Endangered historical properties listed

Decaying Enchanted Forest among top 10 for first time

May 19, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

A Civil War battery, a deteriorating amusement park and a 19th-century African-American meetinghouse are the latest additions to Preservation Howard County's annual list of most endangered properties.

Each year, the nonprofit historic preservation organization shines a spotlight on 10 locations in the county that it believes are most in need of attention. This year's list includes newcomers Claremont Overlook and the Enchanted Forest, both in Ellicott City, and Mount Moriah Lodge, near Savage.

Seven other structures return to the list, still in need of improvements and preservation.

"There are so many nominations every year, it's hard to narrow it down to 10," said Mary Catherine Cochran, a Preservation Howard County spokeswoman.

According to the Historic Sites Inventory, overseen by the county's Office of Planning and Zoning, Claremont Overlook includes an Italianate home built in 1858 and a brick outbuilding that predates the house.

The privately owned site overlooks the Patapsco River and "is the only known Civil War fort in Howard County," said Bob Buker, sales and marketing manager for Howard County Tourism Inc.

Buker said the tourism office is interested in seeing the site preserved for visitors.

The tourism office is working with the Baltimore Civil War Trails Program to bring more Civil War tourists to the county.

Claremont Overlook was added to the list this year because the owner is working with the county planning and zoning office to build residential units on the property, Cochran said.

She said she believes development could be laid out so the historic elements remain, but she does not believe any such plans have been made.

The owner, A.R. Meyer of Ellicott City, declined to comment.

The Enchanted Forest, with its fairy tale-themed attractions deteriorating behind a shopping center on U.S. 40, has been the subject of discussion by preservationists and local fans for years, but this is the first year it has appeared on the top-10 list.

The park, which opened in 1954 and once had an annual attendance of 300,000, is one of a few storybook-theme parks left in the United States, according to the Historic Sites Inventory.

It is owned by Kimco Realty Corp. in New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Previous efforts to raise funds to save the park fell short, and parking, traffic and environmental concerns likely will make it impossible to reopen, Cochran said.

But there has been some discussion about moving the attractions to another site.

"I'd love the concept. I think moving the structures would be a very good thing to do," said Rick Lepski of Elkridge. Lepski was co-chairman of Friends of the Enchanted Forest when the group tried to rally public support for the park in 1999.

"I think the county should do something," he said. "I don't think it should be overgrown and go to waste."

A Kimco spokesman told The Sun in December that it had no short-term plans for the park.

The third addition to the list, Mount Moriah Lodge, was built in the late 1890s and is on Guilford Road, next to Asbury Methodist Church.

Mount Moriah Lodge was added to the top 10 because it is in immediate need of a new roof after a tree limb fell on it, Cochran said.

"The history of that land comes from my great-grandfather in the 1800s," said William S. Burley, the lodge's owner. Burley, of Jessup, owns a barbecue truck, which he uses to raise money for adult and youth clubs that are related to the old lodge.

Burley said he would like to see the lodge building again be a

meeting place for the community. "I want my village back," he said "I want it so old people can come down there. I'm after the older people and the children."

"It is a great example of how the African-American community coped in the late 1800s, what they did to advance themselves and their cause," Cochran said.

The structure is also largely unchanged since it was built, she said.

She said she would like to see a grass-roots effort to raise money for a new roof, perhaps headed by a community group or fellowship lodge.

Each year, Preservation Howard County tries to use the list to raise awareness of preservation needs in the county.

Cochran said previous lists have helped sites attract financial support and grants. A place on the list also gives the plight of some sites credibility, she said.

Some sites have remained on the list for several years because they are in need of continuing support, including 300-acre Blandair in Columbia.

Others have been taken off the list because restoration is proceeding, because no progress appears possible or because the structure was destroyed by fire or other causes.

County's most endangered historic sites

1. St. Louis Church, Clarksville. The church was dedicated in 1856 and the congregation left in 1889 for a larger location. The Archdiocese of Baltimore has raised money to restore the site, but work has not begun.

2. Claremont Overlook, Elkridge. The site of the only Civil War fort in Howard County is being considered for residential development.

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