Along a winding country highway in Carroll County, a bright red barn appears planted in the middle of a bend in the road. On closer approach, the structure recedes into a large parcel that also contains several circa-1800 outbuildings, including a smokehouse and a summer kitchen.
A Victorian-style farmhouse -- modern in design and construction, yet integrated with the surrounding structures -- sits several yards beyond the barn and outbuildings. Noticeable features of the vinyl-sided home are its white wraparound porch, green shutters on long, narrow windows and its fabricated fieldstone front.
Vernon Sill Jr., 56, a systems administrator for the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, grew up on this land that abuts Liberty Reservoir, outside Finksburg. His grandparents purchased 47 acres here in the 1940s, and passed it on to his parents in the 1970s. The family farmed the property for more than 50 years, operating a produce stand from the yard and front porch of their circa-1800 farmhouse.
When his parents died several years ago, Sill and his sister inherited the farm.
"Although we are ... subdividing the property, it has always been our family's desire to maintain the family home, barn and outbuildings," he said. "My parents wanted the heritage of the farm to be passed on to their grandchildren."
With that legacy in mind, Sill parceled out 5 acres, which included all of the existing structures, for his wife, Pat, and himself. They had planned to refurbish and expand the farmhouse, but soon discovered extensive termite damage to the floor joists and exterior walls.
"After much soul-searching and some research, we decided that the best plan would be to raze the old farmhouse and construct a new home," Vernon Sill recalled.
Pat Sill explained that the new house had to have a wraparound porch and some facial stone that would match the barn's foundation. Most importantly, there had to be ample space for their children, Michael, 19, and Rachel, 13, to entertain their friends.
"Our major concern was tying the style and setting of the house into the existing barn and outbuildings," she said.
A family friend, Jim Greenfield, president of KD Builders, was called in to construct the new home. With his assistance, the couple were able to design a home that mimicked the old farmhouse in style and feel, while at the same time incorporating 21st-century technology throughout.
The 5,300-square-foot home cost $480,000. The Sills moved into their new home last June.
Their large kitchen features warm maple wood cabinets. The kitchen and the family room, which features a stone fireplace rising 16 feet to a cathedral ceiling, are undoubtedly the heart and hearth of the Sills' home life.
"Our children are into tradition," said Pat Sill. "There is a connection to the past that is here [for them] every day."
That connection lives in the antique pieces of family furniture, photographs and memorabilia throughout the home. A fine example of living with, and enjoying a legacy, is in the dining room, where Sill's grandmother's Duncan Phyfe dining suite dominates the room.
Photographs of the old farmhouse hang throughout the new home, and plans are in the works to restore the remaining outbuildings. (The barn was restored last July.)
In the meantime, the Sills have preserved the family legacy for themselves and their children, content that it will be lovingly accepted as a continuing heritage.
CUSTOM HOME TIPS
The Sills offer these tips when having a home custom-built:
Hire a contractor you trust and can communicate with.
Look at several floor plans before committing.
Do not rush into interior wall painting; wait six months in case of nail pops in the drywall.
Don't worry about an eclectic mix of furniture when their colors are of similar values.
Build a room around a treasured piece, such as an antique family hope chest or old piano.