What 14 years and lots of love have achieved Meetinghouse: Once a Church of the Brethren meetinghouse, the Westminster home of Dan and Belle Fangmeyer is on the market for $639,000.

Dream Home

August 02, 1998|By Mary Medland | Mary Medland,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Belle Fangmeyer's father agreed to come live with her and her husband, Dan, the couple came up with a unique housing solution.

They found a two-story log cabin in Middleburg built in 1795 and which most recently had been used to house cows. They took it apart, moved it to their property in Carroll County, put it back together in 1987 and christened it "Tara."

Today, the cabin overlooks a pond and sits within a stone's throw of the couple's Westminster brick home -- a restored 1827 Church of the Brethren meetinghouse, dubbed the Christian Royer House, after its original owner.

Royer -- who built the meetinghouse for his fellow churchgoers -- and his family lived on the second floor, while the first floor was saved for weekly religious services. In the basement are the house's original kitchen and slave quarters.

"We went out looking for a farmhouse to restore," said Dan Fangmeyer. "As soon as my wife saw this property, she knew this was the place she wanted."

By the time the Fangmeyers purchased the property for $175,000 in 1984, it had been partially restored, after being used for many years as a tenant house. But there still was much work to be done to get the place into first-rate shape. In the past 14 years, they estimate, they've spent $225,000 improving the property.

The first floor measures 40 feet by 40 feet. However, because the men and women worshiped separately, individual rooms were created by collapsible walls that stretched from floor to ceiling. These walls could be folded back, creating one large room.

The Fangmeyers created their four main rooms using the original folding walls.

High up on the walls are the original heart-shaped pegs that were used to hang the chairs after church services.

The house was in good condition when they bought it, but the Fangmeyers have done extensive work on it and it is on the National Register of Historic Places. It took them more than a decade to complete their work.

"The floors were painted black, and we took them back to the original Carolina pine," Fangmeyer said. They have put the 4-acre property -- including the log cabin -- on the market, with an asking price of $639,000. Many of the antiques that furnish the home will be available for purchase.

Although the couple installed heat, there are 10 original fireplaces, each with a wood mantelpiece with turned columns, ornamental frieze and wood shelf.

"The Brethren built safes in several fireplaces, where they kept their Bibles, so, were the building to burn, their Bibles would be safe," Fangmeyer said.

The house has the original locks and much of the original handblown glass.

The Fangmeyers refurbished a first-floor kitchen, keeping the room's fireplace but adding a new floor, as well as a cook-top stove, work island, walk-in pantry, wood-paneled refrigerator and other conveniences.

Adjoining the kitchen is one of two full bathrooms, and from the kitchen a back staircase leads directly to the master bedroom.

Off the kitchen, a glassed-in back porch overlooks the pond and serves as a breakfast room; there is also a heated, glassed-in front porch.

Upstairs were the original Royer living quarters -- five bedrooms, each with its own fireplace, plus two screened porches, and a birthing room, which now serves as closet space.

"There were no closets when the house was built, because taxes were determined by the number of rooms -- and, for tax purposes, a closet would have counted as a room," Fangmeyer said.

To make up for the dearth of closet space, the couple have made extensive use of armoires.

They have also turned part of the attic -- which can be reached from the master bedroom -- into a closet. Off the master bedroom is a full bathroom and one of the second floor's two porches.

On the ground floor are the laundry and utility room and a 20-by-13-foot climate-controlled wine cellar with space for 1,500 bottles.

"The bins are California redwood," Fangmeyer said, "so they won't shrink or expand."

The couple turned the ground-floor kitchen -- which has the original cooking fireplace, a beehive oven for baking bread, and a brick floor and exposed foundation -- into an 18-by-18-foot billiards room. "Most of our parties end up down here," he said.

Belle Fangmeyer created an extensive garden of boxwood, herbs and rose bushes -- and added a greenhouse. Perennials have been planted, and there are fruit trees and a grape arbor.

A corn crib holds tools, and the garage can house four cars.

The property is bordered by a white picket fence, and the drive is lined with autumn glory maples.

Adjacent to the pond, which is stocked with fish, is a spring and a smokehouse. In the spring, the baby foxes come out, as do the deer, and blue heron and geese wander freely.

So freely, in fact, that Belle Fangmeyer's father has had to put up a children's gate to keep the geese from wandering into his cabin kitchen in search of a handout.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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