Oella's newest restoration: an outhouse

May 11, 1994|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Sun Staff Writer

It's billed as "The World's Smallest Real Estate Office," a converted outhouse in the historic Baltimore County mill town of Oella that will dispense information for Charles L. Wagandt's Oella Co.

"It's a very commodious single-seater," joked Mr. Wagandt, president of the company, which sells homes in the old mill village for $80,000 to $500,000.

Yesterday, he presided over a ribbon-cutting in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Oella's restoration.

While an outhouse-office might be a bizarre gimmick elsewhere, it's an apt image in the case of Oella, a 19th-century textile mill town across the Patapsco River from Ellicott City that only got indoor plumbing in 1984.

"It seemed particularly appropriate to me how old buildings can be recycled into new use," Mr. Wagandt said.

The 4-foot by 4-foot structure is situated among red geraniums and impatiens at Logtown Road and Oella Avenue.

It is equipped with a mobile phone, note paper, brochures on local history and listings of available homes. Mr. Wagandt plans to have it staffed from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. weekends.

Mr. Wagandt, owner of the 90-acre historic village since 1973, has been working on the town's restoration for a decade. He has gradually been selling restored houses in the village. But Mr. Wagandt's latest project -- the outhouse -- drew mixed reactions from other local real estate brokers and agents.

"Everybody's looking for a gimmick," said Ted Coates, real estate broker and owner of Century 21 Associated Real Estate in Randallstown.

Mike Cassell, president of the Real Estate Brokers of Baltimore, said that, contrary to Mr. Wagandt's claims, the restored outhouse is not a full-fledged real estate office.

"It's basically a booth," Mr. Cassell said. At a real estate office, "You come sit down and get listings, not just be handed some brochures."

The 50-year-old outhouse previously was located on the property of Oella resident Mabel Moore on Pleasant Hill Road.

Oella Co. employees cleaned, repaired and painted the outhouse, including the image of a half-moon on the door and the pictures of "strange and wondrous flowers" on the structure's rear wall, Mr. Wagandt said.

Mrs. Moore, 87, yesterday cut the red ribbon across the outhouse door.

People should look upon the outhouse with a sense of humor, Mr. Wagandt said. "It's fun."

But if you require the services of an actual restroom, he noted, you'll have to use the one in the Oella Co.'s conventional sales office, in a house under restoration across the street.

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