Historic home of Commodore Joshua Barney for sale

March 07, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Five years after a fire nearly destroyed the Commodore Joshua Barney House, its owner is trying to sell the 4,500-square-foot historic home.

Bob Skaggs, who bought the property on Valentine's Day in 1975 and has been restoring it since the 1992 fire, said he and his wife Wava can no longer care for the 185-year-old home that sits on almost seven acres on Savage-Guilford Road in Savage.

"We can't keep this up," said Skaggs, 74. "It's time to put it back together as best as we can and let someone else take care of it."

Skaggs, who is living in Florida, said emphysema makes it impossible for him to bear the dust caused by yard and house work.

The three-story brick and wood structure was built by Barney, a prominent naval commander of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, on a 300-acre tract in 1812.

Barney, who commanded a flotilla in the Chesapeake Bay against the British during the War of 1812, was among the U.S. forces that took the last stand against the British during the Battle of Bladensburg in 1814.

The Baltimore native, who lived from 1759 to 1818, lived in the house with his wife, Harriet, for six years. Several additions have been built -- most recently in 1946 by Margaret Cahall, who ran a boarding school in the house from 1944 to 1950.

After studying the house's history, Skaggs got it placed on the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 25, 1978. To further ensure preservation of the home, Skaggs gave the development rights to the state that same year.

On March 17, 1992, embers from burning leaves and twigs landed on the roof and started a fire that gutted the house, said David Bowlin of Bowlin Painting & Home Improvements, who has been working on the restoration for two years.

The blaze raced through two third-floor rooms and burned most of the ceilings and walls of the second-floor rooms, Bowlin said. A new bedroom and bathroom have been built on the third floor, and the walls and ceilings of the second-floor rooms were replastered and retrimmed.

Bowlin also added custom-built colonial doors, a staircase from the ground floor to the second floor and an apartment in the basement.

Bowlin, who estimates that he has worked on the house for 4,000 hours, said the restoration could be completed as early as next month.

Skaggs, who has spent more than $300,000 restoring the house, said putting it on the market was not an easy decision.

"It was quite a job when we came to the realization that we had to sell it," he said. "We hope that it will go into the hands of people who have some feeling for the history of this country."

Pub Date: 3/07/97

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