Perry Hall's most significant historic landmark is also its most elusive—hidden behind trees and locked behind a chain-link fence. An upcoming book, however, seeks to offer an unprecedented glimpse into the 's storied past.
Co-authors and are working to complete preparations for an Images of America book through Arcadia Publishing. Images of paintings, artifacts and photos—along with a corresponding narrative of captions—are due to the publisher by Sept. 11. The finished paperback book could hit Amazon, local bookstores and the mansion's gift shop by March 2013.
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"A lot of people in Perry Hall grew up with this mystery of the Perry Hall Mansion—this is one way to tell that story," Kief said.
"The bottom line is if one person picks up the finished book and becomes inspired by it and interested in the mansion where they weren't before—in my mind, that's a success," Smith said.
The mansion was constructed in the early 1770s and purchased by Harry Dorsey Gough, Perry Hall's founder. Over the course of two centuries, it hosted a major Methodism movement, survived Revolutionary War and Civil War upheavals and housed about 14 families. All the while, Perry Hall farms and suburban neighborhoods slowly crept up around the .
In 2001, it was purchased out of private ownership by Baltimore County. More than a decade later, beyond occasional and , the mansion has not yet been opened for public use.
Connections between the authors and the mansion run deep.
Smith, a community advocate, served as president of the , a volunteer, non-profit preservation organization, between 2007 and this year. During his tenure, he wrote a booklet on the mansion's history that was published by the organization. The group was recently re-branded as the Historic Perry Hall Mansion, Inc., and is now governed by a board of directors.
Kief, a board member, professional photographer and Web designer, has also devoted years toward raising the mansion's public profile. Beyond his general interest in local history, he is a direct descendant of the Dunty family, which lived in the mansion between 1888 and 1915.
"We're obviously both involved in everything, but if there's a breakdown, Sean is the visual guru and I'm the verbal guru," Smith said.
Uncovering little-known details and making connections between the structure and national history have been especially rewarding for Kief.
"We're uncovering so much that hasn't been seen before," Kief said. "A highlight for me is that we found a 1774 plat of the property with a hand drawn image of the mansion at the Mount Clare Museum House."
"Mount Clare, the Maryland Historical Society, The Baltimore Sun, Gough descendents—the fun part is finding all of these people with connections to the house," Kief said. "I've had images sent to me from across the country because of family descendants finding out through the website. They have images and diaries mentioning Perry Hall."
Tell us what interests you most about the mansion's history in the comments.
The publishing process comes at no cost to the authors or organization, and all proceeds from the mansion's distribution of the books will go directly toward preservation, the authors said.
"Part of working with a notable nationally-based historic publisher ... is that anyone, no matter where they are in the world, will be able to go online on Amazon and buy this book," Smith said.
"From a genealogical aspect, we have people across the country contributing and waiting for its release," Kief said. "I think it's going to be a lot bigger than we originally thought."
Smith and Kief encourage anyone with photographs, artifacts or records related to the mansion to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
Businesses interested in carrying the finished book are also urged to contact the authors.