Site picked to rebuild Samuel Owings House Developer favors St. Thomas Lane

October 30, 1997|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

After months of delay, the developer who angered preservationists by razing the 18th-century Samuel Owings House plans to rebuild it near the future site of a Jewish day school in Owings Mills, Baltimore County government officials said yesterday.

Developer Howard Brown would rebuild the house on part of a 15-acre parcel on St. Thomas Lane, where the Torah Institute plans a school, the officials said. The site is within a mile of the house's original Owings Mills location -- and within a half mile of St. Thomas' Church, where Samuel Owings is buried.

"I believe it will happen," said T. Bryan McIntire, the Republican county councilman who represents the area. McIntire, who said he has been kept apprised of the plans, added: "It's a viable place for it to be, and it's a viable addition for the Torah school."

Michael H. Davis, spokesman for County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, also said that Brown has stated his intention to rebuild the house at the site.

"He's been seriously looking at sites, and I think this is the most serious it's been," Davis said. "We're hopeful it will get done."

Rebuilding the house, one of the county's oldest, could defuse a controversy.

In 1995, Brown submitted plans to raze the building to make way for a nine-story, $20 million office tower. The county's Landmark Preservation Commission responded by placing the house -- built in 1767 by the mill owner for whom Owings Mills is named -- on a preliminary list of protected landmarks.

Ruppersberger, looking for a way to preserve the house while getting the economic development benefit from the office building, did not forward the landmark commission's recommendation to the County Council for approval. Instead, he shook hands with Brown on a deal allowing the developer to raze the house and rebuild it elsewhere.

On Feb. 29, 1996, hours before a judge was scheduled to consider a last-ditch attempt to halt the demolition, a front-end loader pushed down the walls of the house, leaving piles of bricks, some intact, some crushed.

Incensed preservationists have been skeptical that Brown would rebuild the house.

Word that Brown might be moving closer to fulfilling his pledge to rebuild the Owings House was welcomed by Vicki L. Almond, a member of a group that tried to save it from demolition. Almond remains skeptical that much of the original house can be rebuilt. Still, she said the choice of location was an inspired one.

"It's a perfect spot," she said. "It's in Owings Mills. It won't be tucked away somewhere where no one will ever see it.

"It's right in between where he's buried and where he lived," she said. "It all kind of fits together."

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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