Ellicott House has new owners Descendant buys it for consulting firm

November 01, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

The long-vacant George Ellicott House will be occupied once again -- this time by a descendant of one of its former owners, who will use the house near historic Ellicott City as headquarters for her nationwide occupational health consultant firm.

Patricia McCullough, president of Occu-Health Inc. in Columbia, plans to move the 3-year-old business this December into the house her great-grandparents and her grandmother used to call home.

"It's sort of like I moved away and returned to my roots," said Ms. McCullough who grew up in San Diego, Calif., and now resides in Woodstock.

Ms. McCullough, with her business partner, Dr. William Dooley, bought the building, in Baltimore County just across the Patapsco River from Ellicott City, for $415,000 during a September auction held by state housing officials.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development itself bought the 204-year-old house at auction in June, two years after its former owner, Historic Ellicott City Inc., stopped making payments on two loans totaling $600,000.

The nonprofit historical group had hoped to find a tenant by August 1991 who would have paid off the liens. But when no one could be found, the group could not afford to make payments.

Historic Ellicott City Inc. had an outstanding $400,000 loan from the Community Development Administration, an agency of the state housing department.

The group made more than $2,500 in interest payments on a separate $200,000 loan from the Maryland Historical Trust, which the Ellicott City group used to renovate the house which was severely damaged by a hurricane in 1975.

Another outstanding $75,000 no-interest loan from Baltimore County, which was due only upon sale of the house, was used to stabilize the building and move it out of a flood plain.

Proceeds from the auction will allow the state, Baltimore county, and the Maryland Historical Trust to recoup part of their losses, said CDA Housing Management Director Stephanie White.

"None of us will receive all of the money back but each of us will get money back," Ms. White said.

The state expects to receive the largest chunk of money from the sale, $245,000, while the Maryland Historical Trust gets $124,000 and Baltimore County, $45,000.

Ms. McCullough plans to move 17 Occu-Health, Inc. employees to the house. The company provides a range of health-related and marketing services, including occupational health programs, drug screening, and workers' compensation claims analysis for the federal government, private businesses, and hospitals around the country.

Ms. McCullough's great-grandfather, John Oliver Murphy, his wife, Mary Louise, and their children lived in the 4,000-square-foot, six-room house during the late 1920s to mid-1930s.

A grain foreman at the Frederick Road mill, Mr. Murphy died in 1942 during a routine inspection.

"Every Sunday after church, he would take a tour of the mill," Ms. McCullough said. One Sunday, "he put his head on a conveyor belt, which caught his tie and broke his neck."

But the fatal accident did not deter some of Ms. McCullough's other relatives from working at the mill.

"Great uncles Joe, Pat, Mike and Great Aunt Libby also worked there before and during World War II," Ms. McCullough said.

Ms. McCullough also has a connection with the former Valley View Inn, now The Trolley Stop, at Frederick Road and Oella Avenue.

From 1961 to 1983, her uncle Jack McCullough worked at the tavern, down the street from the George Ellicott House. Patrons used to call him "Rooster," Ms. McCullough said, because "he was just as ornery as a bantam rooster.

"He was in the middle of fights or breaking them up," she said. "It was a rough place."

Ms. McCullough has quieter plans for the neighborhood. She's already thinking about Christmas decorations for the house's interior.

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