It's a thoroughly Modern dwelling

House: Interest in preserving structures of the recent past has helped bring a local home to prominence.

March 28, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The small gray house blends into the woods north of Westminster so thoroughly as to belie its singular nature: Modern, with a capital "M."

Essentially a rectangular glass box set on big stone piers, the house is transformed once inside looking out.

"It's an incredible building in and of itself, and when you consider it's set in the middle of this rural county filled with 19th-century farms and barns, it stands out because it is so `other' than what you think of in Carroll County," said Kenneth M. Short, an architectural historian who worked with its owners to secure a nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.

The effect is characteristic of the projects of architect Henry E. Hebbeln, who designed the house in 1953 for the late Robert A. and Phyllis B. Scott in the Modern style, now increasingly appreciated by historic preservationists.

"From the outside, it's very austere, like a blank wall. As soon as you step through the door, it's like magic -- flooded with light," said Frank Baylor, an architecture enthusiast who with his wife, Jennifer Teeter, met the Scotts on a house tour some 20 years ago. Baylor and Teeter became the house's second occupants on their 11th wedding anniversary in September 1999.

From the glass front of the house and deck, the couple can see the lights of Westminster at night and the first blooms on some of the 20,000 daffodils planted by them and the Scotts.

Baylor and Teeter are dedicated to preserving the Scotts' legacy and to learning all they can about Hebbeln, Short said. It is largely due to their work that the house has been nominated -- 50 years after the Scotts moved in -- as significant in American history.

"The Scott house is certainly out of the ordinary in Carroll County, but even in the broader scheme of things, I would say that it qualifies as a very interesting building," said Peter E. Kurtze, the National Register's program administrator for the Maryland Historical Trust.

The register has almost 1,300 listings in Maryland -- more than 40 in Carroll -- of towns, districts, buildings, objects and other sites deemed significant in American history. Administered at the state level, the nominations are sent to the National Park Service, which usually adopts the states' recommendations, Kurtze said.

Nationwide, there is a new appreciation for the Modern, which began in California and took hold by the late 1980s and early 1990s, said Richard W. Longstreth, chairman of the Maryland governor's consulting committee. A professor in George Washington University's American studies department, Longstreth also directs its graduate program in historic preservation and is a leading figure on preservation of the recent past.

"It's becoming an increasingly widespread phenomenon," he said.

Kurtze agreed. "There's certainly an increasing appreciation for the architecture of the recent past -- post-World War II and even more recently than that," he said.

"To give you a clue about the way the movement has begun to grow, in the past two or three years, we've seen one other nomination for a property of this period," he said. "Then just at our last meeting in February, we had not only the Scott house, but also a nomination for three post-war residential subdivisions in Montgomery County."

The little house, halfway between Westminster and Uniontown, was a magnet for house tours and friends and colleagues of the Scotts, who were active in numerous social causes, Teeter and Baylor said. It also caused a stir beyond rural Carroll: It was featured on the Baltimore Modern house tours of the late 1950s and early 1960s, was photographed by A. Aubrey Bodine in 1959 for The Sun Magazine, and a model of it was included in an exhibit at the Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Inside, the house built for two features an open floor plan that was popular among avant-garde architects of the period, but warmed by Hebbeln's use of wood, stone, fiber and paper, rather than starker concrete and metal, Short said.

Baylor and Teeter have not only preserved virtually all of the original house and decor, but have also sought out Hebbeln's history and other houses he designed. Baylor and Teeter show photo albums and computer pictures of Hebbeln houses -- their vacation snapshots -- that include six homes in Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

"Many Hebbeln homes still have the original owners residing in them -- a tribute to his talent and their love of his work," said Teeter, 43, a director at Frederick Memorial Healthcare System Financial Services.

Baylor, 50, has an office at home for his company, Baylor CAD, serving the construction industry with computer drafting. The home features such Hebbeln characteristics as rubble-stone fireplaces, a self-watering plant trough, fiber wall coverings, paper sliding screens and built-in furniture on piano hinges. Its main floor is about 70 feet by 24 feet.

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