Albert Laurence "Larry" Bartlett II, restorer of historic house, dies

He and his wife were stewards of a Revolutionary War-era home owned by state Department of Natural Resources and helped establish the Resident-Curatorship Program

  • Larry Bartlett
Larry Bartlett (KENNETH K. LAM, Baltimore…)
March 25, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Albert Laurence "Larry" Bartlett II, a retired salesman who with his wife restored the historic Gittings-Baldwin House in Baltimore County, died Tuesday of heart failure at Genesis Cromwell Center in Parkville.

The Baldwin resident was 85.

The son of a dentist and a homemaker, Mr. Bartlett was born in Pittsburgh and raised in Clarksburg, W.Va., Shepherdstown, W.Va., and Columbus, Ga., where he graduated in 1944 from high school.

He served in the Army Air Forces during the waning days of World War II and remained a reservist for the next two decades, attaining the rank of captain.

Mr. Bartlett graduated from Auburn University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in 1948 in mechanical engineering.

While at Auburn, he met Agnes Thomason, whom he married in 1950.

After college, he worked for Southern Underwriters before joining DuPont de Nemours & Co. in 1954 as a safety engineer.

He worked in Pittsburgh, Wilmington, Del., and Charleston, W.Va. At the time of his retirement in 1984, he was in medical X-ray film sales.

While still with DuPont, Mr. Bartlett moved to Goodale Road in Homeland. Throughout their lives, he and his wife were avid antiques collectors and admired older homes.

The Bartletts wanted to retire to the country, and one day while out with their real estate agent touring the countryside, they chanced upon a two-story fieldstone house, set far back from the road, that was surrounded by farmland and the verdant rolling hills of Baltimore County.

The dilapidated house, which had been owned by the state Department of Natural Resources since 1969, was located on the periphery of Gunpowder Falls State Park.

Their offer to purchase the house from the DNR was turned down, and the agency had no plans to stop "demolition by neglect."

Where many other buyers might have been discouraged by the house's bulging walls, leaky roof, army of termites, overgrown grounds and myriad unseen problems, the Bartletts saw possibilities for the forlorn Baldwin Mill Road home, whose first section, a room with a sleeping loft, dated to 1770.

"I went down there and stomped my feet. I said, 'This house is history,'" Mrs. Bartlett told The Baltimore Sun in a 2009 interview.

Still, the DNR remained implacable until the Bartletts offered in 1982 to restore the house with their own funds in exchange for lifetime tenancy.

The couple's love for the forgotten wreck of a home was the beginning of the state's Resident-Curatorship Program.

In addition to the house, the property included a large bank barn and corncrib of hewn-timber-braced frames and a shop, all dating to the mid-19th century.

The Gittings family had sold the house and farm in 1877 to Dr. Abraham S. Baldwin, whose son, Clarence Baldwin, a cattleman and bachelor, remained on the property until 1941, when he died. The house and surrounding land were then sold to a Kingsville saloon keeper.

Other owners of the property in ensuing years neglected to make necessary repairs until the house was finally sold in 1969 to the state.

What could have been a formidable challenge to most homeowners was a delightful undertaking for the Bartletts.

"There were really no surprises," Mr. Bartlett told The Baltimore Sun in a 1991 interview. "What we saw was a house that needed a new roof, new floors, new wiring, new plumbing, a new kitchen, new bathrooms, plastering and so on."

"I have a love for old houses. We had a wonderful contractor, and the work commenced in November 1982," Mrs. Bartlett said the other day in an interview. "We were able to move in 1985. We didn't think it really took that long for the restoration."

The couple managed the restoration as money allowed, eventually selling their Goodale Road residence for the final push to complete the job, which the couple told The Baltimore Sun cost more than $400,000.

Subsequently, they built an addition that houses a library. The house features all-electric heating with heat pumps, air conditioning and a fully equipped kitchen.

In the 1991 interview, Mr. Bartlett said, "If I had to do it today, I would still do it."

The couple saved all artifacts, especially broken pottery that was discovered during the restoration. They then turned their attention to the grounds, where they restored the pond and did extensive plantings.

Mr. Bartlett was an accomplished woodworker and enjoyed copying and making reproductions of antique furniture. He was a member of the Woodpeckers woodworking group.

He was a member of the St. Andrew's Society and was a member and past president of the St. George's Society.

"We had fun living here and we were close to the village of Baldwin. We're not isolated," said Mrs. Bartlett, who said she planned to remain living in the house.

Mr. Bartlett was a member of St. Andrew's Christian Community Church, 5802 Roland Ave., where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. April 1.

In addition to his wife of 61 years, Mr. Bartlett is survived by a son, Dr. Albert L. Bartlett III of State College, Pa.; a daughter, Dr. Thomasine Bartlett of New Orleans; three grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

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