House tour to promote restoration

Carroll event will give a look at ups and downs of redoing old homes


Residents of five historic Carroll homes will open their doors Saturday, hoping to encourage others to restore the worthwhile old rather than build all new.

The Carroll County Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Uniontown Inc. have organized a bus tour that promises visitors a behind-the-scenes look at living in homes that date to the 19th century and earlier.

The preservation group chose homes in Westminster and Uniontown that it said blends historic roots and fabric with gentle modernizations that integrate contemporary living.

"We hope to educate the community and interest them in restoration and renovation," said Norma Jean Swam, chairwoman of the preservation commission. "They can see what they can do."

The homeowners have promised to answer all questions with candor.

"I like the questions," said Nick Vincent, a 19-year resident of Uniontown, along with his wife, Chris Vincent. "This tour should be called `So you wanna live in an older house.' People will see stuff that needs to be painted and repaired. We will tell them there is constant work on upkeep."

The tour will stop at the home of Mary Ellen and Walt Bay and stay for lunch in the barn the couple restored recently for their son's wedding.

The Bays will also show off their home, a log-oak design whose deed dates to the 18th century, and the grounds they have planted in native trees and shrubs.

"Older houses are smaller than the ones built today, but they have a charm the new ones can't replicate," said Mary Ellen Bay.

The Bays' homestead also includes a carriage house, hog shed and summer kitchen, a small building that was actually rolled on logs from an adjoining property after the Civil War. The Bays have used it for an office and guest house.

The Vincents first saw their 1804 home 21 years ago on a house tour. Two years later, Chris Vincent spotted the "for sale" sign while on a field trip with her elementary school pupils.

"When we settled, the owner told us she didn't have a key because she never locked the house and that she had lost a diamond out of her ring," Nick Vincent said. "Three weeks later, I was finishing up some painting and I found the diamond."

Like many owners, Molly Pritchett, who got her diamond back, left her mark on the Uniontown home. She stenciled the names and dates of residence of all the owners on the floor of the upstairs hallway.

In its 200 years, the brick-over-log house - the third built in the small town of about 200 - has alternately served as a tavern, general store and meeting hall.

When previous owners added the storefront and a second story to the log cabin, they encased the entire building in brick. The last addition - one room on each story - was done in 1911.

Throughout the home on Uniontown's only street - Uniontown Road - are pieces Nick Vincent, a blacksmith, has created: iron lamps and candleholders, whimsical sculptures, even a king-sized iron bed sculpted with dogwood flowers.

The Vincents have always lived in older houses, even though the work is constant and "there is never enough thyme," according to a sign posted in their home. They and the Bays will encourage prospective homebuyers to consider restoration.

The bus departs at 9 a.m. Saturday. Reservations are required. Cost is $55 and includes a boxed lunch. Proceeds benefit Historic Uniontown Inc. 410-386-2029.

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