A 12-foot Christmas tree, holiday treats and several dozen community members upstaged the peeling wallpaper and cracked walls.
The Friends of the Perry Hall Mansion, a nonprofit working to restore the historic structure, held a at the mansion Saturday evening.
Jeffrey Smith, president of the Friends organization, estimated that the event raised about $2,500 toward the . The event's food, decorations and activities were provided by volunteers, individual donors and businesses.
But beyond fundraising, Smith said the event was a unique opportunity for local residents to get better acquainted with the structure and its history. The mansion, constructed in the 1770s, remained under private ownership until it was purchased by Baltimore County in 2001. It has only rarely been opened to the public over the last decade.
"We hope there will be additional awareness in the community, because there are still folks who don't know about the mansion and its importance in Perry Hall," he said.
Attendees ranged from curious community members to some whose ancestors were former residents.
"I had seen the outside and driven by it a couple of times, but never been inside. ... It's incredible. It really is a wonderful, historic place," said John Owen, whose family performed Christmas carols during the event.
Shirley Wales, a member of the , said she was excited to enter the mansion after contributing to a to the Friends.
"They've done an excellent job of fixing it up with the little bit of money that they have. I'm really impressed," Wales said.
Members of the Kief family in attendance, however, already had an intimate knowledge of the mansion.
"I grew up hearing stories about the mansion from my grandmother, who was born here," said Sean Kief, a member of the Friends board, whose family owned the mansion between 1888 and 1915. "Any opportunity I have to come here, I jump on it. It just brings back so many memories."
"It's sad to see what it looks like, but we're hopeful about what it could look like again," said his mother Dale Kief. "There are a lot of volunteers and a lot of people interested in preserving this."
Members of the Friends board are currently working with to secure a with Baltimore County that would allow for a more proactive approach toward the mansion's restoration, Smith said.
"We're hoping that moving into 2012, we'll be able to work out a lease agreement to gain direct operational control of the building, and then we'll be able to deal with some of the cosmetic work," he said. "Hopefully, by 2012, we'll be able to make it pretty as it was back in the 1770s."
Did you attend the event? Load your photos to the gallery.
Would you like to see the mansion opened up to the general public more often? Tell us in the comments.