A small but enthusiastic crowd of community members, local politicians and historic preservationists gathered outside of the Perry Hall Mansion for an afternoon of decorating and Christmas carol singing on Saturday, Dec. 4.
The free holiday celebration, hosted by the Friends of the Perry Hall Mansion, also raised awareness of mansion restoration efforts.
"Anything that draws attention to the mansion is good news for us," said Sean Kief, a Friends board member and direct descendant of the Dunty family, which lived in the mansion between 1888 and 1915. "We're in a residential area. Most people don't even know we're here," said Kief.
While attendees sang and socialized over hot cocoa, homemade wassail and cookies, some voiced frustration over lack of funding and Baltimore County regulations, which prevented the Friends from hosting its annual holiday event inside of the mansion.
But Jeffrey Smith, Friends president, announced that he was optimistic about the coming year and expected a number of improvements to the mansion, including new doors, a security system and a lease agreement with the county, allowing the house to be used for community activities.
Smith said, "2011 will be a dynamic year for the mansion." He added that restoration efforts have the support of his good friend, District 5 County Councilman-elect David Marks (R), who attended the event.
State Delegate Joseph Boteler (R) and Delegate-elect John Cluster (R) also attended, but, while voicing their personal support of restoration efforts, said that the Friends should not expect state funding in the near future.
"The state has raided every fund. There is no money left," said Boteler. "Non-essential services, which unfortunately includes historic preservation, have been cut."
Cluster added: "You've got to make choices. These are tough decisions."
In spite of political and budget-related issues, many attendees simply enjoyed singing carols with community members and decorating the mansion's exterior.
Sarah Leininger said her 18-month-old daughter, Olivia, enjoyed the event's lighthearted atmosphere.
"It's a little cold for her, but she loves people, music and cookies," said Leininger.