Historic Clocker's Fancy goes to the state, after all

June 23, 1994|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff Writer

After two close calls, state preservationists finally have won their battle to buy Clocker's Fancy, the St. Mary's County estate that may contain the oldest wood-frame residence in Maryland.

Owners of the 19-acre waterfront parcel next to Historic St. Mary's City, the site of Maryland's first capital, agreed yesterday to sell the property to the state for $350,000.

The agreement came after a series of events that included the auction company's chipping in $20,000 to lift the state's $330,000 bid past a last-minute competing bid of $340,000.

Earlier in the year, the sellers rejected a $300,000 offer from the state.

In an effort to get top dollar, they put the property up for auction Saturday.

During the auction, the state had bid $320,000, an offer topped by a $325,000 bid from a St. Mary's County resident. With the consent of the sellers, the auctioneer gave the state until 5 p.m. yesterday to increase its offer.

Earlier yesterday, the Board of Public Works authorized a $330,000 offer for the property plus $32,000 for the agent's commission, for a total outlay of $362,000.

The owners accepted the state's bid, but only after it was supplemented by the $20,000 contribution from the auctioneer, Homestead Auction Co. of Hollywood, Md., to make the total price $350,000.

That exceeded the last-minute $340,000 bid from the third party identified by the auctioneer as Stuart McHenry of Scotland, Md.

Seeing the higher bid come in, Homestead's principals "took it upon themselves to increase the state's bid, so the state could have it," said Homestead's secretary Madeline Sandy. "We wanted the state to get it."

The auctioneer reduced its $32,000 commission to $12,000 and applied the difference to the state's offer.

State officials said they were not consulted about the auctioneers' decision to pad the bid.

"I couldn't be happier," said Carolyn Wentz, assistant secretary for the state's Office of Real Estate. "I don't know how it happened. I just know that I have a paper in my hand saying we are the successful bidder."

The sale agreement marked the end of three years of negotiations between the state preservation officials, who want to restore the house as an exhibit of life in Colonial Maryland, and out-of-town owners Barbara Barrineau and Christine Brandon, who inherited the estate in 1991.

The auctioneer had suggested that the house at Clocker's Fancy dates from the late 1600s, which would make it one of the three oldest buildings in Maryland. State preservationists say it more likely dates from between 1720 and 1750.

Though the exact date is unknown, they say the house ought to be part of the state's open-air history museum, Historic St. Mary's City.

Clocker's Fancy, which is about half a mile from the museum's visitors' center, is named after its first owner, Daniel Clocker. The carpenter came to Maryland in 1636 as an indentured servant of Thomas Cornwallis, one of the three most important investors in early Maryland.

The Clocker family held onto the land for seven generations, until 1877.

Funds for the purchase are coming from Program Open Space, a project of the Department of Natural Resources.

Several individuals volunteered to donate money to help the state buy the property.

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