In the spotlight

Former mill is featured today on TV show about commercial structures-turned-residences

Former mill is featured today on TV show about commercial structures-turned-residences

February 11, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN

Luigi Perini had a long-standing passion to own a stone home.

He found Doub's Mill, a two-and-a-half story limestone mill just east of Hagerstown in Beaver Creek in the late 1970s.

The old structure was in bad shape - vandalized, the millrace (the channel through which its water ran) was full of trash - and about to be condemned. Yet his vision showed him the mill could be the home of his dreams.

Doub's Mill, the home of Luigi and Mary Jane Perini since 1980, is the latest subject of "Building Character," a series on Home and Garden Television that shows how "spaces that were originally commercial structures have been transformed into one-of-a-kind private homes," according to the network's Web site, The episode airs today at 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Series producer Jean Grenda and her Washington, D.C.-based crew spent three 12-hour days at the mill.

She enjoyed the visit, meeting the Perinis and their neighbor Mary Marshall, who has lived in the house across the street for 62 years and is part of the episode.


The setting is lovely. Except during last summer's drought, the gentle rush of Beaver Creek can be heard - in the house. The millrace runs under the home's first floor. Behind glass, you can see it as well.

"This is a relaxing place," Mary Jane Perini says.

"Visitors who spend the night often oversleep," says Luigi Perini.

The mill - Doub's Mill, built between 1811 and 1821 by John Funk, was the subject of the first of 140 articles written for the Herald-Mail newspaper by Pat Schooley over more than a decade. Along with photographs, the articles are collected in her book, "Architectural & Historic Treasures Of Washington County, Maryland," a project of the Washington County Historical Trust.

It was through Schooley that Grenda connected with the Perinis and their home, and Schooley also is a guest on the show.

The gristmill had been bought by John Doub Sr. in 1821 and owned by his family for 79 years, according to Schooley's book.

Water-powered gristmills became unprofitable with 20th-century changes in milling technology. Although commercial operation stopped in 1930, grain continued to be ground until 1945.

The mill was sold in 1948 to the Morgan family, who used it as an antique store and auction house. Twenty years later, John Shaffer bought the mill with plans to convert it to a political retreat. He replaced the roof, added dormer windows and redid the mortar between the stones. He sold it in 1976, but the new owner wasn't able to get permits needed to convert it to a residence.

Luigi Perini, who never before attempted a restoration of anything, says "stupidity" allowed him to stick with his dream.

His wife's assessment is more positive. She credits his vision, but admits that the enterprise was daunting.

Prohibited by law to put a septic system in the flood plain where the mill is located, Perini was ready to give up.

A front-porch conversation led a neighbor to sell him an easement, which allowed him to put in a septic system nearby.

"The neighbors couldn't have been more supportive," Mary Jane Perini says.

"I learned by trial and error," Luigi Perini says. He did the work himself. "I didn't have any money," he says.

Mary Jane Perini calls her husband "the original networker." He told people he didn't know what he was doing. Local inspectors - plumbing, building, electrical - all gave him advice. He had a mentor in each of the trades, Mary Jane Perini says. He got books. He learned.

"You do this once in your life. You know too much to do it again," Mary Jane Perini says. But she is proud and pleased that they did it.

"It's history," she says.

Luigi Perini is an aerospace engineer who still commutes daily to the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.,

Seven years ago, Mary Jane Perini opened the Cooper's Shed, a shop that specializes in antique textiles, linens and laces.

Doub's Mill and the many historical properties still standing are treasures that no other county has, Mary Jane Perini says. "That's one of the reasons for doing our open house," she adds. The annual event lets people see - lets them get inside and up close - the value of preserving a piece of local heritage.

On the tube . . .

Doub's Mill, the Beaver Creek home of Luigi and Mary Jane Perini, will be featured today at 8:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. on Home and Garden Television's "Building Character."

HGTV is at channel 59 on

Antietam Cable; channel 28 on Comcast in Franklin County, Pa.; channel 68 on Adelphia in Berkeley County, W.Va.

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