Group updates endangered-sites list

Three African-American churches among Preservation Howard entries

Preservation Howard Co. updates periled-sites list

May 03, 2006|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

Preservation Howard County's annual list of the most endangered historic sites in the county has eight newcomers this year: three large manor houses, four churches and an old stone barn.

The structures were chosen for the sixth annual top 10 list after being nominated by citizens and members of the preservation group.

"What we are looking for is to make people aware of historic sites that are threatened, whether by deterioration [or] by development," said Fred Dorsey, vice president of PHC.

Some property owners want to be included on the list, Dorsey said, because it draws attention to their need for money and support.

Members of Christ Episcopal Church, on Oakland Mills Road in Columbia, nominated their historic chapel for the list because they need funds to repair the roof, trusses and stained-glass windows.

The congregation has a new building on the property, said the rector, the Rev. Richard A. Ginnever, but it still uses the smaller chapel, built in 1809, for weddings and other events.

"It is such a cultural treasure and a spiritual treasure for us," he said. "We want to make sure `Old Brick,' as we call it, ... is there for our use and for the next generation to come."

Dorsey said the Elkridge Heritage Society, which uses the Brumbaugh House as a headquarters and museum, also asked to be included.

The house, which is on the list for the second time, was built in the late 1800s and is in need of extensive repairs. It was the home of several physicians, including the prominent family doctor Benjamin Bruce Brumbaugh.

This year, three historic African-American churches were added to the list as one entry.

The historic Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal church, in the former Jonestown area on Route 108 in Columbia, was built in 1923.

The Mount Pisgah congregation moved to a new church in 1996 and the old one-room chapel now belongs to the Gyung Hyang Garden Korean Presbyterian Church, which meets in a neighboring building.

Gyung Hyang allows the Banneker Christian Community Church to meet in the chapel, and both churches have been seeking a way to move the smaller building to make way for an expansion of the Presbyterian Church, said Nathan Hahn, senior pastor.

Mount Gregory United Methodist Church in Cooksville and Locust United Methodist Church in Columbia were similarly founded in the late 1800s and also are threatened by plans to develop new facilities, according to PHC.

All three churches provided a place to worship and a "base of power" for African-Americans in Howard County, PHC said in a statement, and "the loss of these structures ... marks the end of an era in African-American history."

Three historically significant manor houses have been added to the top 10 list.

Doughoregan Manor was home to Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and includes a two-story manor house and about 30 outbuildings.

An easement is set to expire next year and the Carroll family is investigating options to develop the 892-acre property. State and county officials have been discussing ways to use land preservation or open-space funds to preserve the property.

PHC said in its statement that Doughoregan "is a national treasure located in the heart of Howard County."

Belmont Mansion, in Elkridge, has been a conference center since 1964 and was purchased in 2004 by the Howard Community College Education Foundation. The college intends to continue the conference services and provide an environment for the school's hospitality management program.

The county government is exploring plans to purchase the property, which includes an 18th-century manor house on 68 secluded acres, and lease it back to the college.

PHC is concerned that plans to expand the conference facilities, add public sewer and water and construct a new access road will violate an easement intended to protect the property.

In Columbia, Woodlawn LLC plans to build an office condominium next to the Woodlawn Manor House off Bendix Road. PHC says the proposed structure and plan to remove all of the lot's 200-year-old trees will ruin the historic setting of the house, which was built in the first half of the 1800s.

D. Ronald Brasher, a partner in Woodlands, told The Sun last month that his company's efforts will protect the manor house by raising the funds necessary to restore the old building.

"It was never my intention ever ... to do anything to that house but restore it," Brasher said.

Dorsey said his group recognizes that owners have property rights. But they want people to consider site plans that protect historic assets.

"What we're looking for is be sure you've considered everything and be sure you've done your due diligence and make the best possible decision," he said.

He said that is the hope for another newly listed site, the Mount Hebron property in Ellicott City. The site was once owned by Judge Thomas Beale Dorsey, a well-known lawyer who was instrumental in the creation of Howard County in 1851.

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