David T. Brown, 80, whose company restored many Annapolis landmarks

January 06, 2002|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

David T. Brown, a contractor who changed the face of Annapolis by restoring many of the capital's celebrated historic landmarks, died Tuesday of complications from diabetes and respiratory ailments at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

He was 80 and had been a resident of Charlestown Retirement Community in Catonsville for eight years.

During a long career in which he worked side by side with architects and preservationists, he restored the William Paca House and its garden, the Maryland Inn and King of France Tavern and the Annapolis Market House. He was the founder and former president of Brown Engineering and Construction in Pasadena.

"In the 1960s and 1970s, he was right on the ground floor of the restoration of Annapolis," said Robert Bennett, a Kent Island contractor who trained under Mr. Brown as an apprentice carpenter. "He'd have signs up on his projects - `If it don't fit, don't nail it.' "

"He wasn't a perfectionist, but he continued to strive for the highest levels of excellence," Mr. Bennett said.

Born in Anne Arundel County's Elvaton area, Mr. Brown earned a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering in 1939 from the University of Maryland, College Park.

During World War II he served in the Navy as an ordnance officer and was discharged with the rank of lieutenant.

In the 1940s he was a contractor's superintendent, but he decided to go out on his own after his third child was born.

He bought a truck in 1951, became a general contractor and built custom homes in Anne Arundel. In the 1960s, he started doing work for Anne St. Clair Wright, who headed Historic Annapolis and was the city's preservation leader.

They formed a working friendship and soon he - and his work crews - had jobs throughout the city's historic district, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1965.

He also did new construction, including the Harbor House Restaurant and McGarvey's Tavern, both in downtown Annapolis.

He also restored the Slicer Shiplap House and the John Callahan House, which he moved about a mile from the grounds of St. John's College to Conduit Street.

"He had it wrapped up like a Christmas present, and they rolled it down the street," said his daughter, Therese M. Trainum of Leesburg, Fla.

He also installed period rooms at the Baltimore Museum of Art's American Wing, did restoration on the Mount Clare Mansion in Carroll Park in Southwest Baltimore, the B&O Railroad Station in Ellicott City and the London Town Publik House in Edgewater.

Mr. Brown, who had 10 children, took time to create his own home in Severna Park in 1983. After years of restoring 18th-century properties, he built himself a modern home with large windows and cathedral ceilings.

In his spare time he landscaped his home and maintained over 200 bonsai plants. He also painted in watercolors, was a potter and wrote poetry.

A memorial service was held yesterday.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife of 54 years, the former Anne Marie Dixon; three sons, David F. Brown of Millersville, Brian G. Brown of Brooklyn and Mark T. Brown of Severna Park; six other daughters, Rebecca Thomason of Ypsilanti, Mich., Petra Edwards of Virginia Beach, Va., Julie C. Brown of Virginia Beach, Va., Zoe E. Brown of Ann Arbor, Mich., Miriam Brown of Virginia Beach, Va., and Mary Jo Brown of Baltimore; a sister, Barbara Donnelly of Westminster; 23 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

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