Carl and Barbara Baldus refer to their very wide, one-story brick house as a rambler. In the "Old Line" Colonial location of Charles County in Southern Maryland, the sprawling house sits at the top of a long driveway amid acres of rolling green and landscaped gardens that include a large pond.
Both have lived in Charles County all their lives. When he was 19, Carl Baldus, now 77 and owner of Baldus Realty, purchased 93 acres of land in the town of La Plata before going off to serve in Korea. He paid $12,000 for the property. Today the property has swelled to 120 acres with all but 12 parceled out to tenant farmers.
In 1963, the couple, who had been married 10 years at the time, made a daring move. With $45,000 borrowed from a bank and a $25 set of blueprints for a house featured in Southern Living magazine, they set about building a family homestead.
"We were living in the house while building it," Barbara "Bobby" Baldus recalled. "We started in the spring of 1963 and were finished by Thanksgiving."
In their 45 years there, the couple has lost track of just how much they've spent on the property. They estimate several hundreds of thousands of dollars have gone to build additions, tennis courts, a swimming pool, a small outbuilding that Bobby Baldus calls "my Christmas attic" for storing seasonal decorations, and for landscaping.
Naming the property Salem, one of the names on the original deed that included several farms, the couple raised three children in their rambler and enjoy entertaining eight grandchildren who visit often.
The home today is 5,000 square feet, about 150 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The front faces south, overlooking several beautifully landscaped acres. Beyond the entrance, a foyer opens onto an east wing where a formal living room, sitting room and dining room open one to the other.
With the help of an interior decorator, Bobby Baldus has furnished these rooms in a traditional, formal style, with Oriental carpets of pastel floral design laid over oak flooring. Pastel colors dominate - light blue and soft aqua, with soft pink in the dining room.
The furniture is a mix of traditional Queen Anne style and French Provincial. In the dining room, for example, a walnut French Provincial suite features chairs with needlepoint cushions. A crystal chandelier hangs from a recessed oval tray in the ceiling medallion. The formal living room boasts a damask white-on-white sofa, while draperies in the three rooms are of silk, with matching silk-covered cornices.
Oak and cherry
In the east wing, a library features carved pine paneling and a large carved oak desk from Italy boasting Merino glass inlay. A large kitchen showcases cherry cabinetry, a large cherry island topped with white ceramic tiles, and an oak Colonial-style table and chairs placed in front of bay windows.
"From these windows we can see deer and wild turkeys roaming," Carl Baldus said.
A breezeway leads from the kitchen to a three-car garage.
If there's one area worthy of the "wow" factor, it's the original screened-in porch, now glassed in on three sides. Here the Balduses relax on wicker furniture and at a glass dining table while overlooking their property. The rolling fields are home to three red barns. A huge oak tree cradles the rear of the home with its sturdy branches.
The home's west wing contains four bedrooms, decorated in Colonial style and all well-used during the holidays and frequent visits from the children and grandchildren.
A club basement features a pool table, and a C-shaped sofa in front of a working fireplace, a great place, Bobby Baldus says "for the grandkids to play."
With no intention of leaving Salem, she hopes one of her children will come and live there someday.
"Their childhoods are here," she said. "I think they will hold on to it because it will always be home to them."