pieces that were taken by thieves before they bought the house. They also tracked down a replacement for the large wooden front door that was pilfered, although the new one has hinges on the wrong side, so the door knocker faces inward for now.

"I do spend as much time doing research and finding the materials as doing the project," Glenn said.

Denise has been learning about construction too, chipping away plaster to reveal a brick chimney in the kitchen and happily receiving a paint stripper as a Christmas gift from her husband.

Glenn, a lighting designer, and Denise, catering director for Linwoods restaurant in Owings Mills, now have computers running in their home offices. They have one wood-burning fireplace and steps up to their back door.

They also have a long way to go.

"We'll be living with plaster dust for 10 years," Glenn said.

The couple want to restore the plaster walls and ceilings, a job that promises to take a significant investment of money and expertise. They also plan to refinish the wood floors and repair the tall front windows.

Replacing the front porch - which was removed before the house was relocated - is a priority, as is a detached garage.

"We want to make the outside presentable first," Denise said. "That's real important."

The first floor is also an area of focus, "just so we can have people over," she said.

The couple said their house draws attention from people who remember when it stood along the Clarksville Pike, where an auto sales lot is quickly taking shape.

In the Twelve Hills area, "people still drive by just to check on the house," Glenn said.

Meanwhile, its new tenants are remaining cheerful despite the dust, temporary furnishings and the years of work to be done.

"There is so much to do," Denise said looking around the first floor. But then she smiled and added, "It's all right. We'll get there."

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