Couple saves historic Galesville home from wrecker Smith House moved, will be renovated

July 10, 1992|By Shanon D. Murray | Shanon D. Murray,Staff Writer

Eugene Peters, 37, and his wife Kate, 38, fell in love with Galesville, a 340-year-old little town on the West River. Smitten with the community's small-village atmosphere and proximity to the water, they started looking for their own niche in the community.

They found it in one of Galesville's historic treasures, the 100-plus-year-old William Smith House. The Peterses agreed to save it from demolition, and yesterday the community gathered to watch the house begin its new life by being moved 500 feet.

The house originally was owned by sea captain William Smith and his wife. It doubled as the Smiths' residence and a boarding house operated by Mrs. Smith from 1915 to the 1930s.

Roberta Cassard, president of the newly-founded Galesville Heritage Society, said several Maryland governors have stayed at the house, including Republican Harry W. Nice, elected in 1934, and his successor, Herbert R. O'Connor, a Democrat elected in 1938 and 1942.

"The house even had a room named after Governor Nice. People came to Galesville and stayed at the boardinghouse to get away from the heat of the city," Ms. Cassard said.

Nevertheless, owners Richard and Gay Green, residents of Galesville for the past 16 years, were almost forced to demolish the house, which stood next to their own home.

The Greens are selling their property, and the Smith house, despite its historical legacy, was simply an eyesore to potential buyers.

"It was serving no purpose. It was steadily deteriorating, so we donated it to the heritage society at their request," said Mrs. Green, who is planning to move with her family to South Carolina. "We are not losing anything. Actually, we're gaining by donating the house."

The heritage society, which describes itself as a young and eager group about 130 members strong, organized last fall with a mission to restore the area's older homes. "Many of Galesville's buildings are at least 100 years old," Ms. Cassard said. "We thought the time has come to gear our activity to saving them."

The heritage society assigned the house to Mr. Peters six months ago. He paid $25,000 To have the structure moved the 500 feet from the Greens' property onto 1 1/4 acres he had bought.

Galesville residents gathered for yesterday's relocation to see yet another portion of their community's heritage preserved. Some were dressed in turn-of-the-century outfits.

An accordion player was brought in for the occasion, and after the crowd toured the outside of the relocated house, they all gathered in the Galesville community hall across the street for cold cuts, fruit, lemonade and ice tea.

But for the Peters family, the relocation is just the beginning. They have promised to renovate the home to its original classic farmhouse status.

They expect to spend anywhere from $75,000 to $100,000 restoring the structure's interior and exterior.

It currently lacks heating, air conditioning, a sewer system, a kitchen, a roof and even a foundation to stand on. The Peters' future residence is simply a shell.

"My kids [5-year-old Eugene Jr. and 4-year-old Eleanor] like it. My wife is reasonably enthused, but my parents think I'm crazy," said Mr. Peters, a legislative assistant for Sen. Bill Bradley of New Jersey. "Cost is not an issue. The alternative [demolition] was not a happy one for the community."

Mrs. Peters, a midwife in downtown Washington who also teaches at the Georgetown Graduate School of Nursing, said her and her husband were anxious to bring the big white house with the cedar-shingled roof back to life, however old and dilapidated it may be.

The Peterses are not newcomers to restoring houses. They have previously restored two turn-of-the-century homes in Washington. They rent out a DuPont Circle house built in 1893 and have sold the other, located on Logan Circle and built in 1888.

"I like old houses," Mr. Peters said. "This one is built reasonably well, and it has a charm that can't be reproduced."

Mrs. Peters said this is their last restoration project.

"We wanted a place to retire to, and this is it," she said. "It's wonderful to save some history and to get the community involved, but I'm not quite overwhelmed. This is a big project, about five years to completion, and this relocation is just the beginning."

Mr. Peters said the house should be livable in about a year. He said he is looking forward to living on Main Street, right next to his big mulberry tree.

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