Firm hopes to save Owings home

Commercial real estate

October 08, 1990|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Evening Sun Staff

Tucked in a leafy primeval glade, yet just a stone's throw from contemporary Owings Mills Mall, the large stone house that was miller Thomas Owings' home 2 1/2 centuries ago sits boarded up and vulnerable.

But a rescue plan for the old Owings' homestead, the namesake for fast-developing Owings Mills in northwest Baltimore County, has been offered by a construction company that wants to renovate the main house as its headquarters.

Larry Macks, vice president of Macks and Macks construction, is hoping to speed a rezoning of the five acres through the county bureaucracy so that renovations and the addition of a 3,000-square foot office wing on the west side of the 1737 house may begin by spring. Morton Macks, president of the company, is a partner in Painters Mill Joint Venture, the owners of the land.

The Macks firm is contract purchaser of the site, said Josh Fidler, another Macks vice president. The land is zoned for high-density residential uses, but is surrounded by office tower zoning. In fact, Trammel Crow has plans to build a 14-story office building and multilevel parking garage just behind the Owings' house.

Using the building for a corporate office will allow renovations now, instead of waiting five years until the local market would support a restaurant or bed and breakfast venture, Macks said.

The company's plan also calls for construction of a parking lot for about 30 cars, and a modern addition starting in back of the old house, with a glass enclosed walkway to the new wing, which is to contain the firm's electronic equipment. The glass will allow a view of the original walls from the rear, Macks said.

The firm will eventually grant the county an easement, Macks said, to allow recreational uses for the out buildings: an old wooden barn, a spring house and a tenant house. The ordinary looking tenant house hides a log cabin, said Baltimore County historian John W. McGrain.

The old homestead was the original nucleus for the Owings family's agricultural holdings, and is protected from exterior changes by its listing on the National Historic Register. A permanent preservation easement was granted to the Maryland Historical Trust and is recorded on the deed, McGrain said.

Thomas Owings, brother of Samuel Owings 2nd, built the house, McGrain said. It sits near a partially destroyed bridge on Meadows Lane, on Red Run stream.

The six mills for which the area is named once stood nearby, but are gone now. They included a fulling mill -- which fluffed already spun wool by subjecting it to a caustic mixture and pounding by mechanical hammers -- a woolen mill, grist mill and saw mill. The house was occupied until the early 1980s.

The county planning board approved consideration of the rezoning request Thursday. The plans now go to the County Council and then to the county Board of Appeals because the matter comes outside the county's four-year comprehensive rezoning cycle.

Meanwhile, Macks' company is hoping to do some corrective work to try to preserve the old buildings through this winter.

After a meeting last week with county Administrative Officer Frank C. Robey, Macks said the roof of the old wooden barn, used as a stable, could easily collapse under a heavy snow and needs shoring. The stable shows up in 1798 tax maps, McGrain said.

If heat can't be restored in the main house, Macks said, the building could be badly damaged by freezes and thaws, and the contractions and expansions of old plaster, timbers and stones that accompany weather changes.

McGrain is enthusiastic about Macks' rescue plan, as is Robey, who is interested in trying to preserve part of the old Owings Mills even as new office buildings, commercial development and new homes rise around it.

* * Bumpers Family Fun Center has leased 2,000 square feet of space in the Carrolltowne Mall on Liberty Road in Eldersburg, according to Erwin L. Greenberg Commercial Corp.

* Fayva Shoes has leased 2,000 square feet of space at the Carrolltowne Mall on Liberty Road in Eldersburg.

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