Family home, past to future


Continuity: Gayle and Fred Snyder renovated her grandparents' old house and hope to pass it along to the next generation.

May 21, 2000|By Lisa Wiseman | Lisa Wiseman,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Gayle and Fred Snyder own a home rich in history. Built in 1890, it sits just one block from Laurel's Main Street in the historic district.

Once, the home's residents rose to the smells of baking bread from the bakery across the alley. A mom-and-pop grocery store was around the corner if anyone needed a gallon of milk or a bag of sugar.

Today the bakery is a trendy coffee bar, and mom and pop have been replaced by a convenience store, but many of the homes in the Laurel Main Street area look unchanged from the day they were built. The Snyders' house is no different. Although the home has had two additions and several modern updates, the shotgun house has many original elements and has kept its old-fashioned charm.

But there's more to the home than the fact that it has survived in good condition for 110 years. Gayle is the third generation of her family to own the home, which first belonged to her paternal grandparents. After her grandfather died, Gayle, her brother and sister, parents and grandmother lived together in the home. (And with just one bathroom, Gayle is quick to add.)

Time passed. The children grew up and moved out. Gayle's brother moved two doors down. Her sister moved a few blocks away. Gayle married Fred, moved to Howard County and raised two sons. The family lived in three homes in Howard County, each no more than a few miles from the other.

Gayle never imagined she would eventually wind up back in the house of her childhood. But after her parents died, she and her brother and sister inherited the house. Fred suggested they buy out the other two siblings and move in."I was totally against it in the beginning," Gayle said. "I had a great big, modern house." And although the house was filled with many happy childhood memories, it was also the place where her parents and grandparents lived before they died. But Fred convinced her that moving into the home and keeping up the family traditions were good ideas."We were facing the empty-nest syndrome. Our boys were gone and we had this big house and a lot of free time," Fred said. "We weren't comfortable in the big house anymore."

Family, friends, jobs

There were other benefits to moving back to Laurel. For Gayle, it meant being closer to her brother and sister and childhood and high school friends. With her two sons out of the house and her parents gone, it would be good to have family and friends close by.

The home would also be closer to both Gayle and Fred's jobs. Gayle works in Laurel at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab and Fred is the town postmaster. His first job with the U.S. Postal Service was as a letter carrier in Laurel. "I have a two-block commute. It's great," Fred said. "I can come home for lunch, and my dogs love it."

When the Snyders moved into the house two and a half years ago, they got to work updating and remodeling. All of that free time they once had was soon filled with home work."We spent every spare moment we had at Hechinger's and Home Depot," Gayle said. Almost all of the work was done by Fred, with a little help from contractors and even from Gayle."She got really good at painting," Fred said. By doing a lot of the work himself, Fred figured he saved thousands of dollars. A good example, he said, was the cost of putting new siding on the house. "I talked to a contractor and he said it would cost $8,000. I did it myself for about $1,500," Fred said.

It wasn't a matter of money, he explained, it was more a matter of pride and principle.

Other major updates included replacing windows, adding French doors and a back porch, turning a small bedroom into a large walk-in closet and a complete remodeling of the kitchen with new flooring, cabinets and appliances. Fred said the kitchen was probably the most difficult job.

With the major rehab done, it was up to Gayle to do all of the decorating."She has a knack for finding just the right thing," Fred said. The home is furnished with a combination of antiques, furniture made to look like period pieces and cherished family heirlooms, including two needlepoint chairs stitched by Gayle's grandmother. A print of Fyfe's Tavern in Laurel, where Gayle's father once worked, hangs in the dining room. The tavern is long gone.

`Mom would have loved this'

With all of the work done, Gayle said she's glad she moved back home."I certainly changed my mind," she said. "Now I love living here. Sometimes I walk around here and think to myself, `Wouldn't Mom have loved this?'""We're here to stay," Fred said. "We're settled here."

As for the future, the couple hopes that someday one of their sons or perhaps one of their nieces will move into the house and continue the family tradition."Wouldn't it be nice if a fourth generation lived here?" Fred said.

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