Group pondering its periled-sites list

March 23, 2007|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,sun reporter

Preservation Howard County is considering 16 locations of historic significance for its seventh annual list of the Top Ten Endangered Sites in the county.

In anticipation of a May release, the nonprofit preservation group this week had "very vigorous debate ... on all of the nominated properties," said the group's president, Mary Catherine Cochran.

The debate included a thorough discussion about adding to the list two Columbia buildings designed by architect Frank O. Gehry, Cochran said. Questions centered on whether the buildings were truly endangered and what purpose would be served by putting them on the list.

Cochran said the buildings are likely to be included, but further discussion is needed to finalize the list.

The 33-year-old former Rouse Co. headquarters and the 40-year-old former Exhibit Center, both at the lakefront in Columbia Town Center, came to the group's attention because their new corporate owner could replace them as part of plans to remake the downtown area.

A number of preservationists believe the buildings, while not particularly old, are an important part of the planned community's early history and are significant for being designed by Gehry, who went on to be recognized around the world.

Cochran said one property that will be removed from the list is the Woodlawn Slave Quarters, which is undergoing a $125,000 construction project that will repair the deteriorating stone structure and ensure its future use as an educational location.

A committee convened by the Columbia Association, which owns the property, has worked for more than a year to create a plan to preserve the building, which is believed to date to the early 1700s.

Recent plans included repairing the stone walls, adding a roof, restoring the dirt floor and window openings and rebuilding a fireplace.

Preservation Howard County plans to unveil its top-10 list May 20, along with a Columbia Association event to dedicate the slave quarters.

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