Historic farmhouse may get needed work State, private residents vie to buy, restore Todd's Inheritance

February 17, 1997|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,SUN STAFF

Burned by British soldiers retreating from the Battle of North Point in 1814, the Todd's Inheritance farmhouse was rebuilt by 1816 and remained for decades the heart of one of Baltimore County's oldest and most historic farms.

But the white-painted brick house with its clapboard addition has been vacant and deteriorating for 10 years, as the labor and cost of restoration overwhelmed its once-enthusiastic owner, Elmer H. Cook Jr., 54, a teacher who died in September.

Now, the 180-year-old, three-story dwelling may be returned to its original appearance as the state and private residents vie to buy and restore it -- a project that could cost nearly $500,000.

With Cook's death, his mother Elva, 76, who operates the family hardware and collectibles store nearby on North Point Road, has put the house and the 4.5 acres remaining of the once-vast farm on the market with an asking price of $295,000.

Already, historic preservation groups have been petitioning the state to buy the property for its resident-curator program.

Eleanor Lukanich, president of the Dundalk-Patapsco Neck Historical Society, said state acquisition of Todd's Inheritance would "round out the package" that includes Fort Howard Park, North Point State Park and the Black Marsh Wildlife Refuge.

Prospective curators or buyers are willing to undertake the restoration, through the state program or privately, said William J. Mayer, the real estate agent handling the listing.

Mayer said two groups have told him they would establish foundations to finance the restoration under a curatorship if the state purchases the property. The house needs extensive structural and cosmetic repairs and modernization, said Ross Kimmel, director of the curatorship program.

Elva Cook said she prefers state purchase of Todd's Inheritance -- which includes a family cemetery to which the Todds have access -- and restoration through the state's curatorship program for historic buildings.

"That's what my son would have wanted," said Elva Cook, recalling her son's extensive research on the farm, which was an 1,150-acre tract when the Todd family bought it in 1664. But she will not make a decision pending two independent appraisals for the state, due by mid-March, and an offer.

Kimmel said he would like to have a curator nominee by then. Curators live rent-free on a property but must pay for restoration -- estimated at more than $200,000 for Todd's Inheritance -- and have no equity in the property.

In the case of Todd's Inheritance, location truly is everything. It is on the waterfront at the head of Shallow Creek, where, from the windows of the original house, Thomas Todd spotted the British landing and rode to warn Baltimore's defenders.

In retaliation for the warning, the British burned Todd's house. Rebuilt in 1816, apparently on the old foundation, the house was extensively remodeled in 1867.

Cook bought the house and surrounding small acreage in the early 1970s. He petitioned for and received inclusion for the property in the National Register of Historic Places and the Baltimore County Historic Landmarks list.

Pub Date: 2/17/97

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