Kingsville leaders defend property

Neighbors ask Balto. Co. to give Langenfelder farm historic landmark status

February 13, 2005|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Saying that Kingsville wouldn't be Kingsville without the Langenfelder farm, community leaders are again rallying to save the white stucco house atop a hill overlooking Belair Road.

More than a decade after they prevented a developer from building houses in front of the farmhouse, Kingsville residents are now asking that it be designated a historic landmark. And the property's owner is going along with the idea.

The label would prevent anyone from tearing down the three-story house and a nearby stone carriage house built by a Baltimore businessman about 1913. Residents say the property is an important slice of Americana that defines Kingsville as a rural community. It just feels like home, they say.

"It's strategically placed on a hillside where everyone can enjoy it," said Robin Beers, a member of the Greater Kingsville Civic Association.

A bill to put the Colonial-revival-style house once known as "Rockwood" on the county's landmarks preservation list, along with five other properties, is to be introduced at Baltimore County Council's meeting Feb. 22.

John Gontrum, a lawyer for the owner, HNS Development Corp., said the company agreed that the property should be designated as historic. "They had always promised they would not take down the house," Gontrum said. "They knew it was important to the community."

The farmhouse is being renovated. The owner plans to build two houses on the nine-acre property and then sell all three of the dwellings, Gontrum said.

Initially, the developer was seeking permits to build four new houses, but has scaled back the plans, county officials said.

Kingsville support

At a public hearing after a council session last month, more than a dozen Kingsville residents came to plead the case for preserving the farm, which in the 1940s was used to breed Hereford cattle.

"It's an amazing site," said Douglas Behr, a graphic and land designer who lives in Kingsville and spoke at the hearing. "Everyone who goes up Belair Road can enjoy it. It's a tremendous example of a site that the community holds dear."

When part of the farm was being developed in the early 1990s, more than 500 residents wrote letters to the county asking that the view of the farmhouse be preserved. Behr said he recalled several residents who said the view was "food for the soul."

In 1991, the county Planning Board passed a resolution prohibiting any homes from being built on sites that would block the view of the farmhouse from Belair Road. The developer was permitted to build 52 houses on the 194-acre property, but not in front of the stucco farmhouse.

Preservation status

The house and surrounding 13 acres was sold last year after the death of 100-year-old Anne Thelma Langenfelder, a retired state roads employee who lived there. Residents, concerned that the building might be torn down, sought protection for the property by requesting it be added to Maryland's Historic Trust inventory of historic properties.

They then asked the county's Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate it as historic, which was done in September. The County Council must decide whether to make the "landmarks" designation final.

In addition to the Langenfelder farmhouse, the county's landmarks preservation commission has proposed adding to the list: the Tribble House, a home built in the early 1890s in Owings Mills; an 18th-century farmhouse called Shaw's Discovery in Edgemere; the Catonsville Junction Trolley Station; the Yellow Tavern stable in Reisterstown; and a Hernwood estate called Griffith's Adventure.

The council is set to vote on the proposed additions to the landmarks list next month.

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