Howard policymakers discover Columbia's hidden history

May 09, 2002|By Jamie Smith Hopkins | Jamie Smith Hopkins,SUN STAFF

Hidden as it is in an out-of-the-way part of Columbia, the Woodlawn Slave Quarters usually gets few visitors.

Yesterday was extremely unusual.

For 20 minutes, two delegates, a state senator, Columbia Association's president and more than 40 other people walked around the stone ruins - after visiting an aging Roman Catholic church and before going to a 300-acre farm sometimes called Columbia's jewel.

In a display of political savvy, Preservation Howard County teamed up with Howard County Tourism to take policymakers face to face with deteriorating historic treasures tucked off local roads and with people hoping to do something about their conditions.

The tour coincided with the release of Preservation Howard County's second annual list of endangered historic sites. A few of the buildings have been in county government hands for years, decaying while funding plans get delayed.

Preservation Howard County President Mary Catherine Cochran hopes that politicians who touched the structures yesterday will be more likely to champion them - and other relics of history - when it counts.

"It makes it real for them," she said, looking at the tourists chatting in a 55-seat bus. "It's nice for them to know what's in their immediate back yards so when we come to them with a problem, they can be better prepared to help us create a solution."

Disregarding poison ivy growing around the slave quarters, architectural historian Alice Morrison Mordoh walked around the roofless structure and excitedly tried to figure out where the fireplace had been.

"Well, I'm going to look at it," promised Mordoh, who works for the county.

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