Project may jeopardize site's historic designation

October 06, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

An official of a federal preservation group cautioned that a Laurel developer's plan to open a country inn at the 157-year-old Woodlawn Farms in Ellicott City could signal an end to the site's designation on the National Register of Historic Places.

A warning was issued in response to the Howard County Board of Appeals' unanimous approval Thursday night of a special exception by Woodlawn Farms LLC to open a six-bedroom, two-bathroom country inn and a 70-seat restaurant on the 5-acre site off Route 108. The land is zoned for residential use.

Although policy within the National Park Service -- which compiles the National Register of Historic Places -- does not prevent renovations, significant alterations could result in a repeal of the property's designation, said Paul Lusignan, a historian for the register.

"We would be concerned that if the owners of that property do any extensive alterations, it might affect the significance or value of the property," Lusignan said. "We would assume that if they are opening a commercial entity, they would see the value in preserving such a site into something that they will respect and treat well."

Charlie Pogozelski, managing partner of Woodlawn Farms LLC, which has owned the site for about a year, said the company has no plans to interfere with the site's historical nature.

"There is no intention on doing any modifications to the existing structure," Pogozelski said. "But it's my understanding that there are no limitations on what we can do with it."

The county Planning Board had recommended approval of the special exception request July 31.

The original Woodlawn Farms was built in 1840 by a member of the Thomas family, according to a history compiled by the National Register of Historic Places.

The two-story main house with inlaid oak floors and six fireplaces with white marble mantels was designed by Nathan G. Starkweather, who also designed St. Johns Episcopal Church in Ellicott City.

Five other buildings include a smokehouse, an icehouse and a two-story stable.

Woodlawn Farms is also registered with the Maryland Historical Trust and is listed by the Howard County Historical Society as one of the county's 60 most significant landmarks.

William Fralic, president of the historical society, said he could not speak for the organization. He and the society had not heard about the plan.

"But as a private citizen, as far as I'm concerned, I'm against anything that has something to do with destroying an old piece of property," Fralic said. "There are so many places in the county where you can do these things. These folks should know what they ought to do."

Pogozelski said he is excited about opening the inn.

"Now we will go full steam ahead," he said. "We really want to make it a beautiful spot for Howard County."

Pub Date: 10/06/97

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