The historic Belmont Conference Center in Elkridge could have new owners this fall and a future as a moneymaker and teaching space for Howard Community College.
The Howard Community College Educational Foundation, a nonprofit corporation that raises funds for the college, is considering purchasing the 18th-century estate.
Owned by the American Chemical Society, Belmont offers accommodations for conferences, weddings and retreats. The property is listed for $4.3 million.
The foundation "is trying to figure out whether or not we can make the numbers work," said Mary Ellen Duncan, president of HCC. The foundation plans to study the purchase proposal until Aug. 2, when it will report its findings to the college's board of trustees.
The foundation plans to continue to operate Belmont as a conference center, with revenue going to the college for scholarships and projects, Duncan said. An agreement between the college and the foundation could allow HCC staff to oversee the center, and Duncan said she hopes to retain Belmont's staff.
She said she also would like to see groups associated with the college use the location for retreats, and for the center to serve as a training area for students in the school's new hospitality management program.
"It could be so exciting," Duncan said. "It would really be a neat place for students to grow and learn, too."
The foundation would not use college funds or state or county money that supports the school to buy the property, Duncan said. So the organization must consider whether the center can support itself with income from meetings and weddings.
The foundation also must consider the cost of adding an entrance to the location, Duncan said. The center is at the end of Belmont Woods Road, a single-lane street where neighbors are worried about traffic.
The 44-room manor house was built in 1738 as a wedding gift for the son of Caleb Dorsey, an Elkridge ironmaster, according to the Chemical Society.
After passing to descendants and serving as a residence and horse farm, the property was given to the Smithsonian Institution in the 1960s. The Smithsonian turned the property into a conference center. The American Chemical Society bought the property in 1983 and renovated the mansion, outbuildings and grounds for meetings.
In addition to the manor house, the property has several smaller houses, tennis and volleyball courts, a swimming pool, walking trails and gardens.
In April, the Chemical Society announced plans to sell the property, saying it had outgrown the facility.
"We are thrilled that the Howard County Educational Foundation wants to purchase Belmont," said Madeleine Jacobs, executive director and chief executive officer of the society, through a spokeswoman. "Their interest in preserving Belmont's historic nature and its mission as a conference center is a perfect fit with the kind of buyer we hoped to find."
Local historian Joetta M. Cramm said she also believes the college foundation would make a good owner.
"It is likely to be saved and ... well taken care of by an educational concern," she said.