Board OKs addition for historic farmhouse

Some oppose changes at Balto. County site

October 13, 1999|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,SUN STAFF

A top executive at T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. has been given permission to restore one of the oldest and most prominent farms in Baltimore County, despite fears by some that changes to the farm's stone house will destroy its historic character.

James S. Riepe, the investment company's vice chairman, and his wife, Gail, are hoping to turn the 200-year-old Conclusion Farm into their home and a horse farm.

They are building a 7,000-foot addition -- which includes a garage -- onto the 5,000-square-foot house and propose transforming an icehouse on the property into an office and studio. Other buildings on the Western Run Valley property, including a 19th-century barn, are being restored.

Yesterday -- in the latest chapter in a long-running dispute over the property -- a divided county Board of Appeals agreed to let the work continue, although the board's chairman argued the large addition would detract from the historic features of the home.

"This particular farm is of tremendous historic significance in the history of Baltimore County," said Board Chairman Charles L. Marks.

The property was owned by the Bosley family for 200 years, until the Bosleys were ordered by a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge to sell it several years ago after a family feud. That order is being challenged.

Yesterday, pointing to a drawing that shows the proposed addition, Marks said, "I see a house that is considerably different than the house that put it on the Landmarks Preservation Commission list to start with."

But board members Lawrence M. Stahl and Thomas P. Melvin argued that historic structures often must be adapted to modern uses. "I think they're keeping with the flavor of the historic site," said Melvin.

The Riepes' lawyer, James W. Constable, who once headed the county's Landmarks Preservation Commission, said the Riepes intend to turn Conclusion Farm into a showplace.

"This will come down to one of the greatest restoration projects in Baltimore County," he said. "The county is going to be very proud of it."

But Kenneth T. Bosley, one of the farm's previous owners, who challenged the work the Riepes are doing, said he would appeal the board's decision to Baltimore County Circuit Court, adding a layer of litigation in the case.

The original dispute over the ownership of the land in the 1200 block of Gerber Lane -- which started within the Bosley family in 1986 -- is pending in Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Yesterday, although board members disagreed about the restoration work the Riepes are doing, they were unanimous on the importance of the farm, where famed Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury preached a sermon at a meeting house in 1808.

In 1995, after the Bosleys were ordered to sell the farm, the Riepes -- who lived nearby -- and other neighbors bought the property to assure it would not be developed. The Riepes bought out their neighbors and sold the development rights on the farm to the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation program.

They hired Walter Schamu, of Baltimore, and John D. Milner, of West Chester, Pa., both experienced in historic preservation, to restore the buildings on the farm and build the addition.

Last year, a divided Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed to the renovation plans, although several members dissented, saying the addition to the house was too large.

"There's no question this is not a slam dunk," Marks said yesterday.

On the one hand, he said, the Riepes are restoring one of the most important farms in Baltimore County. But on the other hand, he said, the addition could dwarf the original house.

"Until you see the final product, you often don't know," said Kimberly Abe, administrative secretary to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Pub Date: 10/13/99

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