Restored historic home brings one family harmony

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SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) - Before the Stinars bought their 1850s home, cows were living in the basement and termites were eating their way to the attic of a home that doubled as a Civil War hospital after the battle of Antietam.
Two years after the state Department of Natural Resources said the home couldn't be sold and wasn't safe to live in, Brent and Julie Stinar bought the home. When they bought it

SHARPSBURG, Md. (AP) - Before the Stinars bought their 1850s home, cows were living in the basement and termites were eating their way to the attic of a home that doubled as a Civil War hospital after the battle of Antietam.

Two years after the state Department of Natural Resources said the home couldn't be sold and wasn't safe to live in, Brent and Julie Stinar bought the home. When they bought it in 2002, it'd been sitting empty for 18 years.

"This place really was the answer to our prayers, and then some," Julie Stinar said.

That's despite finding dirt clumps hanging like stalactites because termites were chewing through the home's supporting beam. She said a termite colony in the bathroom poured termites like a busted bag of rice when they poked a hole in the dirt clump encasing the colony.

Noah Rohrbach built the house around 1850, according to state tax records, and it was privately owned until 1995 when the state Department of Transportation bought it through a state open spaces program.

The transportation department only owned the home for five years before the state Department of Natural Resources acquired it and determined the house couldn't be sold or inhabited in 2000.

Cows from a nearby farm moved into the basement after someone left a door open. That left Brent having to use a jackhammer to break up the coal-coated floor - which was also covered in years of hardened clay and cow manure.

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"There's some people who thought we were crazy for wanting to do this," Julie Stinar said.

But now the home on 130 acres has become the Evensong Farm for the family of four who grow organic food that they sell to restaurateurs and food co-ops in the region.

Julie Stinar said it cost between $200,000 and $400,000 to restore the home. Maintaining the house's historic appearance and design was part of their agreement necessary for the Stinars to buy the home.

Their work included restoring the large kitchen which has a wood-burning stove and a bake oven built in the 1800s, accessible through a little portal off the hardwood-floored kitchen.

They named it Evensong Farm for three reasons.

One, Brent Stinar's late grandmother, Eve, was always singing and left them a modest inheritance after she died.

That inheritance was "the seed money to start this project," Julie Stinar.

Second, because the family believes the home came as an answer to their prayers, they wanted to include the prayer somehow in the home's name. And an evensong can be a prayer offered to God during the evening time.

Finally, Julie Stinar said the sounds they hear at night on the farm - whether it's creeks, birds or frogs - are an "evening song" every night.

The Washington County Commission gave them a Historic Preservation Award in 2004 and they receive state tax credits.

But they're not entirely finished yet. Thieves stole the home's mantels and shutters and doorknobs throughout the house before they bought it, leaving them with at least one more project.

"We haven't gotten around to replacing the door knobs," Stinar said. "But there are eye-hooks on the bathroom doors."

Even after that project's done, they won't lose their memories of the way the home used to be.

In the front hallway, they keep a photo album that details the home's progress and includes shots of Brent holding a snakeskin he found in the basement.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. The information contained in the AP news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of The Associated Press. Active hyperlinks have been inserted by AOL.

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