Hidden in the heart of Glen Burnie is a manor house with a sweeping porch that looks straight out of a Ralph Lauren ad. All that's missing is the group of debutantes sipping lemonade and chatting over scones.
With its freshly painted shutters, white pillars and gabled roof, the 150-year-old house appears to be the perfect setting for the fashion designer's fox-hunter crowd. Except that it's tucked in a middle-class neighborhood between Crain and Ritchie highways, two of the area's busiest roads.
A long lawn and blooming lilacs shield the two-story frame house from traffic. A circular drive leads to the entrance. But despite itsromantic, upper-crust look and local significance, the two-story frame house has a down-to-earth history.
Built by a mining company and later bought by one of Glen Burnie's first doctors, the house survived 1 1/2 centuries of change, only to languish in the 1980s. The house was abandoned for several years, and the family estate was considering demolishing it.
Its future looked bleak when Thomas Chisholm walked into the Bank of Glen Burnie one day last fall. Standing in the neighborhood bank, he overheard a conversation about the house. Chisholm immediately remembered the place fromhis childhood and decided to take action.
"We used to walk by there when we were kids, and it was this big, beautiful house," recalled Chisholm, the 42-year-old partnerin a family-owned company that specializes in restoration projects.
After making a few inquiries, Chisholm contacted the Maryland Historical Trust and discussed plans to preserve the house. For its $239,000 price tag, the dilapidated building and 1 1/2-acre property wasn't exactly a steal. But Chisholm & Sons Inc. netted a tidy profit by subdividing the land for four more houses. All four, thoughnot built yet, have been sold for at least $160,000 each.
Renovatingthe historic manor house took more work than the Chisholms expected.When Thomas first crossed the creaking porch and opened the door, hewondered if he had made a big mistake. He peered inside and saw old furniture covered with layers of cobwebs and dust.
"I thought we had Glen Burnie's original haunted house," the builder recalled with achuckle. "It was crazy. There were so many secret doors and entrances, and you sort of had to stoop over to get into the hallways. It wasdownright spooky."
Four months and more than $100,000 later, Chisholm & Sons Inc. has restored the house to its vintage condition, except that it's more structurally sound than in the 1800s.
One of the oldest buildings still standing in Glen Burnie, the house originally was a simple, two-story farmhouse rented to the manager of the Curtis Creek Co. ironworks. The mining company owned 6,000 acres surrounding Glen Burnie in the mid-19th century and operated an iron furnace near Marley Creek.
Account books show the so-called cottage was rented to Samuel S. Tracey, probably the accountant and manager, in 1860. Thirty-four years later, Dr. Thomas H. Brayshaw passed through thehitching-post town, stopped at a grocery store and heard that the people needed a physician. He figured he fit the bill and stayed.
"Glen Burnie was a small, closely knit community then, so when the doctor was seen driving about town, folks would know of the new babies, the ill and the deaths," according to a description by the Maryland Historical Trust, which designated the Brayshaw house as a historic site.
Known for driving in his buggy to visit the sick in snow or rain, Brayshaw also was a dapper dresser who always sported "a flower inhis buttonhole," the trust reports. Historical society members also learned that Glen Burnie's first Sunday school sessions and town meetings took place on the Brayshaw porch.
The doctor's mother, who lived with her son, reportedly refused to move to a town that had no church. So Brayshaw called together church meetings on the front porch and eventually moved an old chapel on Marley Creek into the town. HisSt. Alban's Episcopal Church still is active today.
When the Chisholms began renovating the house, they discovered dozens of Brayshaw's old manuscripts and medical records. They donated the century-old, yellowing papers to the Anne Arrundell Historical Society. The Chisholms also found old papers relating to St. Alban's, which theygave to the church along with the remaining furniture and mantelpiece.
Thehouse was passed down in the family after Brayshaw died in 1927. Hisson, Tom, lived there for years with his wife, Adeline Briscoe, who taught school in Brooklyn Park. But most of the direct descendants died and the family scattered. The estate handling the house decided toeither sell or demolish it last year, the Chisholm builders said.
Together with his father (Robert "Pop") brother (Steven) and oldest son (Robert), Thomas Chisholm talked over the design with the historical society and got to work jacking up the house foundation last winter.