Open house to history

The Baltimore Sun

The first time Kendall and Vicky Lemmon saw the old farmhouse was when they pulled into the driveway. They promptly turned around and drove away.

When they returned for a second visit, they looked closer at the land and the old farmhouse. This time they looked beyond the dilapidated structure to what the property could be, and decided to buy it.

"I would never consider a new house over an old one," Vicky Lemmon said. "I love the character, and old houses feel more like a home."

The Lemmons' home is one of four featured on the Carroll County Historic Preservation Commission's Historic Homes Tour from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Oct. 20.

The tour was started by the historic commission, formed to provide advice about preservation in Uniontown, a historic district northwest of Westminster with 85 buildings that date to the 19th century.

All the homes on the tour are farmhouses that have been privately restored.

The first stop is a log farmhouse built in the early 1800s in Hampstead. The house is on a 340-acre thoroughbred horse farm owned by Frank and Virginia Wright. Virginia Wright said she was reluctant to see the property at first but loved it once she did.

The Wrights purchased the property in 1972 and restored it with the help of architect Bryden Hyde, she said. The house had small bedrooms and no closets, she said, so they gutted it and added to it.

"Old houses often have a lot of little rooms," Wright said. "Basically, we changed the architecture of the main house to meet our needs."

The Wrights followed clues to establish the approximate original construction date, she said. They discovered a door, with the date 1828, from the home's first addition and from that they determined that the house was built earlier, she said.

The three-bedroom house with six fireplaces has the original glass, pine flooring and mantels, she said. These items have features that indicate it was built in the early 1800s, she said. The house is decorated with regional antiques.

While they were restoring the house, they received a visit from family members of the previous owners, who gave the Wrights a photo of the house as it appeared in 1900, she said.

"The photograph showed us what the house looked like 100 years ago, and we were very puritanical when we first started restoring the house," she said. "Originally, the house had a Mount Vernon fa?ade. ... It had the pillars and everything. We took the pillars down because this house wasn't built to be a grand house."

The Wrights also built a guest house from lumber and siding from a tobacco barn they owned in Pennsylvania, she said. Members of the Amish community tore down the tobacco barn so the materials could be used for the guest house.

Another house on the tour is a three-story red brick home built in Manchester by Joseph Shaffer in 1854. Kenneth and Rhonda Kiler purchased the house last November. At that time, the roof and chimneys leaked, and the floors needed refinishing. But the original moldings, doors, floors and fireplaces were all intact, Kenneth Kiler said. "We think the house should be restored to how it once was," he said.

Kiler said he agreed to put the house on the tour to educate people about home preservation.

Greg and Stephanie Day's four-story, five bedroom brick home, built in Manchester about 1845, is also on the tour. When the Days purchased the property in February 2004, it was structurally sound and contained most of the original woodwork and windows, Stephanie Day said.

The Days, who had previously restored a home in Catonsville, saw the house and knew they had to have it. But the odds were not in their favor, she said.

They were looking for a property when the Manchester house came on the market, but another buyer beat them to it, she said. They drove out to the house and left a note on the door for the new owner and told him they wanted to make him an offer on the house, she said.

The owner called them and agreed to sell the property that he had acquired only two months earlier, she said.

"He told us that he was single, and that he was just going to tinker with it," she said. "We told him that we wanted to raise children here, so he let us have it."

The couple selected the house because they considered it a large antique with a lot of character, she said.

Features in the house include a bathroom and a bedroom with windows in their doors, she said. The house also had a curio cabinet, and an antique dresser that was converted into a bathroom sink, she said. The Days added a first-floor master bedroom, a bathroom, patio, and a three-car garage, she said.

Stephanie Day said their neighbors told them that troops headed to Gettysburg during the Civil War had stayed on the property.

The Lemmons' house is the final stop on the tour. When they bought the house, Vicky Lemmon said, nothing had been done with it since the 1960s.

The previous owners had taken out the historical parts of the house, such as a grand staircase, she said. The house appears rather ordinary until you go inside, she said.

"We gutted the place when we bought it, and we found logs under the plaster," she said. "We restored the logs so all of the interior walls are logs."

The house has an interesting history, she said. Next to the main house there is a building that some people believe was used as slave quarters. The Lemmons said they found chains and other items there.

And King George III's name appears on the original deed, she said.

Shortly after they moved in, an 80-year-old neighbor whose grandparents lived in the Lemmons' house showed them pictures of a charcoal drawing of Abraham Lincoln that was found in the attic of the house, she said.

"The lady sold the drawing to an antique dealer, but she has pictures of it in her house," Lemmon said. "It's not just the stories and the pictures ... this house has a lot of character and history. People ask us if it's haunted, and I tell them there's a ghost in the attic. I tell them it's a woman, and she's nice. But she keeps to herself."

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