"Every home has a story ... my house has many of them," said Nancy Coradi about the Cockeysville home she shares with her husband, Ken, and their two dogs and cats.
First, there is the story of how the couple found the 149-year-old home.
After the two were married, they first lived in Mr. Coradi's home in Hamilton. They stayed there until his employer transferred him to Tennessee, where they lived for three years. In 1999, after learning he was being transferred back to Baltimore, she went house hunting in advance of their return.
"The real estate market was crazy back then," she said.
They expected their Tennessee home, with its acre lot, to sell quickly and it did - in just two weeks.
That put her in a panic.
She started looking on the Internet for houses in the Baltimore area, but was getting frustrated with the whole process.
It wasn't that she didn't know what she wanted.
"I wanted an old house. I grew up in a house that was built in the '60s. It looked like every other house on the block, very dull. Until I moved into my husband's old house, I didn't know how much I really loved old homes," she said.
The couple also wanted an acre of land for their two dogs."[The dogs] were fine in our city house [in Hamilton] with the fenced-in yard, but after living for three years on an acre of land where they could just run and run, I would feel bad making them go back to a small yard," she said.
The couple found many homes they liked - from Catonsville to Ellicott City to Towson and Stoneleigh. But Mrs. Coradi was consistently disappointed. It seemed they were one step behind the market.
"I kept calling about homes, but they were already sold. Some homes would only be on the market for a few days," she said.
And so it went. She looked at nearly 50 homes and found "the one" several times, only to learn it had been sold. Then she saw an Internet listing for a house in Cockeysville.
Built in 1852, the house had slightly more than an acre and it was just a few blocks from Interstate 83. She noticed the house had been on the market three months.
Maybe this one wouldn't sell out from under her, she thought.
When she looked at the home, it was love at first sight. She called her husband at work from the real estate agent's car.
"I have just found the house," she said.
Her husband, familiar with past disappointments, responded, "OK, I'm really busy with work right now."
On Preakness Weekend, he flew back to Baltimore to look at the house.
He wasn't completely sure if this house would be "the one," but if the house didn't work out, at least he could go to the Preakness.
"But I liked the house. I really liked the fact that it was in the county," he said.
The pre-Civil War farmhouse is a bit of an anomaly in the neighborhood of newer, more modern homes. The house is farther back from the street than most of the other homes. Surrounded by trees, it can be missed easily, giving the Coradis a sense of seclusion.
Although he shared her love for old homes, Mr. Coradi admitted that he enjoyed the modern home they had in Tennessee.
"It was very low maintenance. I got a little nervous during the home inspection for this house," he said.
But there were no major problems, so they bought the house for $210,000. Both felt the price was a good value for the neighborhood and for the amount of land and size of the house: four bedrooms, two baths and three floors with an unfinished basement.
However, some work needed to be done immediately.
Refrigerator forces decision
Mrs. Coradi spent two weeks refinishing the floors and painting the walls. The couple wanted to remodel the kitchen because she loves to cook, but they were not planning to do the work immediately.
"But then we found out that our large side-by-side refrigerator wouldn't fit through the narrow kitchen door," he said.
That did it.
The kitchen was gutted and remodeled with new windows, walls, light fixtures, countertops and cabinets. A cathedral ceiling was installed.
The refrigerator now could be moved from the side porch to the kitchen and a natural-gas line was installed for the stove. The couple also renovated the master bath and replaced five windows.
After getting settled, Mrs. Coradi began wondering about the home's history.
Using her title papers, she found a former owner in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and called her out of the blue. The woman, who had lived in the house more than 20 years, was happy to give her as much information as possible, and her son offered to come to the house and explain more of its history to the Coradis.
Mrs. Coradi continued to do research by talking to neighbors and consulting the Baltimore County Historical Society.
The house has been a work in progress since Day 1, she learned. Originally, the house was believed to have been an extra building on the property.
In the 1920s, the property was used as a pig farm. Later, a piano teacher who worked at the Peabody Conservatory lived there with his wife and daughter. After that, several management companies rented it out.
Mrs. Coradi learned that two additions had been put on the house, the most recent in the 1940s. The dining room once had been the kitchen and had a wood-burning stove.
She marvels at the many details of her home: the air bubbles in the hand-blown glass window panes; the plaque above the door that once told local fire companies that the house was insured; the supporting beams that show every ax cut, the faded words "watch your head" scrawled on a wall.
"I walk through here and I know that every wall, every squeaky floorboard has a history," she said.