Save this simple structure

Schmuck House: A remnant of the town's earliest settlement deserves landmark designation.

June 30, 2000

IT'S A miracle the 170-year-old, dun-colored stone building wasn't torn down years ago. All of its neighbors were.

The sturdy, two-story, 30-foot wide structure, located on York Road about 100 yards north of the new traffic circle, houses a bridal shop. The irony is that the neighboring filling station and fast-food restaurant -- two prototypical 20th-century buildings -- are vacant and, therefore, more likely candidates for demolition.

For surviving the vicissitudes of two centuries, the building -- known as the Schmuck House -- deserves to be on the Baltimore County's list of landmarks. Built between 1831 and 1840, it is also one of the last structures from Towson's earliest days.

The building stands on land that Ezekiel Towson inherited around 1772. It is thought that the land then passed to Solomon Schmuck, who is believed to have married Catherine Towson -- one of Ezekiel's 12 children. Mr. Schmuck built the house.

The building is on the preliminary list of county landmarks. If it receives final designation, it cannot be demolished and the county's Landmark Preservation Commission would have to approve any exterior changes.

The owners don't want such restrictions, fearing they will hinder the ability to develop the property and reduce its value. In reality, developers receive generous state and federal tax credits for preserving historic buildings.

Instead of razing the Schmuck House, it could be the focal point for an attractive pedestrian-oriented development that would link this block to rest of Towson's commercial district.

The Schmuck House may be a simple stone building, but it has genuine links to the past. It should be saved.

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