Balto. County landmark restored to historic form

December 27, 2007|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,sun reporter

The general store stood for more than 120 years at the crossroads of a small northern Baltimore County town.

Today, the building looks remarkably the same - even though it was almost entirely torn down.

Contractors for an Annapolis developer gutted the deteriorating Batchelor's store on York Road at the end of Mount Carmel Road in Hereford. But by keeping the front facade and part of a sidewall, the developer was able to save the ornamental cornice and restore the building to look as it did in its heyday.

The renovations, completed last month by Monkton-based White Construction, include an entirely new interior, a new roof, and an old-fashioned-looking covered front porch.

"We're thrilled," says Patricia L. Bentz, director of the Baltimore County Historical Trust. "I think it might encourage other businesses, including some on York Road, to follow suit."

Bob Zgorski, whose family has owned the property since 1982, was planning to tear the whole thing down. And at first, no one seemed to mind.

The siding and windows had already been changed several times. And a metal building was added on the rear of the property sometime around 1980, Zgorski says.

Those alterations, the county's historian concluded in 1980, had "ruined in almost every possible way" the structure's best feature: the handsome wood molding and bracketing adorning the front of the building.

Even a descendant of the Batchelor family, which first opened a general store at the spot, wrote to county officials saying he didn't object to Zgorski's plans. And the local community association gave its support for the store's demolition in 2004.

But the idea of tearing down the building didn't seem right to historic preservationists.

The building dates to between 1873 and 1886, according to the Maryland Historical Trust.

The building was first used by a cabinetmaker as a shop, according to historical records. By 1889, it was a general store and continued to be operated over several decades by several families.

The county officially designated the building as a historic landmark last year.

If the store were razed, current building codes would have dictated that the replacement be built farther from the road. Instead of seeing the old general store, residents would have been greeted by the sight of parked cars in front of an office building at the end of Mount Carmel Road, Bentz says. Enticed by 20-year historic tax credits, Zgorski says he agreed to restore what he could of the rapidly deteriorating landmark, at a cost of about $1 million.

Using a photograph taken in 1910, supplied by a member of a nearby church, Zgorki's contractors worked to rebuild the store to look as it had at the turn of the 20th century.

They removed the vinyl siding and covered the cinder block with cedar clapboard. The window frames are now wood.

The building has about 4,000 square feet on one level, but looks from the outside as if it has two stories.

The Monogram Shop is located in the front space and Hereford Driving School is leasing one of the offices in the back. Two spaces, with about 2,000 square feet, remain vacant, says Zgorski.

"We absolutely love it," says Regina Bello, owner of the Monogram Shop, which was formerly in Sparks.

In keeping with the historic renovations to the general store, pendant lighting and wainscoting has been installed in the boutique, and Bello had an antique counter refinished for the new space.

Zgorski says he plans to build a compatible-looking office and retail building on a nearly 1-acre parcel his family owns next door. But that project probably won't get started until summer at the earliest, he says.

Right now, he says, he's focused on filling the retail and office space.

"I've gotten a lot of compliments from the community," says Zgorksi. "It's gorgeous."

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