As Caretakers, Couple Feels At Home At Cook Farmhouse

August 21, 1991|By Donna Weaver | Donna Weaver,Staff writer

Tim Doyle couldn't explain how, but he knew he had returned home when he first stepped inside the Cook farmhouse.

Maybe he had lived there during a past life. Perhaps he had visited it in his dreams. Doyle didn't know. But he did feel an unusual connection to the 150-year-old Pasadena farmhouse.

"This is the first house I've moved into where I've felt that I've lived here forever," said Doyle, who moved into the yellow, wood-sided house three weeks ago. "Maybe it's because people have lived in this house for 150 years, so it has a sense of history."

Doyle and his wife, Esther Doyle Read, were chosen by county officials in June to take care of Hancock's Resolution, a two-story stone house that dates to the 1790s. County recreation and park officials plan to turn the house -- listed on the National Register of Historic Places -- andits 13 acres into an historical park.

Until then, however, they needed someone to watch over the house and property. County officials found a perfect caretakers' home when William Mason donated the wood-frame Cook farmhouse in 1990. But they had to move it two miles down Bayside Beach Road to Hancock's Resolution. Workers moved the houselast July.

By moving the farmhouse, county officials united the homes of two families who had been joined together in kinship over 100 years ago. Rhoda Hancock, who was born at Hancock's Resolution, marriedHenry A. Cook in 1887 and moved to the Cook farmhouse.

But Rhoda and Henry wouldn't have been happy with their home's disheveled appearance. The last of their children died during the 1980s, leaving the house vacant and neglected. County officials spent $140,000 renovating the three-bedroom home, replacing the roof, restoring the interior,adding new plumbing and electrical systems and stripping away the home's green asbestos shingles, which covered the original wooden siding.

They even brought in an expert to determine the original paint on the exterior and interior walls. Workers saved ceilings, floors and trims from a demolished wing to use in the renovations. That included a tin ceiling they placed in the new family room.

"It was very important to keep as much of the original fabric as possible," countyspecial projects coordinator William F. Gibbons Jr. said.

It was also important to select caretakers well-acquainted with the farmhouse's past.

"We found that there were more people who wanted to restore a historic home than act as caretakers," said Tolly Peuleche, chief of environmental facilities and programs for the county Departmentof Recreation and Parks.

But Doyle and Read came to the rescue. Both are trained archaeologists. And both were interested in making the house their temporary home.

"I walked in the front door and fellin love with it," said Read, the assistant county archaeologist.

Read and Doyle will live in the house for about two or three years, until county officials hire a full-time caretaker and open the park tothe public. That depends on how quickly recreation and park officials acquire the cash to create the park.

Officials are completing a park master plan, which they will present to County Executive Robert R. Neall this fall, said Jack Keene, chief of planning and construction for the Department of Recreation and Parks.

Keene called the park development plan a "multi-year process" that will involve renovating Hancock's Resolution, constructing a small visitor's center and building a parking lot for patrons.

But the site won't accommodate large numbers of visitors.

"We're looking at this as a low-impact development," he said. "It will be an interpretive, historical park, much the same as London Town Publik House (in Edgewater)."

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