Couple turns eyesore into a gem Landmark barn doubles in value


February 13, 1994|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Contributing Writer

Chris and Karen Brown, newlyweds with a modest budget, were searching for a home near good schools that could accommodate all the children they intend to have.

They found one two years ago, when Mr. Brown happened upon a prized Howard County historic landmark, a 137-year-old barn in Ellicott City's Dunloggin neighborhood.

The barn sits about 250 feet from the accompanying Temora mansion. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the estate was built in 1857 on 6.8 acres that includes a pond where stone for the barn's foundation was quarried.

Seeing potential in the rundown structure, Mr. Brown, a Ryan Homes sales manager and former building superintendent who used to build and renovate homes, brought his wife for a look.

"I knew how talented he is," Ms. Brown says. So, while standing on a ladder to get a close-up view of the carriage room above the horse stalls -- the room that would eventually encompass the living and dining room -- she said, "Oh, this would be wonderful."

The couple purchased the barn for $90,000. Seven months and $60,000 later, they moved into the renovated home. Today, the house is appraised for about $325,000.

Although they moved into a small Owings Mills townhouse after their wedding three years ago, the Browns were looking for a larger house somewhere between their parents' homes in Laurel and Timonium.

"We knew we wanted to have a family and we knew we'd outgrow the townhouse very quickly," says Mr. Brown, 32.

Since moving in, they have become parents of Christopher, now 10 months old.

The couple also needed a niche for the 60-year-old salmon-colored National Dual stove that belonged to Ms. Brown's late grandmother. "It would be out of character in a brand new home," says Ms. Brown, 32.

The estate was built for Dr. Arthur Pue who inherited the property from his grandmother, Mary Dorsey Pue, the daughter of Caleb Dorsey, a member of a prominent Maryland family.

The Browns framed their new home within the original structure keeping the roof, rafters, posts and beams. As a nod to its roots, they left the original carpenter's chiseled markings on posts in the living room and enclosed the horse stalls on the lower level.

The completed 2800-square-foot house, plus the 1800 square feet in the unfinished basement, sits on a half-acre atop the stone foundation.

Enclosed in light gray wood board and batten siding, the three-story house has four bedrooms, two and a half baths and a great room with a modern kitchen and family room.

Reaction to the renovation has been so favorable that the Browns often find themselves giving impromptu tours to passers-by. "Around dinner time, I'd be cooking and someone would knock at the door and ask to come in," Ms. Brown said.

The home's showpiece is the combined living and dining room with its breathtaking 24-foot-high ceilings, 17 windows and skylights, exposed beams and dark wood flooring that bears the original 10- to 14-inch random-width pine boards of the carriage house. "No two boards are alike," Mr. Brown said.

A fireplace, whose mantel was constructed out of the barn wood, was also added to the living room. "We purposely put the fireplace here to get out of the family room and kitchen so we could spend more time in each room," he said.

Stained-glass windows, hand-painted by Mr. Brown's sister, are the focus of the family room and nursery. At the top of the staircase that overlooks the living room is the original cupola used to ventilate the barn.

The light-filled master bedroom has two skylights that can be opened, a skylight in the master bath and three walk-in closets.

For the Browns, who are quick to credit Mr. Brown's construction skills with containing costs, "what started out as just a young couple trying to build a house as inexpensively as possible, turned out quite nice," he said. "But if I wasn't in the business, I would still be living in a lovely two-bedroom townhouse in Owings Mills."

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