River properties sell for $1.5 million Mansion, house next door are auctioned

November 05, 1997|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

SEVERNA PARK -- A Cooksville man became the new owner of an historic mansion on the Severn River and a newer house next door yesterday for just over $1.5 million in an absolute auction.

Signaling high hopes that the large, lavish Wroxeter-on-Severn would bring a price as distinguished as the mansion, auctioneer Eddie Haynes opened the bidding at $5 million -- which none of the seven registered bidders was willing to pay.

So Haynes quickly walked the asking price down, $1 million at a time -- ending up finally at $1.1 million. Bidder Robert P. King of Cooksville raised it to $1.2 million, where it languished despite the best efforts of the auctioneer and the high hopes of the seller.

The new owner declined to speak to reporters after the auction. Seller Jim Bowersox, a businessman who bought the mansion five years ago and restored it, was clearly disappointed.

"This is the best bargain on the river," Bowersox said after the sale. He had listed it for $3 million and hoped it would bring more than that yesterday.

William Bone, president of the Alabama-based National Auction Group Inc., which handled the sale, was also puzzled by the sluggish bidding and the final price. "We had three bidders on the lot and seven on the house," he said after the sale.

The final price for the 10-bedroom, Normandy-style mansion was $1.2 million. The adjoining lot, which had a smaller, newer house on it, was also purchased by King for $265,000. The final price for the two properties, with the auctioneer's 7.5 percent fee included, came to $1.575 million, Bone said.

Built by a wealthy Florida businessman in 1909 as a copy of a French chateau, it changed hands in the 1930s and became an inn called Rugby Hall.

But the inn suffered hard times in the 1940s, according to Bowersox, and the owners sold off much of the property's original 500 acres in an unsuccessful effort to stay in business.

After World War II, a retired military man bought it, renamed it Wroxeter-on-Severn and turned it into a boys' school that stayed open for 30 years.

In 1979, the school closed and the mansion changed hands several times, becoming increasingly more rundown and dilapidated until Bowersox bought it in 1992.

Pub Date: 11/05/97

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