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“There’s a lot of history of the whole neighborhood in one building,” said Dean Fitzgerald, president and CEO of Heavy Timber Construction in Thurmont, Md., a 20-year-old company that restores and converts old buildings as well as constructing new ones.

For Mr. Fitzgerald, old buildings can be hidden gems, where references to the past abound, and homeowners want those references restored.

“We look for the writing on the walls to read and interpret these old buildings,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “We look for shadows of things that once existed. You just have to take a little time to flip the pages.”

For one project, Mr. Fitzgerald transformed an 1864 structure into a workshop and office space complete with heating and air-conditioning systems. In another, he took a 1788 barn that had burned in 1907, was restored, and turned it into a home.

Why rebuild a barn instead of starting fresh, especially if it might cost more than a bit more than a new build? For Syl Schieber of New Market, Md., the owner of the 1864 structure, (he and his wife live in the 1861 house) the answer has a lot to do with the idea of permanence.

“We actually were looking for something closer in, but all there was was junk,” said Mr. Schieber, who is originally from Chevy Chase. “We were thinking across generations, the way they were thinking when they built the house and the barn.”

Because while you easily can construct a new house, history is harder to manufacture.