Director plans to bring historic Todd House back to life

September 10, 2001|By Joe Nawrozki | Joe Nawrozki,SUN STAFF

On Wednesday, Defenders' Day, the fields and shoreline on the North Point peninsula in Baltimore County will be strangely silent once more.

While extravaganzas celebrating the defeat of the British in the War of 1812 are held at Fort McHenry and other locations in September, rising costs five years ago brought to an end the popular, two-day re-enactments of the Battle of North Point that had been staged for decades.

Enter Audrey Porsche, the new executive director of Todd's Inheritance Historic Site.

"We would like very much that by this time next year, we will revive a great Maryland tradition on North Point and observe Defenders' Day with re-enactors in period dress and a ceremony at the Todd House," said Porsche, who is leading the restoration of Todd's Inheritance.

Porsche recently moved to Maryland from Vermont, where for 12 years she was historic sites administrator for the state Division for Historic Preservation. She managed two Revolutionary War sites and other properties among many other duties.

She said the revitalization of Todd's Inheritance - which is on the National Register of Historic Places - interested her "because the people seem so passionate about this place and the deep history surrounding the property and the event."

The Todd House dates to the 1660s and played a pivotal role in the Battle of North Point. American soldiers used the property as a forward base to watch for the invading British fleet with mounted sentries. The sentries alerted American forces at Baltimore and the town was held. As the defeated invaders marched back to their landing boats, they burned down the Todd House and other outbuildings.

The structure was rebuilt about 1818 and 10 generations of the Todd family lived there until 1975, when the house and 4 acres on which it sits were sold to another family. In 1997, a coalition of local activists, the Friends of Todd's Inheritance, bought the house. The group obtained public and private funding to rescue the dilapidated structure, which had become infested with rodents and had been vandalized.

A porous roof has resulted in major water damage to floor joists, roof timbers and wall studs. Porches and stairwells are fragile, and windows are broken and leaking. Porsche said she will oversee structural stabilization and preservation projects in coordination with architect W. Peter Pearre and construction specialists.

"We currently have $500,000 to begin stabilization and continue archaeological studies," she said.

Among her other priorities are starting an endowment and obtaining nonprofit status for her group. She would also like to raise money to hire staff who would help create a living museum and an outreach program for local schools.

She has set an opening target date toward the end of 2003.

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