Ellicott City Quaker house redesign OK'd

Howard group fears plan will hurt preservation

April 21, 2004|By Liz F. Kay | Liz F. Kay,SUN STAFF

Developers can proceed with plans for the 18th-century Friends Meeting House in Ellicott City, Howard County's Historic District Commission has ruled.

The three commissioners of the five-member board who attended the meeting Monday night voted in support of 10 changes, including removing the garage and adding a dormer to the rear of the simple stone structure where the Quaker pioneers who founded the mill town gathered to worship more than two centuries ago.

Although the building, now a residence, has not housed a Quaker congregation for more than 150 years, several members of Patapsco Friends Meeting were disappointed in the decision. They believe the commission should preserve the building's plain design, which they say reflects Quaker ideals of simplicity, equality and community.

But before making a motion for a vote, commissioner Neil Lang said he found no reason not to accept the application. "Its integrity has been maintained exactly as it should be," he said.

Lucas Browning of Columbia Contractors, who first testified before the commission April 1 with his request, said he was pleased with the decision.

"We understand the concerns of the Quakers and continue to keep that in mind," he said.

His partner, Ellicott City resident W. Clark Gaughan, said they are doing more than what is required of them.

"We have done everything possible to respect their history," he said after the meeting, including hiring a color consultant to recommend a color palette.

Browning and Gaughan purchased the home this month from Eugene and Janet Albrecht. Gaughan said the house has deteriorated to the point where it needs major repairs, such as repointing.

"You can feel the breeze coming through the house because of the holes in the mortar," he said.

Kenneth C. Stockbridge of Columbia, who is one of the founding members of Patapsco Friends Meeting, said after the meeting that he will continue to try to buy the property so he could serve as its steward. "I thought in the end they disregarded all those views," Stockbridge said.

"I understand they are subjective guidelines," he added. But "changing the roof destroys original materials. It's hard to see how they could put that back together."

Browning and Gaughan were not sure when they would return before the commission to seek approvals for a new house they intend to build on adjacent property.

The Maryland Historical Trust, which holds an easement on the exterior of the building, also approved the changes with several provisions, according to a letter released last week. The trust's review committee denied approval of the proposed circular driveway, and the Howard County application was adjusted to reflect that.

The trust must also review and approve plans for the new house that Browning and Gaughan intend to construct on an adjacent lot, the letter stated.

Receiving the trust's approval "reinforces my belief that we have a good plan and we're on the right track," Browning said.

Mary Catherine Cochran, a spokeswoman for Preservation Howard County, which nominated the meetinghouse for its annual list of Top 10 endangered sites, said after the meeting that she was "disappointed it got this far." But she said she is not bitter at the outcome.

"That's the law," she said.

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