Forgotten treasure unveiled on campus

Springhouse: A couple of Goucher students have turned a simple discovery during psychology class into a campuswide project in historical restoration.

May 15, 1999|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

As another year of college wraps up, most students take with them memories of wild parties and last-minute study sessions. But Kevin Quinn and John Gasparine are heading home with a little more than that.

This spring, the two Goucher College sophomores stumbled onto a forgotten historic landmark hidden among the brambles, shrubs and trees of their 300-acre campus in the middle of Towson.

Working on their own time with no promise of college credit, the young men and several volunteers have hauled stones, shoveled dirt, rebuilt walls and installed drainage pipes in a small stone house used to refrigerate milk and food for the 18th-century Epsom Plantation, a wooded area where Goucher now sits.

"It's a beautiful house," said Quinn, 19, a political science major from Silver Spring who noticed the all-but-hidden rooftop of the springhouse in March as he daydreamed in his psychology class and stared out the window.

"Nobody knew what kind of secrets this campus holds for us," he said. "We don't think we're do-gooders or anything. We just wanted to let people know it's here, just so people can enjoy it."

Gasparine, 19, a biology major, said, "Instead of being typical students, sitting in our dorm room, watching football games and playing `Madden 99,' we're out here in the sun, digging up the earth and restoring something cool. It's been a lot of fun."

The springhouse was restored in the 1970s and dedicated to Professor Walter M. Morris, who used to enjoy walks in the area with his wife. But it was allowed to deteriorate again.

The latest restoration began with careful research.

Although the springhouse was probably built in the 1700s, it first appeared on an 1877 map that included the Epsom Planation, a major Baltimore County estate.

Established by John Robert Holliday, an officer in the Revolutionary War, Epsom was closely connected to Hampton Mansion on the next hill north, according to a report prepared for the Maryland Historical Trust.

The house, one of two on the estate, was built on top of springs so that water could flow through both sides and cool the milk and food stored inside. With a badly neglected lime kiln, it is among a handful of remnants of that time, said R. Kent Lancaster, professor emeritus of history at Goucher.

The estate's once-grand mansion succumbed to fire in 1894.

"They're part of the past, and as civilization is creeping out, the more bits and pieces you can save, the better," Lancaster said.

In April, Quinn and Gasparine did just that.

They received a $2,000 grant from Goucher's Strategic Planning Committee, which gives money to student and faculty projects that enhance the campus image. Then they armed themselves with axes, shovels, clippers, saws, rakes and hammers to clean up the site, which was overgrown with weeds, ivy, grass and fallen tree limbs. Only the top of the wooden roof could be seen beneath the debris.

Then they enlisted an army of student and faculty volunteers via e-mail.

"A lot of people didn't think students would have the true commitment to follow through with this job," said Jennifer Ellsworth, 19, a sophomore dance and women's studies major who volunteered for the job. "But we've shown people that we have."

Working to the sounds of Steppenwolf and clad in old jeans, sweat shirts, gloves and safety goggles, the crew initially put in three or four days a week.

Professors and visitors who happened by the site watched as the would-be preservationists installed drainage pipes to keep the grounds from flooding. They replaced stones that had fallen from walls and loaded dirt into a wheelbarrow to prepare the springhouse patio for new slate.

"I went down and was just tickled to death with what they were doing," Lancaster said. "All the time you hear about youth and all its problems, and here these guys are champing down on a huge problem without any promise of grades, publicity or anything."

As most Goucher students packed up to go home this week, Gasparine and Quinn squeezed in a few hours a day between studying and exams to finish the project. All that will remain to be done when they return in the fall is patching the roof and planting flowers in the field nearby. The aim is to start a new tradition, the two young men said.

"We found out that people used to come down here for picnics and walks," Quinn said. "It's a shame that the school basically let it go for years. This place was just awful, but we've come a long way. Now we want to do something special with it."

That could mean a tiny museum in the springhouse where pottery, old milk jugs, glass bottles and broken china found during the cleanup might be displayed. It could also mean opening the site up for study and research in a new historic preservation class.

Quinn and Gasparine also would like to hold an annual barbecue and boccie tournament on the grounds.

Their work has just begun, Gasparine said. Next semester, they might tackle the restoration of the lime kiln.

Pub Date: 5/15/99

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