A piece of history goes on the block

Auction: A Carroll County mansion dating to the Revolutionary War is up for sale.

May 21, 2000|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Bloomfield Manor, a gracious home on a tree-covered hill above Sykesville, has been the scene of political gatherings, formal weddings, glittering balls and elegant soirees for three centuries.

One more reception was held at Bloomfield Manor last week, drawing dozens of guests, town officials, historians and a few prospective buyers. The fully restored 4,000-square-foot home, which is on the National Trust for Historic Preservation and was the Great American Home Award Winner in 1995, will be auctioned at 1 p.m. today.

"An auction brings all those ready, willing and able together, people who are ready to make a serious decision," said Ann F. Von Forthuber, an auctioneer experienced with historic properties. "This is a special house. I knew that when I first looked at it."

From its humble beginning as a two-room log cabin, Bloomfield was expanded twice in the 19th century to become a 14-room mansion reflecting the Georgian and Italianate architectural styles popular in those eras.

"This home went from a simplistic log cabin to a Georgian-style manor," said Darcy Lynch, who moved into Bloomfield eight years ago with her husband and three children. "By the time they added the ballroom, it was a mansion."

Prospective buyers must have a certified deposit of $50,000 and be willing to settle on the property within 30 days.

The ballroom's ornate plaster molding has been restored. Lynch has pictures of a matching ceiling medallion but that piece of history was stolen from the home before the restoration began.

Bloomfield history dates to the Revolutionary War era, when it was a minister's log cabin. By the dawn of the 19th century, the home had become the glamorous centerpiece of a bustling town. Years later, during the Civil War, the manor was a gathering place for supporters of the Confederate cause.

"Everything about the house is well-documented," said Lynch, a nutritionist at a Howard County hospital. "You read the history and you find all the pieces to the puzzle. I did all the research, one room at a time. It really became a full-time job."

The Lynches continued the historical effort, filling the home with family heirlooms and decorating it in period styles. A mural on the family room walls shows buildings from 100 years ago, including the first schoolhouse, a Main Street hotel and several churches.

She worked with a stencil artist to create replicas of 19th-century artwork. The hall chandeliers are exact copies of a pair saved from a church built in 1810. The kitchen cabinets are handmade copies of what was available 150 years ago.

When contractors were cleaning the kitchen fireplace, they uncovered original, hand-chiseled stonework. The Lynches use the fireplace to warm their 21st-century modern kitchen, where antique lettering and numbers mark the ceiling beams.

Lynch's research identified many previous owners. The Rev. Benjamin Hood, an itinerant minister who traveled to parishes throughout Western Maryland, purchased the two-room log cabin in the mid-1700s, paying for it with English shillings.

In the early 19th century, James Sykes, an entrepreneur who founded the town along the Patapsco River, expanded Bloomfield, adding two stories of formal rooms and bedrooms. He probably named the manor after the flowering trees that graced the property.

A Civil War officer made the final addition, which includes a ballroom. Through the war years, refined socials held in the house raised money for the Confederate cause. An invitation to one of those parties was discovered 10 years ago under the floorboards.

But the late 20th century saw the decline of the home.

It was converted to rental apartments and eventually abandoned. Vacant and vandalized, Bloomfield seemed on a path to ruin.

When a developer broke ground for a 250-lot subdivision nearby, he donated the mansion and 2.35 acres to the town. An appraiser hired by the town recommended tearing it down.

Jonathan S. Herman, a restoration contractor and Sykesville mayor since 1995, refused to let the home be razed. For a bid of $62,500, Herman and two partners took ownership and began a yearlong restora- tion, adhering to standards set by the Maryland Historic Trust. The partnership sold the home to the Lynches for $382,500.

"This was an elaborate project, but I was fortunate to have the time to work on it," said Herman. "We took our time, aiming painstakingly for excellence. It was a labor of love that I really enjoyed."

Herman found many original pieces to guide him through the work. Exterior siding was repaired and repainted deep beige -- a color determined from paint chips when the wood was completely sanded down. Five covered porches were restored, often from pieces discovered during the work or from matching replacements. One side porch has hooks for awnings that allowed Civil War soldiers to sleep on the porch unbothered by the glare of the morning sun.

Underneath plaster in an upstairs bedroom, workers found measurements for wallpaper dated November 1911. No one painted over the patch.

"It was a very thorough restoration," said Herman. "When we had to repair under the flooring, we removed the floorboards, numbered them and eventually put them back in proper sequence."

"Even with the additions, the house has a great design with a good flow," said Herman. "It also is wonderfully situated, backing up to parkland."

When the Lynches bought the house, the renovators gave them a copy of an antique map of Carroll County, a gift they plan to pass on to the next owner.

Information on the auction: 888-426-0600.

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