For sale for $500: 1 mansion, needs work Aigburth Vale put on the block

August 16, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

Wanted: Buyers for a rundown Towson mansion.

After months of fine-tuning the purchase requirements, Baltimore County is accepting proposals for Aigburth Vale, the once-grand villa that deteriorated after the school system took over the building in 1950.

The asking price is $500.

The county would like to see the building on 3.3 acres near Towson High School go to an individual, organization or corporation that will restore the estate -- an historic property -- to its former glory.

And that's the catch. Renovations could cost almost $1 million, and one estimate has been as high as $2 million.

"It's always rewarding to see one of our landmarks go into adaptive reuse," said Ruth Mascari, chairwoman of the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission. "We'll be happy to help anybody with advice."

Aigburth was the 22-room home of John Owens, one of the 19th century's most renowned comedic actors. Built in 1868, the French-style mansion was designed by two prominent Baltimore architects, John Rudolph Niernsee and James Crawford Neilson.

After Owens' death, his wife lost the estate. In time, the mansion was converted into a summer boarding home and then a sanitarium until the school system took it over.

Over the years, the grounds and buildings -- which also include a gatehouse -- deteriorated. The green mansard roof leaks, ceilings are caving in, exterior boards are falling off and the paint is largely chipped away.

In January, Towson Republican Councilman Douglas B. Riley led the charge to save the building from further damage. His efforts resulted in the school system turning over the property to the county to be sold.

At a June meeting on the Aigburth property, he said, "One thing is certain: Baltimore County would like to be rid of it."

The cost estimate on renovations has not deterred interest in the landmark.

"I don't think it's so bad. That building is pretty sound," said Linda Kohler, founder and executive director of Baltimore-based Students Sharing Coalition, a nonprofit organization that provides learning experiences for youth, such as volunteer programs.

Kohler, a Stoneleigh resident, would like to see the mansion become a hub for young people. "I see it as a real click for youth," she said, adding she would be willing to collaborate with other groups to achieve her goal.

Other ideas for the mansion include a women's conference center, a family retreat center, a bed and breakfast, and an assisted living facility.

"We're very open to any possibility that seems appropriate to the property," said Judith Giacomo, president of the Aigburth Manor Community Association. "We're all anxious to have a tenant."

A copy of the seven-page "request for proposal" document, which became available this week, can be obtained by calling the county Bureau of Land Acquisition at 887-3294.

Proposals must be received by Nov. 27.

Pub Date: 8/16/96

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