Sale of Gray Gables benefits Maryland Historical Trust

July 02, 2006|By MARY GAIL HARE | MARY GAIL HARE,SUN REPORTER

Proceeds from the sale of a 19th-century home in Darlington will enrich the Maryland Historical Trust by nearly $500,000.

The trust, the state's preservation agency, has owned the 14-acre property known as Gray Gables since Isabel Scriven bequeathed it in 1999. The bequest included an endowment of nearly $300,000 to help pay for maintaining the home and grounds.

"The terms of the will provided we find an income-producing use for the property or sell it after making sure it would be preserved in perpetuity," said Rodney Little, director of the Maryland Historical Trust. "Mrs. Scriven would have liked for the furnishings to remain with the house, but if that was not feasible, she knew we would have to dispose of them."

Trust officials opted to sell the home and its contents and use the proceeds to pay for other preservation projects.

More than 500 prospective buyers attended the June 24 auction of the three-story, seven-bedroom home, which sits along U.S. 1 in northern Harford County. More than 230 people registered as bidders, and many others joined in the sale of the furnishings, according to Jay Edwards & Associates LLC, auctioneers and appraisers. The highest bidder offered $455,000 for the home - a price that exceeded the appraisal - and chose to remain anonymous until the sale is settled in about a month.

"Given the current market and the substantial restrictions on what the new owner can do, we are pleased with the price," Little said. "Fourteen acres unrestricted would have a stronger market potential, but this property cannot be subdivided."

Gray Gables' owner must abide by restrictions imposed by the trust while restoring the stately manor, built in 1884, and cannot carve building lots on the property, which includes several outbuildings. Its exterior must also remain gray. The trust will continue to administer the $273,963 endowment, allowing the owner to use the interest for "maintenance, repair and upkeep, including fire and comprehensive insurance," according to trust officials.

"The idea was to get a proper owner who would properly take care of this home and pay taxes on it," said Richard Brand, administrator for financial assistance and easements with the trust.

Tangie Hinegardner, who spent much of her childhood living in the home when her parents were its caretakers, said the Scrivens had hoped the trust would make a museum of the home and its contents.

"At that location, the possibility of any kind of museum would be remote," Little said. "In our discussions, before the will was ever drafted, we said that maintaining a home in Darlington from our offices in Annapolis would be difficult.

"We accepted the property as an income producer for us or a sale once we had the historic restrictions in place," he said. The funds are not earmarked for any particular project, he said, but will rather go into the trust's general investment account. In the future, the money will help fund research, promote preservation and pay for other projects that safeguard the historical character of properties.

"Gray Gables is a great house," said Hinegardner, who lives in St. Augustine, Fla. "Hopefully, the new owners will be able to do something good with it."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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