Man Insists You Need Not Destroy A House To Save It

September 15, 1991|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff writer

Jonathan Herman cringes when he sees people restoring old houses by tearing them apart and totally redoing them.

"That's not restoringa house -- you don't have to gut everything," says Herman, owner of Herman Woodworking of Sykesville, specializing in restorations and cabinetry. "One of the main things we try not to do is tear out anything we don't have to tear out."

Instead, you salvage and save what you can, either to be returnedto its same place or copied as close to the original as possible.

"You have to be flexible and find creative solutions to problems," he says. "It takes patience and a lot of time, but it doesn't have to be cost-prohibitive like many people think."

Herman, who has been in the restoration business for 15 years, is finishing up his latest project, Bloomfield, which he bought last fall to save from total destruction.

"The house was in such bad shape that the appraiser the town hired recommended tearing it down," Herman says. "But I said, 'No way.' "

Bloomfield sits in the middle of what once was Hawk Ridge Farm on Obrecht Road. Surrounded by trees on 2.35 acres, the house and property were donated to the town in 1989 by developer Lowell R. Glazer.

Hoping to save the house, which had been badly vandalized,the town put the property up for sale. Herman and two partners took it with a bid of $62,500, largely the value of the land.

Herman has traced ownerships of the house back to 1804. Beyond that, he doesn't know for sure when the house, originally a log cabin, was built. Hedoes know an addition was put on between 1850 and 1860 and a second addition between 1880 to 1890.

"The first addition is a very traditional Georgian-style house," he says. "You come in the front door, the dining room is on your left and living room on your right, with a big hallway in the middle."

The house, once the scene of elegant parties in the late 1800s, offers such features as two stairways, six fireplaces, 11-foot ceilings in some rooms, soundproofed floors, natural heart pine floors more than one inch thick, ornate plaster cornice molding, accordion-style railings and upper- and lower-level porches.

Herman began Bloomfield's restoration last fall by repairing some of the external damage to the house. The outside wood siding was sanded, scraped and painted. The roof was repaired. The badly-deteriorated porches were rebuilt and new guttering installed.

"The sill plate, where the foundation meets the wood, had to be repaired," Herman points out on a tour of the house. "The entire frame is mortise andtenon construction, which is how the wood is put together using pegsinstead of nails."

About half of the almost 40 windows had to be repaired or replaced. Those used as replacements are wood-framed likethe originals, Herman notes.

Inside, termites had eaten through sections of the house's foundation. Because of that, the floors had tobe taken up, but the heart pine flooring was carefully removed and stored, to be replaced later.

Walls also will be redone, and the ornate plaster molding duplicated in the ballroom.

"We're doing everything without disturbing the original fabric of the building," Herman says. "We're renovating the house with great sensitivity."

Herman has another reason for being so careful with Bloomfield, besides his own passionate love for authentic restoration.

"We've applied toget Bloomfield on the National Registry of Historic Places, and the Maryland Historic Trust has an easement on the property, so everything has to be done according to their specifications," he said.

Evenwhile maintaining the home's originality, modern conveniences are being installed. The house has new wiring, including hook-ups for cableTV and telephones, central air conditioning, two high-efficiency natural gas furnaces for heating both levels, and plumbing for modern bathrooms and kitchen.

Herman and his partners are ready to take offers on the house.

"I'd like to have a buyer before we finish the interior work so we could fix it up with the cabinets and colors they want," Herman says.

Anyone interested in seeing the house for purchase can call Herman at 795-8511.

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