Historic makeover

DREAM HOME

With renovations nearly done on 1811 Hampden home, couple looks forward to move-in day

March 09, 2007|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Stone Hill, near the Jones Falls in Hampden, is an appropriate name for a cluster of homes built almost two centuries ago. Dotting a few hillsides on what was once the site of a large flour mill, followed by a sailcloth factory, these quaint two-story duplexes are built of local fieldstone granite and were the 19th-century houses of mill supervisors.

One house at the foot of the hill, however, stands out from the others, distinguished by its larger size and detailed appointments.

"We walked by this house for 15 years, but thought we could never afford to have something like it," Robyne Thistel remembered. "Then it went on the market [and] all the cards were right."

She and her husband, Mark Thistel, bought the house, which was built in 1811 by mill owner Elisha Tyson as a summer retreat for his family. Of typical Federal period construction, the stone dwelling features three stories with two rooms per floor, and a center hall with staircase. Its original dimensions - 45 feet wide by 21 feet deep - are remarkably intact for a building that has had several reincarnations over the years.

The couple settled in September 2005, paying $335,000. In February 2006, they began an extensive renovation, including an 800-square-foot addition. Now, a year later, the end is in sight, and the couple looks forward to taking up residence at the end of the month.

The addition, designed by local architect Walter Shamu, houses a kitchen, family room, full bath and laundry facilities.

"Everyone told us to expect [to pay] $200 a square foot," Robyne Thistel said of the project, which ended up costing $250,000. Although they spent more than projections, the couple's contentment with the outcome is evident. The design allows the new space to be a self-contained unit should they ever decide to close off the main house.

The couple spent another $250,000 to restore the old house, adding new heating, plumbing, air conditioning, and electrical systems. All of the original windows were removed and restored, then placed back in their frames. A retaining wall was also built behind the addition, at the foot of the hill.

"What we wanted was an addition that would quietly blend with the [style of] the house," said Mark Thistel, 40, owner of Freedom Services, a chauffeured car and van service.

The addition's white oak, timber frame cathedral ceiling soars 17 feet to its peak. Flooring is Brazilian cherry wood, and the windows are all multipaned. The east end of the open layout serves as the kitchen, with cherry wood cabinets, ceramic tile flooring and an imported English farmhouse sink, a splurge for the couple.

The addition's west wall is the rear of the original home. Two doors open to the dining room and center hall. Flooring throughout is the original random-width pine. In the dining room a massive fireplace dominates, with a carved mantel and dentil molding. The room's two front windows, exactly mirrored in the room opposite the central hall, are recessed a full 2 feet - the thickness of the stone - and are shuttered for privacy and warmth.

"The previous owners did nothing to ruin this house," Mark Thistel said, pointing to original molding, doors and built-in shelving. "All of its special qualities have been saved."

Special qualities also include a grand front porch that runs the entire width of the house. Its arched roof of bead board is undergoing extensive renovation, as well as the first-floor exterior of stucco over stone.

The home's second and third stories are identically laid out: two rooms and center bath. All have been painted in bright colors; the second floor is planned as a master bedroom, with the bedroom across the hall for the Thistels' 6-year-old daughter, Maeve.

While the couple is happy that move-in time is close, they know the work will continue for quite awhile.

Both keep optimistic, however, with twin realizations.

"We believe we are stewards to an extraordinary legacy, and we want to do the right thing," Mark Thistel said.

"I feel extremely lucky at this age to say `this is it,'" his wife added.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Write to Dream Home, Real Estate Editor, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278, or e-mail us at real.estate@baltsun.com.

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