Historical society set to celebrate purchase of 2 historic buildings

Use of Bond House, Cockey's Tavern slated for facility expansion

January 19, 2001|By Jamie Manfuso | Jamie Manfuso,SUN STAFF

The Historical Society of Carroll County will celebrate its recent acquisitions of two historic buildings today as it wishes the county a happy 164th birthday.

Those acquisitions - Bond House and Cockey's Tavern, both on Main Street in Westminster - were purchased in late November for $475,000.

The society will use the space, about 10,000 square feet, to expand its research library, public programs, collections storage, and offices for members and volunteers.

Its current facilities are "bulging at the seams," said Catherine Baty, curator of collections for the society.

Today, both buildings show the marks of their last tenants. The interior of Cockey's Tavern, at 216 E. Main St., is covered with a thin veneer of soot from a fire that damaged the restaurant in March. Bond House, at 202 E. Main St., was a rental property and shows signs of neglect. The society is giving the buildings a full architectural assessment before it begins renovations.

"We need basic baseline information on the history of the property before we can make decisions of how to use it," said historical society director Jay Graybeal.

Cockey's Tavern, also known as Willis-Boyle House, was a center of Westminster social and political life for about two centuries.

Local historians have placed the construction date of the building at 1790. They also say it was used in 1837 as a Circuit Court while the courthouse was being built. But the information has been hard to verify.

"There's an awful lot about both of these properties that we do not know," said Ken Short, an architectural historian working with the society to assess the buildings.

The house possesses perhaps more legend than solid history. Past owners claim the building housed Confederate and Union soldiers. It was also said to be the site of high-stakes poker games in which players wagered their farms and herds of cattle.

For 40 years until 1969, the property was Hoffman's Inn, a restaurant, boardinghouse and meeting place for civic associations.

Bond House was built in the 1870s by prominent Westminster lawyer James A.C. Bond.

Early assessments of the property describe the interior enhanced by the stuffed heads of wild game and mahogany and rosewood furniture.

"It was a showplace. It was really a gorgeous house," Baty said. Much of the architecturally significant aspects of the house are intact.

"There's enough good material left that the house will look stunning" after it's refurbished, Baty said.

The event, at 4 p.m. today at Wilhelm Ltd. Caterers on Route 140 in Westminster, is free and open to the public.

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