The Perry Hall Mansion is one of the most historic places in Baltimore County. Built between 1773 and 1775, it was the centerpiece for the vast colonial plantation that gave Perry Hall its name. The founder of Perry Hall, Harry Dorsey Gough, sheltered early Methodist leaders during the American Revolution when their pacifist views were unpopular.
The mansion remained in private ownership until 2001, when community leaders convinced Baltimore County to purchase the property. I was president of the Perry Hall Improvement Association at the time. Our argument was that the mansion required such significant repairs that no private property owner could complete them, and that this was a unique historic landmark that should be preserved in a developing area.
A lot has changed since 2001. I now believe it is time to transfer the Perry Hall Mansion from Baltimore County to the community.
Under my proposal, the property would be transferred from the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks to a nonprofit entity such as NeighborSpace, a nonprofit organization that protects land from development. A separate organization, the Friends of the Perry Hall Mansion, would oversee the restoration and use of the building.
Here’s why this idea makes sense.
Baltimore County has accomplished what we needed to stabilize the mansion. Since 2001, county and state resources have been used to repaint the exterior, replace windows and reconstruct the mansion’s heating system. Much of the remaining work is cosmetic, such as repainting rooms and cleaning floors in the building.
Baltimore County simply doesn’t have the money to finish this work. When the economy improves, I suspect the Department of Recreation and Parks will fund projects that are part of the agency’s core mission, such as ball fields and other open space improvements. I don’t want the Perry Hall Mansion deteriorating while we wait for government money that may never materialize.
The Friends of the Perry Hall Mansion, meanwhile, has raised a sizable amount of money to do the work. This nonprofit could solicit donations and in-kind labor from businesses, bypassing stringent government procurement rules.
Transferring the property to a group like NeighborSpace preserves the acreage from development. Giving the Friends of the Perry Hall Mansion control over operations means you won’t have intense commercial uses at the site. The Friends of the Perry Hall Mansion intends to use the mansion for small meetings, a museum and other light functions.
I believe this arrangement is a win-win for all involved. It relieves Baltimore County of a property that is not within the core mission of the Department of Recreation and Parks. It preserves the acreage from development and it gives a local entity control over the mansion’s restoration and uses.
As we approach the 10th anniversary of the Perry Hall Mansion purchase, it’s time to take decisive steps to fulfill the promise of this important community landmark.