In 1982, Nancy Thompson and her husband, Rick, purchased something she always wanted - a historic home in the country.
Twenty-six years later, Calvert County's Little Cove Farm, circa 1820, continues to delight the couple through the ups and downs of continuing restoration, extensive landscaping and open houses, as in the recent Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage tour.
"We were tearing off siding two weeks before the tour," Thompson said. "Thank goodness, my husband is into this. He's willing to sacrifice along with me to get things for the home."
A former Prince George's County teacher, Thompson and her husband, an environmental engineer in Prince George's County, found Little Cove Farm with the help of a Realtor. They bought the farmhouse on 15 acres with two barns for $80,000.
"The house had been foreclosed on and uninhabited for three years," Nancy Thompson said. "We did an awful lot of work that first summer - new wiring and putting on a new roof."
The farmhouse had grown over the years as successive owners updated it. An original log cabin with loft might date to the late 18th century. In the early 1860s, a living room, library, hallway, three upstairs bedrooms and a third-floor garret were added. At the turn of the 20th century, a kitchen was built onto the back of the log cabin.
Thompson wanted a family room and laundry area, so she and her husband built a second, 2,700-square-foot home attached to a breezeway that once connected the farmhouse to a summer kitchen. Expanding the breezeway allowed for the large family room there, while the new-house addition gave the couple a great room, a second kitchen and a master suite on the second level.
These twin houses look down on a vast expanse of landscaped property sloping down to 40 feet of beachfront along the Patuxent River. Each house - the hemlock-sided original and the newer cedar-sided addition - boasts front porches with tall columns.
The side entrance to the new home opens onto a great room decorated in Mission, or Arts and Crafts, style. Stickley reproductions rest on an original 1936 Bird of Paradise, Anglo-Persian carpet. Oak molding on the ceiling, windows and doors and oak floors complement the room's pumpkin walls.
Beyond the great room, the family room - the widened original breezeway - features terra-cotta, Italian tile flooring, a wood stove and an 1893 Henry S. Miller upright grand piano.
The circa-1900 kitchen is enhanced by a working fireplace - one of seven in the home - and cherry cabinets and floors.
Original cypress logs
The farmhouse's original, hand-hewn cypress logs are visible on one wall of the dining room, which showcases a mahogany suite of furniture and a corner pine cabinet. A winding staircase leads to the original loft, now including a trundle bed and antique toys of the period. The loft leads into the 1860 addition housing three more bedrooms and a staircase to the third-floor garret, which contains a bedroom and bath.
The first level of the 1860 addition showcases a grand hallway with doors at each end, and a wall mural recently commissioned by Nancy Thompson. Local artist Catrina Lankford portrayed on opposite walls here a history of the house in soft pastel tones, capturing the church down the road, the one-room school nearby and front and back of Little Cove Farm. Thompson calls the mural her "pride and joy."
The formal living room is decorated in Federal-period furniture with a little library behind it that was once a general store in the life of a previous owner.
Thompson estimated that she and her husband have easily put $500,000 into Little Cove Farm over the past 26 years.
The farmhouse is her life, along with the hours spent on gardening, she said.
"An old house is a labor of love," she said. "[But] it takes every nickel and amount of time you have."