Bankrupt developer's historic estate to be auctioned Property includes 200-year-old stone house

July 05, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

The 282-acre historic Bel Air estate of bankrupt developer Steven R. Hankins goes on the auction block this week.

Among the offerings of the spread: a 200-year-old stone house which the county's historical planner says is the "quintessential Harford County house."

Alex Cooper Auctioneers Inc. of Towson is conducting the trustee's sale on the estate grounds. The auction is scheduled for Friday at 1 p.m.

Mr. Hankins and R. Marc Goldberg, a Baltimore attorney serving as trustee for the sale, could not be reached for comment.

The estate -- historically known as Christopher's Camp but more recently called Winchester Farm -- is one of 15 properties in Harford that have been designated as landmarks by the county Historical Preservation Commission.

The first section of the two-story house on the estate, located in the 1200 block of Fountain Green Road just east of Bel Air, was built in 1771 by Richard Wilomott, said Christopher Weeks of the county Planning and Zoning Office.

ZTC Little is known about Mr. Wilomott, who died in 1797.

Mr. Wilomott's daughter, Mary, inherited the estate, and her husband, Jacob Hall, was a teacher who taught in the stone house, Mr. Weeks said.

Succeeding owners added the stone section at the front of the house in 1844 and a frame section in 1865 -- completing the evolution of the house as it stands now, Mr. Weeks said.

"[The house] has flashes of stylishness," said Mr. Weeks. "But, in other words, comfort is more important than fashion."

Mr. Hankins and his wife, Susan Hankins, bought the house in 1988, according to court records in Harford Circuit Court.

Court documents show that, as of April 1991, Mr. Hankins and his wife owed $740,209 plus interest for the mortgage on the property.

The Hankins couple obtained a $750,000 loan from defunct Old Court Savings & Loan Inc. to purchase the estate in January 1988, records say. The loan is now held by the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund Corp., which insures deposits in savings and loan institutions.

Mr. Hankins and his wife have been trying to sell the estate for $1,250,000 since March, according to Central Maryland Multiple Listing Service Inc.

A legal advertisement for Friday's auction says the estate house includes a formal living room, formal dining room, country kitchen, family room, sitting room, foyer, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, two staircases and eight fireplaces.

A detached garage and several farm buildings -- some of which date to the 18th century -- are behind the house. The estate has a tree-lined driveway leading to Fountain Green Road.

The estate includes pastures, rolling fields and some woodlands, bordered by a white board fence.

Martha G. Michael, a previous owner of the estate, granted easements for the property to the state Environmental Trust and Historical Trust.

The easements bar development of the property. Historic structures also can't be altered.

Mr. Hankins and his wife were sued by the state trusts last year for starting to build a new stable and road at the estate.

The couple was ordered by the courts to stop work on the stable and road. The unfinished stable is to be dismantled before the sale of the estate is final.

The Hankins couple filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court last August, listing $29 million in debts owed to 118 creditors.

Once one of the county's leading commercial developers, Mr. Hankins has lost a number of properties, including the Courtland Square office building in Bel Air, in foreclosure auctions.

Mr. Hankins, 38, was released from the county Detention Center on June 14 after serving two months for forging and cashing a $68,700 mechanic's lien of one of his subcontractors.

He was given a six-month sentence on the conviction in March, but Circuit Judge William O. Carr modified the sentence on June 8, court records show.

Mr. Hankins still must complete 100 hours of community service and four years of probation as required in a plea agreement in the forgery case.

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