Historic Owings House to be relocated, replaced by office tower

February 15, 1996|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

The Samuel Owings House -- one of Baltimore County's oldest -- will be dismantled, moved and rebuilt to make way for a nine-story office tower, under a deal designed to end months of wrangling over the historic property.

The project's developer and County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III "shook hands on it," Michael Davis, a county spokesman, said yesterday.

The two-story, brick Georgian country home was built in 1767 by the mill owner for whom Owings Mills is named. One of about 20 remaining 18th-century homes in Baltimore County, it is owned by Painters Mill Associates (No. 1), a development company that has proposed building a $20 million office tower at the site.

Last summer, the county's Landmarks Preservation Commission placed the house on a preliminary list of protected properties, but Mr. Ruppersberger chose not to submit the recommendation for County Council approval.

Mr. Davis said the executive withheld the recommendation because he was in discussions with Howard Brown, a developer of the project. The spokesman said the executive was won over by the prospect of economic development from an office tower, and by the promise that the house will be rebuilt to more closely resemble its original design.

Real estate broker Henry F. LeBrun said a prospective buyer is negotiating with Mr. Brown over the home, which would be relocated to a 50-acre parcel near Garrison Forest and Caves roads. Mr. LeBrun would not identify the buyer. Mr. Brown did not respond to a request for comment.

Restaurateurs Henry Pertman and Jeff Pressman would lease space in the office tower for a new restaurant. They had bought the bankrupt Fiori restaurant at the Owings House and had assumed the remaining eight years on the lease -- a development that threatened to block plans to move the building.

But when renovation estimates climbed to more than $200,000, the new owners agreed to open the restaurant in the tower, said Mr. Pertman. He said the deal will likely be completed by next week.

He said he had been enthusiastic about opening a restaurant in the house, but came to realize the location was more important than the building. "It's a crossroads to [Owings Mills] New Town, to Reisterstown, to Pikesville."

The house, on a bluff overlooking the intersection of Painters Mill and Dolfield roads, is flanked by a day care center, medical offices and a bank -- a setting that some say tarnished the house's historic flavor.

Still, preservationists are concerned that the house's historic integrity may be lost in the reconstruction. "They keep saying it doesn't belong there, but it was there first," said Vicki L. Almond, a member of the Committee to Save the Samuel Owings House. "It's all that is really left of the old mills that were part of that area."

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