Preserving the pieces of housing history

Group plans to save elements from house slated for auto lot

Preserving pieces of Clarksville home's history

October 13, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

The forlorn-looking white Victorian house and the abandoned car dealership on Route 108 at Ten Oaks Road strike a discordant note in bustling, upscale Clarksville - remnants of an earlier time in Howard County.

But things might be changing.

A two-level auto dealership is planned for 3.5 acres that includes the house. Across Ten Oaks Road, a bank is planned for the former auto dealership, if the County Council approves a zoning change, according to Thomas Meachum, an attorney representing the owners.

Second Chance, a nonprofit group that dismantles old houses and resells the pieces, is to get possession of the 113-year-old house early next year, according to Stanford D. Hess, executive vice president of Antwerpen Auto Group, which owns the property.

FOR THE RECORD - A caption accompanying a photograph of a Victorian house on Route 108 in Clarksville in yesterday's Howard County edition of The Sun incorrectly said the photo had been taken in March. It was taken in March 2001. The Sun regrets the error.

For more than three years - since hopes to move it collapsed - the exterior of the three-story house has deteriorated. The front porch roof is falling in, the rain gutter lies across the front steps, paint is peeling and a large sign announcing district offices for three former Republican state legislators lies askew.

"The whole thing is a sad story," said Mary Catherine Cochran, spokeswoman for Preservation Howard County, who frets about yet another county landmark falling apart.

"It's horrendous, just horrendous," she said. "That whole corner of Clarksville is just a blight."

George Miller, owner of Ten Oaks Gallery, a business in an old house he owns just behind the Victorian, agreed.

"I think the condition the house is in is horrific. I've been very surprised that Howard County has allowed that to happen," Miller said.

The Victorian, last used as a dentist's office, and the surrounding property was sold to Antoy LLC, a holding company for Antwerpen, on Jan. 29 for $928,000, according to state tax records. County officials said there are no plans on file for development of the lots, but Hess said plans are being developed for the new auto dealership.

Despite the decay and seeming inaction, plans to dismantle the house and save its finer features for other preservation projects are nearing fruition, said Mark S. Foster of Second Chance.

"The house is still gifted to us," Foster said, adding that "it's always been on our radar," despite the years of delay.

Antwerpen has several auto dealerships in the nearby Howard Auto Park. The dealership uses the land surrounding the house for parking unlicensed vehicles.

Foster said he is hoping Antwerpen's owners will provide part of the $20,000 cost for removing such treasures as the wall-to-ceiling windows, walnut banister and the wide-plank pine floors.

The problem for Second Chance is how to provide the cash up front to do the dismantling before any of the cost is recouped from sales.

"It's cash flow," Foster said. "You have to put the cash out today."

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