Home makeover a town hit

Winner: A renovated Webster Street house is the first residence to receive Bel Air's annual award for excellence in architectural design.

January 04, 2004|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Bill and Amy Hubbard bought the old stone house on Webster Street in Bel Air more than 10 years ago, they knew it had good bones. Slowly they renovated and added on, making the home an example of how a little extra effort goes a long way.

What was important to the Hubbards was that the architecture and historic charm that they fell in love with was not lost in the improvements. So when it came time to put on a 2,300-square-foot addition, they wanted it to blend in and look like it was always part of the house.

For their efforts, they were recently recognized by the town of Bel Air with an award that honors renovations and construction that maintain the charm and appearance of the town. The Hubbards' house was the first residential project to win the award.

Bill Hubbard, owner of design/builders Hubbard & Co. Inc., said he wants additions that are designed to look as if they were always part of the house, not just for his customers but for himself as well.

"It's a personal thing. I think when people add on it should look like the original structure as much as possible," Hubbard said.

A vision

"I had a definite idea of what I wanted to end up with."

His goal was not easy to accomplish because the house was built from Butler stone. Although Butler Stone Quarry, on Falls Road in Baltimore County, is still open, the cost of building the large addition with new stone would have been too high for the Hubbards.

So when he saw the chance to purchase salvage rights to an 85-year-old home on Franklin Boulevard in Reisterstown for $500, he jumped at it. The house - built out of Butler stone - was to be razed and would provide most of the stone the addition required.

"There's a lot of things out there, you just have to ask if it's worth putting the time in," he said.

"For me, if I wanted to do the addition in all stone, then I had to put the time in. For us to do the project the way we wanted, salvaging was a much better option."

Hubbard estimates the cost of purchasing the salvage rights and hauling the stone to Bel Air at about $2,000. To have purchased the 90 tons of stone needed new would have cost at least 10 times that amount, he said.

But the extra effort didn't stop at the stone. The Hubbards' house also had a slate roof, something he wanted to replicate on the addition.

He was able to purchase salvage rights to the roof of a house being demolished on York Road in Cockeysville for $100 and slate from a barn on Routes 23 and 24 in Forest Hill for $150.

Although the Peach Bottom or Delta slate taken from the house and barn are no longer quarried, Hubbard estimates that comparable slate bought new would cost $350 to $400 for a 10-by-10-foot area.

Built to last

"I have something on there that will last another 200 years. It's nice to build something that is going to stick around," Hubbard said.

"It's a matter of whether you want to put the time in to strip it by hand. We're always on the lookout for something that would cost too much to buy and at the same time something we can keep from going into the landfill."

Purchasing salvage rights was somewhat easier for Hubbard than the average homeowner because - through his construction company - he had not only the tools and equipment necessary but also the insurance to cover going on to someone else's property and dismantling the stone and slate.

Much of his house has been renovated during the past decade, but the most significant addition is the great room, which has 18-foot ceilings, a stone fireplace, mahogany casework and mahogany parquet inlay floors. Other renovations include adding a full basement under the new great room, remodeling the kitchen, gutting and remodeling the bathrooms, adding a sunroom with a vaulted ceiling, and adding dormers on the second floor. The third-floor attic was also enlarged and is used as a guest bedroom. A garage with stone front, slate roof and a second-floor office also was added.

The original 2,500-square-foot home is now an open 4,800-square-foot space with room for the Hubbards and their three children, Mitchell, Bradley and Kathryn.

But much of the home's original features - such as hardwood floors, original moldings, door and stone fireplace - remain. Keeping the historic charm was important to the Hubbards not only on the outside, but on the inside as well.

They are seeking local historic status for the house through the town of Bel Air.

In October, the town's Archer-Bull Award for Design Excellence was given to the Hubbards for their renovation work. The award is named after Jacob Bull and George Archer, architects and builders who worked extensively throughout Bel Air, according to Bel Air, an Architectural and Cultural History 1782-1945, by Marilynn M. Larew.

Bull was a self-taught builder and architect, and Archer was educated at Princeton. They were credited with introducing formal architectural style and theories to buildings in Bel Air.

The award, sponsored by the town's Economic and Community Development Commission, was created in 1994 to encourage great design and development for business and residential projects in Bel Air.

Paul Thompson Jr., chairman of the commission, said it was important to recognize the work.

"We really felt that after almost 10 years of having the award that it would be appropriate to tip our hat at one of the residences," Thompson said.

"It was important to honor the investments homeowners are making in the community as well as businesses," he said. "It's a very visible corner and makes a big difference visibly in that community."

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