At price of $1.25 million, Hankins estate draws no bids

July 12, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff Writer

A headline in last Sunday's Harford County Sun incorrectly listed the auction price of Steven R. Hankins' estate. Prospective buyers would have had to pay their bid plus $894,919.

The 282-acre historic Bel Air estate of bankrupt developer Steven R. Hankins went unsold at a public auction Friday.

About three dozen potential bidders and observers gathered outside the estate's vacant 200-year-old house near Bel Air for the afternoon auction.

The buyer would have had to pay a bid plus the $894,919 that Mr. Hankins and his wife, Susan, owe on the estate's mortgage within 10 days of the auction.


"Here is an excellent opportunity to buy an ideal farm location and historic house," said auctioneer Joseph Cooper, coaxing the spectators. "If you want it, you have to bid on it here today."

Mr. Cooper, of Alex Cooper Auctioneers Inc. of Towson, received no response when he asked for an opening bid of $50,000. He asked for any opening bid, but again got no responses.

Within 15 minutes of the auction's start, audience members filed away to their cars, and the door of the 16-room house was locked.

Typically, auctions will be repeated until a bank-held property is sold, although it is uncertain what action the bank that holds the mortgage will take with the Hankins estate.

NB Jean Tyng and Josephine Dallam, two Bel Air residents who live

near the estate, said they came to the auction out of curiosity.

"I'm a neighbor, and I wanted to see what happened," Ms. Dallam said.

Mrs. Tyng said she thinks the estate did not sell because of its high price.

"I think it's a beautiful setting, just beautiful," she said. "It should be used as a horse farm. It's just a lot of money."

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 landmarks by the county Historical Preservation Commission.

The first section of the two-story stone house on the estate, in the 1200 block of Fountain Green Road east of Bel Air, was built in 1771. Later owners added sections in 1844 and 1865.

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 back to the 18th century -- are behind the house, which is served by a tree-lined driveway leading to Fountain Green Road, near the Wheel Road intersection.

The estate includes pastures, rolling fields and some woodlands, which are 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 cannot be altered without special approvals.

Mr. Hankins and his wife bought the house in 1988, according to records in Harford Circuit Court. The Hankins couple obtained a $750,000 loan from the defunct Old Court Savings & Loan Inc. for the estate.

The loan is now held by the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund Corp.

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

The Hankins 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.

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