We, along with our architecture partner on this recent project, Brennan + Company of Ellicott City, were very happy that our client possessed an appreciation for bringing this significant, historical property back to life and committed the capital to ensuring quality work along the way. Smithouse’s Dave Smith says this “client’s passion for the home’s historical value and all of its details made this project a true gem for our team.”
The main part of the house — a Federal style structure — banks into a shallow hillside and is comprised of solid granite. In some cases, walls were three feet deep,” says Smith. The man that built the original house was also the owner of a nearby granite quarry and built the house for his daughter at the time. Rob Brennan, Principal of Brennan + Co notes “the hand-hewn veneer of the solid granite is timeless and was built to last centuries, which is an approach to building we have unfortunately lost over time.”
Historical records indicate the northwest portion of the home was built in 1800 and the southeast addition was built in 1835. And it was this main stone part of the house that was in “solid shape” when Brennan + Co. and Smithouse got involved.
Over the years, multiple additions had been added and their wood framing needed updating. In the end, we removed the old additions and added two new “pavilions” or what were also referred to as “utility wings” on either side of the main granite structure. “We went through a really rigorous design review process,” said Brennan. “The county had to weigh in as to whether or not it was compatible to the original structure. Of course our main goal was always to marry the new with the old while still maintaining the original, historical integrity of the home.”
Interesting things were discovered along the way. The ground floor was rotting and damp and when we pulled up the flooring, we discovered tree trunks were helping hold up the home. After changing out the flooring and bringing it up to code, we built a “truth window” in the floor which allows people to look into the original foundation of the home and see the old floor joists and trees that were used at the time of the original build in the 1800s.
Windows were another important feature of the home. The teams spent a lot of time refurbishing the windows in an effort to maintain what original ones we could. Wonderfully large fireplaces that were in keeping with the period also stayed in place. Doors and hardware were dipped to bring them back to their original state.
Brennan + Co’s designer Lili Mundroff recommended removing an old large chestnut tree from the property, and we were able to mill it down and craft it for use in bar shelving, seating and beams within the home. Smithouse Carpenter Danny Knott made magic from this old tree that has now found a new life in different forms throughout the house.