When real estate agent Bill Hanna used to drive by his old family home, a 19th-century manor house set on six acres of countryside here, he remembered its best features, including the fireplace that served as the altar for family weddings and the sun-filled window spot off the dining room where the "angels' table" was set for dozens of Hanna children over the years.

But when Enalee Bounds and other members of the preservation group Historic Ellicott City Inc. walked through the house, known as Temora, three months ago, they saw falling plaster, sagging beams, scarred wooden floors, stained walls -- and a challenge.

The Hanna house, located two miles from the center of town, was just the kind of revitalization project the group was looking for.

Designed by architect Nathan Gibson Starkweather, built in 1857 by Dr. Arthur Pue of Howard County in 1857 and bought by the Hannas in 1913, Temora was basically in good shape. But the owner, who was using two rooms for his consulting business, had put off plans to turn it into a country inn because of the costs involved.

The Italianate-Victorian design was considered new and dramatic at its inception, according to the preservation group, which described the frame walls as being "covered with a paint containing sand or crushed nutshells and scored to resemble massive rectangular blocks, a technique used at Mount Vernon."

Preservation has been a widespread concern in Ellicott City, a 212-year-old mill town with structures of granite and stone, ever since floods from Hurricane Agnes deluged the community 12 years ago.

Today the downtown is a collection of country stores, antiques shops and craft exhibitors. At the foot of a hill in the town's center is its main attraction, a B&O railway terminal restored by Historic Ellicot City Inc.

Soon to be added is another of the group's projects, the restoration of a settler's cabin that historians say dates from the late 1700s.

"We probably have more history in this one little town than most places in Maryland," said Bounds, a founder of the preservation group, which was formed more than a decade ago after Ellicott City's bicentennial.

Temora has become a temporary showcase for antiques, thanks to 90 frenzied days of scraping, cleaning, refurbishing and refurnishing this summer by 20 commercial decorators who volunteered their time and energy. The show, which continues through Nov. 2, is being staged by the decorators and dealers from Maryland and Virginia.

Temora's owner, Alan Borg of Columbia, hopes to continue refurbishing when the show is over, and the preservation group hopes the house may be opened for other events.

Unlike some design shows, in which decorators dream the outrageous, Temora has been decorated in the style of its beginnings, with brass, pewter, silk, satin and lace.

Hanna, who was 10 when his grandmother bought Temora, broke his legal ties with it only when it was sold in 1979 for $214,000. He walked through the house recently, recalling the days when the chests, stools and buckets were everyday objects instead of antiques.

"This is all history," Hanna said, smiling and looking toward the 12-foot-high ceilings, "long, involved history."

The house is open from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, until 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday and until 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Sunday hours are 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Admission is $5. Directions from Washington: Rte. 29 north to St. John's Lane, left to Columbia Pike, left a quarter of a mile to Temora on the right.