London Town Publik House operation to be privatized

November 06, 1992|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Staff Writer

The management of the London Town Publik House and Gardens, overseen by the county since 1828, is scheduled to be turned over to a private foundation next summer.

The plan to privatize the historic Edgewater site was first introduced by County Executive Robert R. Neall in his budget proposal last May. Since then, the London Town Publik House and Gardens Commission, the county organization that oversees the museum, has been pursuing plans to create a private foundation.

The county will retain ownership and contribute to the costs of operation, as it does with other non-profit arts and cultural organizations, said county spokeswoman Louise Hayman.

The privatization could save the county money over time, although not much initially, Ms. Hayman said.

The county currently spends about $325,000 annually on the house and gardens.

Orlando Rideout, chairman of the commission, said that a private foundation will have more flexibility and greater fund-raising opportunities than the county has.

"There was a consensus the site could be more than it is," Mr. Rideout said.

But privatizing the museum carries some risks as well, he conceded. It will mean foregoing the security of county funding for reliance upon private contributions.

Currently, the site generates some money through fees charged for admission, receptions, meetings and special events.

The commission hopes to create the foundation by Jan. 1, Mr. Rideout said. The museum is scheduled to be privatized by July. The plans, drawn up by the commission, must be approved by Mr. Neall.

The London Town Publik House was built in the mid-1760s as a house and tavern. In 1828, it was bought by the county for use as an almshouse and housed the county's indigent until 1965. In 1973, the house was opened as a museum.

The house is pretty much all that is left of the colonial port of London Town. Founded in 1683, the port was one of 31 sites in Maryland through which all trade, by law, had to pass. Until 1747, when another law took the lucrative tobacco trade away, London Town was one of the state's busiest ports.

For a brief period, London Town served as the county seat of Anne Arundel County.

It was also the 12th and last ferry stop on the overland route from Williamsburg, Va., to Philadelphia. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Carroll of Carrollton and Francis Scott Key were among the ferry's passengers.

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