Some folks have no choice but to live in a mansion For UM chancellor, it's Hidden Waters

Dream Home

February 04, 1996|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

The Dream Home feature will periodically visit the homes of notable citizens.

Not too many people can say a dream house came with their job.

However, for the chancellor of the University of Maryland System, living at Hidden Waters, a three-story brick mansion on 120 acres in Baltimore County, is a condition of employment.

In 1988, shortly after Donald N. Langenberg took the position as chancellor, the Board of Regents decided that the chancellor should live there. The board leased the property from the University of Maryland Foundation, a private, not-for-profit that manages gifts to the university.

Not that living in the mansion built in 1936 by Jacob France, a prominent attorney and Baltimore banker, is exactly a chore.

"However, the principal purpose of the mansion is to serve as a place in which University of Maryland System institutions may cultivate friends," said Mr. Langenberg. "For example, one of the institutions may want to hold a reception for alumni and members of the business community. The house is available for that purpose."

That makes Mr. Langenberg and his wife of 42 years, Pat, full-time university hosts who generally entertain visiting dignitaries, government officials or Maryland's business and community leaders at least twice a month.

"Sometimes we're not here because we're not available, but generally we are because we represent the university. It's part of the job," said Mr. Langenberg.

The foyer features a dramatic staircase, patterned after the Gracie Mansion in New York City, lighted by a Palladian window at the top. Guests are greeted with enormous floral arrangements, statues and portraits.

Following Maryland Colonial design, the house is divided by east and west wings and a two-story north wing. The west wing houses the formal living room, which was redecorated in 1994, and a meeting room that was once Mr. France's office, featuring a large wood table and chairs, built-in book shelves and a fireplace. Wildlife paintings and burnt orange and earth tones set the informal tone.

Also in the west wing is a small sitting room -- once the music room of the estate -- and the library which is distinguished by faux-wood finished walls and a collection of Mr. France's books on Maryland history.

In the east wing, the dining room features an expandable cherry wood table that can seat 26 guests. Its tan walls trimmed in cream chair railing, highlight Mrs. France's china collection and silver pieces and emphasize the delicate crystal chandelier.

"There's something about this room that I really like -- the expansive seating, the alcoves. It's very beautiful," says Mrs. Langenberg, who is a member of the faculty of the University of Maryland at Baltimore.

Mr. Langenberg says the dining room is his favorite room, too. "To a considerable extent, my life revolves around food and friends. The dining room is where those two often come together."

Beyond the formal dining room and a smaller family dining area is a sunken breakfast room which looks onto the boxwood gardens. The morning sun streaming through the lace sheers that shade the windows and patio door make it the ideal room for breakfast meetings, teas, and early-afternoon luncheons.

Of course, with their busy schedules, the Langenbergs don't have much time for leisurely, formal meals. They most often use a small room for dining that adjoins the butler's pantry and caterer's kitchen, the most modern-looking room in the mansion which features four ovens, two dishwashers, three refrigerators and two large sinks.

A rear door gives access to a brick-enclosed kitchen garden of herbs, vegetables and flowers.

The upper floor contains seven bedrooms, including the private living quarters for the chancellor and his family -- a space that the Langenbergs treasure.

"It's a little like living in the attic of the Walters Art Gallery," says Mr. Langenberg. "[The first floor] is not a place I'd feel comfortable leaving a newspaper lying around."

When they really want to be at home -- "put up our feet and feel truly comfy," he says -- they head down to their country house on six acres in Queenstown. Its comfortable, informal setting was designed to attract their four children and three grandchildren.

"It's relatively impervious to wear and tear," said Mrs. Langenberg, smiling.

Mr. Langenberg says they are getting used to their current stately surroundings, though. For example, he has made a routine of wandering the grounds and keeping up with the Carroll County farmer who maintains the three fields.

"I really like this house. I couldn't afford it. Even if I could, I wouldn't build it exactly like this," says the chancellor, who prefers a more rustic design. "But it's a splendid place. We're always proud to have people here."

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