$1.4 million bid is rejected for Rainbow Hall mansion

Property still up for sale after auction fails to get figure owners wanted

October 12, 2001|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

A 1917 Baltimore County mansion that was once the home of Gen. Douglas MacArthur remains for sale after owners rejected a $1.4 million auction bid yesterday.

Three groups registered to bid on the Irish-Georgian-style mansion, which sits on 19 acres at 10700 Park Heights Ave. in Green Spring Valley. Known as Rainbow Hall, the property was the Baptist Home of Maryland/Delaware Inc. nursing home for 38 years.

Bidding started at $1 million, and when the unidentified high bidder raised the bar to $1.4 million with no one exceeding it, the auctioneers temporarily suspended the event.

Members of Alex Cooper Auctioneers Inc. of Towson met with representatives of Baptist Home and the holder of its lien, Allfirst Bank. This year, Baptist Home announced to 43 residents that it would close after defaulting on a $1.6 million loan.

Paul Cooper, vice president of Alex Cooper, returned about 45 minutes later to say the bid was rejected. The parties plan to continue negotiating, he said.

The two other bidders were not willing to go higher, saying the mansion needed too many repairs.

Thomas F. Obrecht, a general partner and bidder for P.F. Obrecht & Son, said the property is "beautiful" but a "challenge."

Stanley Keyser of Keyser Development Corp., which specializes in restoring historic properties, stopped bidding after $1 million. He said the property had suffered "deterioration by neglect."

"I'm disappointed that a homeowner didn't buy it," said Keyser, who offered $1.9 million in June but withdrew the bid. "That's what it should be and remain as is."

About 50 people showed up to watch the auction.

Many, such as Doris Rosson of Catonsville, had ties to Baptist Home. Her husband, J. Garland Rosson Jr., was on the board.

"It's just sad," Rosson said. "It's such a beautiful place."

Cooper, who has auctioned many county historic properties, said Rainbow Hall is "the grand dame" of houses he's seen for two reasons: "The size and the history. You don't have many homes of this grandeur come on the auction block in Green Spring Valley."

The mansion was built in 1917 as financier Edward T. Stotesbury's gift to his stepdaughter, Henriette Louise Cromwell Brooks. Brooks married MacArthur in 1921 and after a posting in the Philippines, the couple settled back in the mansion in 1925. They named the estate Rainbow Hill in honor of MacArthur's command of Rainbow Division in World War I. They divorced in 1929.

Baptist Home bought the property in 1963, changing the name to Rainbow Hall. With crystal chandeliers, marble fireplaces and marble floors, the house was designated a landmark by the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission in June.

Many auction visitors left disappointed that the estate remains in limbo. One was Hugh McCormick, whose great-uncle, Willoughby McCormick, founded Baptist Home in 1920. "It's a shame it didn't work out," he said.

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