Concerns in Howard about preservation

The ability to save structures is questioned


The dismantling of a 1910 dairy barn in Ellicott City has raised preservationists' concerns about the county's ability to protect historic buildings.

Their specific worry is not the demolished wooden barn, but the fate of two other 19th-century stone buildings in the same cluster of Mount Hebron farm structures, said Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County.

One is a large barn thought once to have served as slave quarters, and the second is a smaller Civil War-era tenant house on the 8-acre property. The landowner, H.J. Baker, 86, of Columbia, said he has sold the land to Elm Street Development of McLean, Va.

Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church owns the stone mansion on the property, which local historian Joetta Cramm said once was the home of Judge Thomas Beale Dorsey who helped found Howard County in 1851.

Cramm said a fireplace and signs of wall plaster on the upper floor of the barn suggest that slaves once lived there.

Now surrounded by modern suburban homes, the remaining buildings sit in a secluded, leafy hollow off Mount Hebron Road behind the church.

Cochran said the larger issue is how to prevent destruction of more historic buildings as new homes rise on former farms.

"It's the fact that the law doesn't have any teeth that is very upsetting to everybody in the historic preservation community," said Cochran. "One of the things we've been pushing ... for five years is a county preservation plan."

Though the wooden barn is not considered historic, the stone buildings are, she said. "It points out the need again to review the policy."

Fred Dorsey of Preservation Howard County said he is concerned about the county's lack of a uniform policy for dealing with historic buildings as outlined in the last general plan.

If such a policy had been adopted, he said, "we'd all be singing on the same page instead of running through these fire drills all the time."

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