Historic Ellicott House to be taken by state

March 04, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

The state is foreclosing on the historic George Ellicott House, which has failed to attract a suitable tenant in the two years since its restoration.

The Department of Housing and Community Development began foreclosure proceedings because the nonprofit Historic Ellicott City Inc., which owns the building, has been unable to make payments since August 1991 on two loans totaling $600,000.

The building, near Oella across the Patapsco River from downtown Ellicott City, could be sold at public auction by May, said Housing Management Director Stephanie White.

"Historic Ellicott City will be relieved of any responsibility and [the state] will have to do what we have tried to -- which is, namely, to find a tenant," said Charles Wagandt, member of Historic Ellicott City Inc.

The nonprofit group stopped making payments Aug. 1, 1991, on a $400,000 loan from the Community Development Administration, Ms. White said.

The group made interest payments of $26,653 on the CDA loan, Mr. Wagandt said. It made interest payments of $2,513 on a $200,000 loan from the Maryland Historical Trust, he said.

Historic Ellicott City Inc. also has an outstanding $75,000 no-interest loan from Baltimore County that was used to refurbish the 203-year-old building, Ms. White said.

Mr. Wagandt, chairman of the George Ellicott House Project Committee, said the group expected to find a tenant by August 1991. When it failed to find someone, it could not make the $3,950-monthly mortgage payments.

"We're a nonprofit and we don't have any income coming in," said Mr. Wagandt, who owns The Oella Co., a development company that has restored much of the Baltimore County mill town.

Rather than make payments, Historic Ellicott City Inc. offered the state the property deed last year. But the state refused, saying it did not want to accept lender liability.

"We didn't want to become a landlord," Ms. White said.

George Ellicott was the son of Andrew Ellicott, one of three Quaker brothers who founded Ellicott City, then called Ellicott's Mills, in the 1770s.

The house, severely damaged by Hurricane Eloise in 1975, was moved across Frederick Road and out of a flood plain in 1979. It has remained empty since the restoration that converted it two years ago to 4,000 square feet of office space.

"The market for office space is dead," Mr. Wagandt said.

Ms. White said two individuals expressed interest in the 18th-century structure, but had no concrete plans for the mortgage payments.

"We've had only two proposals to purchase the property, but neither one of those had any foundation," Ms. White said.

The House of Ruth, a nonprofit group that provides shelter for battered women, has expressed interest in the building, Ms. White said.

Development loans from the state and Baltimore County limit the use of the building to office space.

"It was presented as being used for office space," Ms. White said. "We couldn't use it for any commercial or residential use."

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