Cinderella's coach for sale on eBay

Ellicott City

July 21, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

A piece of Ellicott City history is up for sale on the eBay online auction site.

Cinderella's coach, a car-sized, fiberglass, pumpkin-shaped carriage on wheels that used to carry children through the now-defunct Enchanted Forest theme park, has been listed on the site since Friday, with an asking price of $6,000.

Bids will be accepted through Monday, but as of last night, none had been made.

Business partners Scott Shepherd and Elby Proffitt bought the pumpkin at a charity auction in June and have kept it in a large garage at Shepherd's home in Middle River. They say a sale on eBay is one of several options they are considering for the piece after receiving numerous calls from potential takers and Enchanted Forest fans.

"A friend of ours put it on eBay to see what offers we get," Proffitt said.

But advocates for the park who hope to see the site preserved and possibly reopened are concerned that the auction will mean the loss off a beloved piece of the past.

"It's a shame the new owners seem to be more about profit than preservation," said Monica McNew-Metzger of Annapolis, a member of the Enchanted Forest Preservation Society.

The coach has seen a lot of changes.

The Enchanted Forest opened on U.S. 40 in the mid-1950s and had 300,000 visitors a year at its peak, enjoying storybook-theme houses, figures and rides. In the late 1980s, the park closed and a shopping center was built on much of the property.

The park had a brief reopening in the 1990s, and today only a few dozen pieces are left fenced in amid trees and weeds on 2 to 3 acres behind the shops.

The property's owner, Kimco Realty Corp. of Hyde Park, N.Y., said it has no immediate plans to deal with those items. But it did want to move the coach, which was outside the main fence behind a Petco store.

Kimco donated the crumbling pumpkin to the Coldwell Banker real estate office in the Enchanted Forest Shopping Center. That office holds an annual auction to raise money for a number of charities, including local food banks, Habitat for Humanity and an area Send a Kid to Camp program, among more than a dozen others.

Volunteers from the office and community, led by broker Debbie Burchardt, spent a month rebuilding the coach with new fiberglass, paint, wooden benches and wheels.

The group sold it and a sign from the park at the auction for $2,300 to Shepherd, owner of Bay Home Inspections, and Proffitt, owner of Precision Environmental Cleaning and Testing. The men said they wanted to see the coach go to a good home and not end up sitting in someone's back yard.

"That's the only reason we bought it, really," Shepherd said.

But the men's search for online bids has brought their intentions into question for some, including Burchardt.

"The purpose of selling it ourselves through our charitable connection was to ... assure as best we could that it would remain somewhere at least in the state of Maryland and that it would hopefully be used for something that would again entertain children," Burchardt said.

She added that her office could have put the coach on eBay, but decided not to out of respect for the community. "That is exactly what we didn't want to happen," she said. "Everyone from our group I've talked to is sadly disappointed," said McNew-Metzger. The preservation society discusses the park and preservation efforts online at www.enchanted

She added, "I hope it goes to someone local, someone that really cares."

Proffitt said he and his partner have received many comments about the coach and offers ranging from taking it for free to several thousand dollars.

One offer to buy it came from Martha Clark, owner of Clark's Elioak Farm on Route 108.

"We are a very child-oriented, family-oriented petting farm and pumpkin patch," Clark said. "I just thought it would be a location in Ellicott City that is not far from the Enchanted Forest whose clientele are the families and kids of the region."

She is concerned that the eBay listing will attract someone with more money than she can afford. But she said her offer has not officially been rejected.

"I would love to have it," she said. "I'd like to work out something if I could."

Right now, Proffitt said, the owners are considering their options. "We still have the same intentions, to give it a home where it is going to be preserved," he said. "That is one of the reasons we set the high price on it."

Meanwhile, he said, he has been surprised by the amount of feedback the coach has generated. "We made a charitable contribution trying to be a good guy," Proffitt said. "Now ... it's really becoming something that we never expected."

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