Gift will let school expand without moving Pumphrey heiress gives 5 acres for Solley Road Elementary PASADENA

April 23, 1993|By John A. Morris | John A. Morris,Staff Writer

Neither she nor her children attended classes there. But when the Solley community was in danger of losing its elementary school, Jane Pumphrey Ness intervened.

A descendant of the Pumphrey family, which has owned large swaths of Anne Arundel County since the 17th century, Mrs. Ness donated 5 acres last month for the Board of Education to use in building a new Solley Road Elementary School for $10 million.

Without the land, school officials would have been forced to build the replacement school elsewhere, said County Councilman Carl G. "Dutch" Holland, a Pasadena Republican. "It was a nice gesture on her part," he said.

Mrs. Ness, 63, was born and reared at Eagles Hill, a farm at the point of Broad Creek, a tributary of the Magothy River. But that was not the only property her family owned in Anne Arundel County.

Sailing from England, her descendants settled along Curtis Creek in the 1660s. The Pumphrey family owned large farms, but after World War I, improved roads and refrigerator trucks spelled the end of agriculture in northern Anne Arundel, Mrs. Ness said.

With cheaper produce being trucked in from the South, Mrs. Ness' father cashed in on the proximity of Baltimore to the county's sandy beaches. Among his real estate ventures were Riviera Beach and Winchester-on-the-Severn.

Mrs. Ness was only a girl, spending summers on the Pumphreys' various farms and attending private schools in Baltimore. But, she remembered, "when my father was developing Riviera Beach, there was still a wharf at the point of Stony Creek where the farmers brought their produce, because that's how they got it to market."

As she grew up, Mrs. Ness was more interested in television news than real estate, going to work in the early 1960s with WJZ-TV in Baltimore. Eventually, her work took her around the world and back -- back to real estate, that is.

Since the mid-1970s, she has been preoccupied with managing the family's holdings, including a large tract on Marley Neck that the Pumphreys acquired sometime earlier from another prominent Anne Arundel family, the Solleys.

"It's an unusual area, Marley," Mrs. Ness said. "It's sort of like the orphan of Anne Arundel County."

Despite its nearness to Baltimore, her tract remains largely wooded, and "it's not for a lack of trying to develop it," she said.

Bounded to the north by heavy industry, the Marley-Solley area's needs are many, she said. Solley Road is narrow and substandard. Solley Elementary, which houses only 150 pupils, must be replaced.

The school on the donated land, which is to be completed in 1995 and will house up to 600 pupils, will help reduce crowding at Solley, Sunset and High Point elementary schools. The 56-year-old Solley school, incidentally, is built on 10 acres donated by the Solley family.

Over the course of years, Mrs. Ness, a member of the Solley Civic Association, has grown fond of the close-knit community.

"That little community is practically surrounded by me, so I've been interested in Solley for some time," she said. "I spend a lot of time trying to make it stay viable. Having a school in there is a big plus. The people there don't want it to disappear."

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