Old truck farm house gets new lease on life

November 04, 1992|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

It's a real fixer-upper, a fire-ravaged house missing floorboards inside and bricks outside, surrounded by story-tall weeds, carcasses of television sets and legless chairs.

"Just think of this wonderful old house becoming a grand lady again," said Newell Cannon, chairman of the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation Inc. It does, she admitted, take a vivid imagination.

In an unusual partnership, Ms. Cannon's group, the county and the owner of the historic Thomas Pumphrey House are trying to find someone with the imagination and money to buy the property and transform it into an office, day care center, or other business.

The house and surrounding half acre of land at the intersection of Furnace Branch and West Ordnance roads in Glen Burnie are on the market for $100,000 "as is."

"We are just trying to preserve this house. It is one of the last truck farm houses in this area," Ms. Cannon said. A truck farm is a farm where vegetables are grown to be marketed. This is the preservation group's first attempt to protect a building, she said. Its initial goal was to see that the house, vandalized and open to the elements, does not deteriorate further.

The trust has a renegotiable agreement with the owner, Burwood Road Associates, to help find a buyer, or buy the house itself by August 1993, or forfeit its interest.

The county has given the trust a $20,000 grant, which so far has paid for a study, boarding up the house, clearing a driveway and path through the tangle of debris, and marketing efforts.

The county's 5-year-old Scattered Sites Renewal Program has about $500,000 a year to help revitalize blighted properties, said Kathleen Koch, who directs the program in the Division of Housing and Community Development. A property owner may receive as much as $125,000, in low-interest or deferred loans, or creative financing.

The county hopes that the financial package, coupled with an offer of technical and historical assistance in the restoration, will pique buyer interest.

One boon to the buyer, said Jack Steffey, managing partner of Burwood Road Associates is a feasibility study released last week. The study says that it would take $224,700 to renovate the building.

One person who inquired about the house last week was eyeing it for a residence, even though it is zoned for commercial use, said Anne Pace, who works in the Scattered Sites Renewal Program.

Burwood Road Associates bought the house and about 30 acres surrounding it in the late 1980s to build Oak Leaf Villas. But the company signed an easement with the county agreeing not to raze the house, Mr. Steffey said.

The county plans to record a new easement shortly that would include the trust, said Donna Ware, county historic sites planner.

Mr. Steffey said his group never had planned to renovate the house. "Primarily, that's not our bag," he said. "We build affordable housing."

But he could not find a buyer for the old house. The land became overgrown, providing cover for vandals and the damage they did there.

The 2 1/2 story Vernacular style house has a rear ell that probably was the kitchen, Ms. Ware said. Outside, historians have found what probably was a cistern and a trough.

Thomas Pumphrey, a farmer with 153 acres, built the brick house in 1863, according to the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society's "History Notes" publication. The family grew to be one of most prominent in the northern part of the county.

Mr. Pumphrey and his wife, Elizabeth, and their five children lived there. Carl Shipley, overseer of the farm at the turn of the century, married one of the Pumphrey daughters. Though some of the surrounding property was sold in 1945 for what became the Pleasantville community, the house remained in the Shipley family and was occupied though the early 1980s.

But once unoccupied, it deteriorated badly. A 1986 there did substantial damage.

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