Arundel purchases 12.5 acres around Hancock's Resolution Developers agree to sell lots on sides of homestead

house to become museum

October 22, 1998|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County purchased 12.5 acres of forested land around an 18th-century homestead near Bayside Beach yesterday, providing a buffer from developers and signaling the county's commitment to turn the once-forgotten estate into a park and museum.

The county will pay developers of the nearby Hickory Point subdivision, who own the land, $650,000 for two lots next to the Bayside Beach Road homestead known as Hancock's Resolution.

Historians are unsure what 18th-century owner William Hancock resolved, but they can say with certainty that the home is rare, tangible evidence of the 18th-century life of Native Americans and the county's first settlers.

"In the past year and a half, we have made astronomical strides that this valuable piece of history will not fall to ruin," said Carolyn Roeding, vice president of the Friends of Hancock's Resolution, which rallied community and county support for the project. "It just gives you goose bumps to see how everyone has fallen in love with this farmhouse and worked to preserve it."

For decades, the stone house sat largely vacant and forgotten. Then, more than a year ago, several neighbors, led by Jim Morrison, president of the Friends group, stumbled upon it and realized they had a stake in the property.

Owned by the Historic Annapolis Foundation since Harry Hancock willed the house and 14 acres to the group in 1962, the foundation leased the property to the county for 25 years nine years ago on condition that officials involved local residents in deciding its future.

Budget cuts kept the county from acting on the lease, and the property on Bodkin Creek was forgotten.

Historic Annapolis Foundation also did little with the site during its tenure, largely because the cost of repairs was too high. The property was kept secret, hidden behind a wall of weeds to protect it from vandals.

Since the new efforts began, supporters, county officials and historians have pulled together to repair a leaking roof and perform an archaeological dig that found the remnants of a centuries-old kitchen and shipping dock, along with artifacts such as old pipes.

County Executive John G. Gary included $50,000 for Hancock's Resolution in the county budget last year and allotted $300,000 this year.

Gary said yesterday that he wants the site renovated for guided tours and school field trips.

"The minute he saw this house, he knew it was something he wanted to make available for citizens, whether they be tourists, residents or schoolchildren," said Lisa Ritter, Gary's spokeswoman.

Though the visitors center won't be in place, county officials hope the site will be ready for visitors by March to celebrate the county's 350th anniversary. A couple of decades after the county established its charter, the first Hancocks were settling in.

Historians say the house was used as a signaling post during the War of 1812.

The house has never had electricity or plumbing, or a road to leading up to it. Its doorways are about 5 feet high, and its closets are 6 inches deep.

"You can read about this stuff in history books, but when you touch it, it makes it real," Ritter said. "It's a truly unique site."

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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