Living in the past

The Baltimore Sun

Most people walking among 18th-century furniture in original surroundings are probably visiting a museum or on a house tour.

For Diane and Kenny Putman, it has been part of their daily life since they bought the circa-1768 Jacob Hess House in Keedysville, in Washington County.

The original two-story log structure has been covered by German lap siding and built in the German style of three rooms up and three rooms down around a central chimney. In 1790, according to records, a two-story stone addition was built onto the east side of the house. The overall effect is not only of a step back in time but also one of cozy comfort, in the house nestled among old trees on land sloping down to Little Antietam Creek.

The couple bought the house, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and 2 acres in August 2000, for $280,000.

"The house was in bad condition," said Diane Putman, 54, who works for National Geographic Magazine in Washington. "It was livable but in desperate need of assistance [and] repair."

But the home's age, its grounds and its 3,200 square feet of living space proved an attraction too hard to resist. The couple estimate that they have spent an additional $70,000 to replace the roof, restore the home's kitchen addition and original summer kitchen, repair the original flooring, put in a new furnace and add a bathroom.

"We're [doing] a definite restoration," Diane Putman said, "working with the Maryland Historic Trust and taking advantage of the tax breaks."

Step through the door, and the couple's efforts are evident. A long hall leads to the rear kitchen. To the left of the hall, what was known as a stube, or stove room in 18th-century German architecture, functions as the bedroom of the couple's grown son, Jason, when he visits. Here, hand-hewn white oak logs are visible on the walls, contrasting with the deep red-oak flooring. Beyond the bedroom, in what was originally called the kammer, or sleeping chamber, the Putmans have placed a full bath with bead-board walls and oak flooring as close to the period as they were able to find.

Across the front hall, what was the kuche, or hearth room, now serves as the dining room. Here, the Putmans' collection of antiques - half family heirlooms, half bought at auctions - abound. Central to the room is an 8-foot pine dining table surrounded by ladderback chairs that belonged to Diane Putman's grandmother.

A corner cupboard was built into the house about 1820, its windowed doors bearing the original glass.

The room opens onto the 1790 stone addition and a living room that still has the original batten exterior door with its metal carpenter's lock and 18-inch-deep windowsills. It is cheerfully decorated in period pieces, including a walnut Poe desk with a removable top used for traveling. Diane Putman's samplers hang on the walls.

"This is my mother's favorite room," Diane Putman said. "We have our Christmas tree in the front door."

The house has seven fireplaces. Four - two upstairs and two downstairs in the addition - are corner fireplaces with an interior stone chimney.

The two original 1 1/2 -story summer kitchens still stand on the property. The second was eventually incorporated into the main house in the mid-19th century. The Putmans use it as a family room. Its floor-to-ceiling slate rock hearth houses a collection of antique kitchen utensils. The other kitchen, west of the main house, is used as a work area for Diane Putman's candle-making business, Millhouse Candles. Here, and in a second-floor room in the main house, she hand-dips and molds the beeswax.

The home's second level contains five rooms spread over the main structure and the addition. The couple's plans for the upstairs include ripping off wallpaper that hangs throughout.

The Putmans are determined to continue work on the house, which they say they "bought pretty much sight unseen because it was crying for help."

"We want to retire here and enjoy ourselves," Diane Putman said.

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