For couple, it's back to 18th century

April 24, 2005|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Several hundred visitors eager to see a restored log-and-stone home could arrive on the doorstep next month, and the Fieselers are eager to welcome them.

John and Katie Fieseler will readily describe their efforts to return their two-story home in Keymar to its original 18th-century appearance. They have albums of photos that give "before-and-after" glimpses of the farmhouse, the barn and the surrounding three acres. They can answer questions about how they have painstakingly restored most of the home and how they still have a few bedrooms and the barn to go.

"We are putting it back, room by room," John Fieseler said.

The Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage has placed the Fieselers' home among the dozen stops throughout Carroll County that its annual tour will make. More than 500 visitors are expected May 13 for tours of historic homes and farmhouses, 18th-century churches, schools and businesses, a 20-acre garden in spring bloom and an antebellum mansion turned into a country inn.

"Several counties have different dates on the tour, so there can be a lot of cross-promotion," said Barbara Beverungen, Carroll's director of tourism. "It will bring a lot of people into the county. The Fieselers have a wonderfully renovated house on the [Francis Scott Key] highway. It is truly immersed in history."

John Fieseler, Beverungen's counterpart in Frederick County, said, "The pilgrimage has really built a following. People travel from all parts of the state. It gives everyone opportunities to see other areas of the state, and they might be tempted to come back. The exposure is great."

The Fieselers, whose home is making a second appearance on the pilgrimage, will show off the fully restored first floor of the home, as well as their gardens. From the front porch, furnished with chairs and a swing, visitors make their way through a double door into the main hallway.

"The tour is a real treat for us," John Fieseler said. The visitors "are the nicest people you could imagine. They notice many different things about the house. This time, maybe some of them will notice the progress we have made."

Katie Fieseler said, "On the last tour, many people were impressed that we hadn't hired contractors and that we were doing most of the work ourselves. It really is a labor of love for us."

In the early 1990s, a few years before he met his wife, Fieseler was looking for an affordable historic home, fully prepared to sink a lot of time and labor into renovations. He found the log-and-stone farmhouse, which "needed everything," on a drive through Keymar, a small western Carroll farm community.

The original part of the home, which sits along Taneytown Pike, dates to 1790 and was the site of a tannery, at least through the Civil War. The pike, also called FSK Highway and Route 194, once served as the main commercial route between Taneytown and Frederick.

On one of the couple's first dates, he showed her the home and handed her a paint brush. She went to work and quickly caught his enthusiasm. They married more than 10 years ago - by which time the house had a functioning kitchen. They have been "chipping away" at the restoration ever since, he said.

"Time is the biggest cost involved," he said. "The trick is to enjoy the process."

His wife added, "We have redone pretty much the entire house, from floor to ceiling."

She readily acknowledges that the task seemed overwhelming at first, especially given the persistence of critters that had taken up residence in the home while it stood vacant. But the restoration has truly enhanced their appreciation, she said.

"We have tried to keep everything period-correct, even down to whitewashing the walls," she said. "Obviously, we have added the modern conveniences, too."

The couple have furnished their home with antiques and replicas of the period. John Fieseler made a table for the breakfast room out of wide boards found in the barn on the property. They have also found other uses for some materials they discovered in the house.

The stones from the original chimney, found stashed in a crawl space, helped create a graceful hillside fountain in the garden. Removing paneling from the one-time kitchen revealed a stone fireplace. An old door next to the hearth now hides the TV. A once boarded-up kitchen window works well as a spice cupboard.

The Fieselers whitewashed the spaces between the logs on the walls and trimmed the rooms in Colonial Williamsburg colors. The exterior of the log portion is painted a soft yellow and trimmed in a deep green.

"In some cases, we could tell the original colors and went with them," he said.

"In other places, we just picked colors that we liked," Katie Fieseler said. "The original walls were whitewashed everywhere because paint was so expensive then and often not available."

The stonehouse kitchen is now the Fieselers' den, but they have occasionally cooked on the wood stove set into the stone fireplace, "just like pioneers," she said.

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