Auction Of Landmark Postponed

April 27, 2009|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,

With the postponement of a foreclosure auction, the family that owns Nixon's Farm, a longtime Howard County landmark known for weddings, reunions and political events, is struggling to stave off creditors while restructuring development plans stymied by the recession.

Court files show three foreclosure cases brought against the Nixon family for loans obtained since 2002. But operator Randy Nixon said Friday that he expects to prevent a foreclosure sale and that the residential development project will proceed.

In the meantime, he said, he continues to operate the farm enterprises, which include catering and banquet facilities. Nixon said the catering business is brisk and that scheduled events will be held as planned.

"I'm very much in business," Nixon said.

The family has operated the 128-acre farm on Route 32 in western Howard County for more than a half-century. Nixon, 52, lives with his wife and child in one house while his 81-year-old mother, Mildred, occupies another.

An auction on the Howard County courthouse steps was scheduled for Wednesday. But Carl B. Miceli of American Auctions and Appraisals said Friday that the sale of 96 acres including the catering hall has been postponed, with no new date set.

Of the three foreclosure cases, one is not active, said Towson attorney Edward S. Cohen. The case closest to sale involves a $3 million loan from Columbia Bank to Mildred Nixon in 2002 on 96 acres on one parcel of the farm. The rest of the acreage is divided into two parcels for residential use.

Another case involves a $700,000 debt that went to foreclosure in December from a loan obtained in 2006, according to court files, but no sale has occurred.

Maryland Del. Gail H. Bates, a Republican who has held fundraising events and attended social gatherings at Nixon's Farm for years, spoke fondly of its place in county lore and lamented its financial predicament.

"It's country," she said about the ambience. "The food is fabulous. His mother's fried catfish is to die for."

Roosevelt and Mildred Nixon came to Baltimore from North Carolina in the 1940s, and Roosevelt owned a series of small stores and apartment houses in the city.

The Nixons bought the Howard County land in 1956 and began operating it as the Glenwood Country Club in the 1960s. In 1972, Roosevelt Nixon was shot to death in Baltimore in a street robbery.

After her husband's death, Mildred Nixon reinvented the Howard County enterprise as Nixon's Farm and expanded operations.

Residential development plans for the property have been talked about for the past six years, but Randy Nixon said the recession killed a deal he had in the works. He said he has arranged financing to address "short-term issues," but declined further comment.

Standing in the bright sunshine outside the catering hall on Friday, Nixon said he's remained philosophical about the problems, buttressed by his religious faith.

"I've learned a lot about myself in the past year or so," he said.

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