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OPINION: Defining Poor Little Rich Girl's Historical Significance

Clearly defined criteria are used by public agencies to assess and determine the possibility that an old structure might also have broader historical significance. The same can apply in Perry Hall.

Given the recent public dialog regarding the future of the structure that used to house the Poor Little Rich Girl bridal shop in Perry Hall, I thought it might be helpful for readers to learn a little about how historical significance is actually defined.

While its demolition has been postponed, at least temporarily, even activists are skeptical that the former shop can be saved. It's the question of should it be saved that drags on. 

As it happens, there is a very specific process—used by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service—to assess the relative significance of older structures. A clear understanding of this methodology might make it easier for folks to understand the context of recent events associated with the structure in question.

Our nation has had laws for some time to ensure that properties of regional or national significance receive the attention and the protection they deserve. The Historic Sites Act of 1935 authorized the Secretary of the Interior to identify properties of national significance in United States history and archeology. The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 expanded this recognition to properties of local and state significance in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.

The National Register of Historic Places is our official listing of these recognized properties, and is maintained by the National Park Service. The National Register documents the appearance and importance of sites, buildings, and structures that are significant in our collective history. These properties, when looked at as a whole, represent the major patterns of America's shared local, state, and national experience.

The National Park Service utilizes the National Register Criteria for Evaluation in order to guide the selection of properties included in the inventory. These criteria are standards by which every property that is nominated to the National Register must be judged.  In order to be categorized as historically significant, and be added to the National Register, buildings must possess "integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association," and must be:

  1. "associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or
  2. associated with the lives of significant persons in or past; or
  3. embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  4. have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory."

The initial "integrity" qualifications have special significance in evaluating potential National Register additions.  According to the National Park Service, "integrity is the ability of a property to convey its significance." To retain historic integrity a property will necessarily possess several, and typically a large majority, of the seven elements. The retention of specific aspects of integrity is absolutely vital for a property to convey its significance to the public at-large.

The physical location of a historic property, complemented by its present-day setting, is particularly important in recapturing the sense of historic events and persons. Were one to evaluate the property located at 9010 Belair Road, challenges associated with these two measures of historical significance should be readily apparent. 

As a student of history myself, I would love to be able to preserve each and every aspect of our past history. However, I realize that priorities must be identified, and to save every old structure would simply be unrealistic. That is why we have the National Register process—to help identify those aspects of our shared history that are most significant, so that we can focus our energies on these most precious of our cultural resources.  In this age of limited private and public resources, we must use clearly defined methods to set our course for the future even as we seek to be mindful of the past.

Patty December 10, 2012 at 12:37 PM
So how about a story of the history of this house? When it was built, who lived there etc?
Joseph Norman December 10, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Great post Jeff, thanks for sharing. I too am all for preserving historically significant sites, but this building never rated in my book. I would like to hear Mr. Patro's opinion of how the historical significance of this building stacks up against this criteria, given his insistence that this building be preserved.
Geographer December 10, 2012 at 02:15 PM
I am a geographer/ cartographer. By trade, I have a large stock pile of scanned historical maps of the East Coast/ State/ Counties. I searched a few 19th and 20th century maps of Baltimore County for the house in question. The earliest I found record of this structure between East Joppa Rd. and Joppa Rd. in on Belair Rd. was an "1853 Robert Taylor Survey Map of Baltimore City and County". There is one structure which by my opinion was a standard residence along "Bell Air Rd." (yes, at that time this is the correct spelling). This residence was owned by Joseph Brooks. It is either the house in question OR the house on the corner which now has the CPU repair place. (Yet, we cannot always rely on survey maps from the 19th century. Survey maps then were not funded by the state or county. Maps were normally made by a private cartographer with a contract via an insurance & securities company. Residences that were out in rural areas often had to pay the cartographer a fee (for travel expenses and such) to add your property to the survey. Sometimes families did not pay the fee so their residences were left off the map.) Both the structure by the McD's and the structure in question are of the same architecture and style, they were obviously built in the same time frame. I would make assessment that the old "poor little rich girl" house was built between 1840-1850.
Geographer December 10, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Need to add one more fact: The road next to the structure is Brookfield Rd. The founding owner of the property was Joseph Brooks and he owned all the land behind this residence.
Gary Staab December 10, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I don't even think Mr. Patro thinks this house has any significant historical background. That being said, it doesn't diminish the value the structure has to our history. Even in it's current condition. Just because Washington didn't sleep there, doesn't mean it should be torn down. Every effort should be made to save the scraps of our past. So much of it is gone forever. VERY sad!!!!
Joseph Norman December 10, 2012 at 03:54 PM
In your opinion, just what is the value that this structure has to our history? I went back and looked at Mr. Patro's documented comments on this issue, and you are correct in that he never argued the "historical significance" of the structure. What he was stating was that it had "architectural significance", although without providing any details. Often times the intent of comments on the internet/email get lost in translation so let me please be clear about the fact that I am NOT trying to troll or instigate anything here, just genuinely curious about any facts that would support an argument for saving this building other then the fact that it is old.
Patricia Single December 10, 2012 at 03:57 PM
I hope it can be saved. It looks pretty bad from what I can see but I am sure somehow it can be restored if someone has the money. I love old houses.
Mike Pierce December 10, 2012 at 04:06 PM
The 1850 map shows William Brooks' house to the northeast of where Joppa Rd goes to the east. The 1877 map shows the tollgate for the turnpike at this location southwest of where Joppa Rd goes to the east, with Dr Baldwin to the northeast. Baldwin bought the property from William Brooks' heirs in 1876. I think I heard that the current PC repair place was the tollhouse. Or it could be the "rich girl" house. Has this been documented?
Mark Patro December 10, 2012 at 04:47 PM
I am a community activist and I was trying to start a community conversation. I have learned more about this house in three or four Patch articles than most of us knew about this house's historical significance a week ago. Whether this house is saved or not I have made my point. We need transparency of process and we need community involvement.
Joseph Norman December 10, 2012 at 07:01 PM
I see. I guess I misunderstood your intentions and I think that many others did as well. I thought that you were arguing to save the building as a landmark because of its architectural significance and its age. What I now understand you to be saying is that we need more government accountability and community involvement in these decisions, and that you were using the scheduled demolition of this property as a soap box for launching that campaign. While I disagree with you that community involvement is needed in a private property owner's decision to demolish a structure that has no historical significance and has degraded beyond its useable life, I wish you luck in your future community activism.
Mark Patro December 10, 2012 at 07:44 PM
I'm sorry that you are so hostile toward community involvement. We can just disagree and leave it at that.
Joseph Norman December 10, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I am certainly not trying to be hostile, just trying to get to the root of the concern so that I could better understand where you are coming from. Agreeing to disagree on this topic seems appropriate as I was not intending to get into a debate. Good luck to you in the future.
Bill Howard December 10, 2012 at 08:33 PM
I vote for Patty's idea. Wanna know. I love those kind of stories.
Bill Howard December 10, 2012 at 08:38 PM
The deeds should be traceable in the County Courthouse. Even if the property has no National criteria, it would be good to see it preserved as a local piece of history. Although a new building would be cheaper, one would wonder how much more a rehab would be. It would make a nice professional office/specialty shop site.
JTF December 10, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Mark Patro, If you think the structure should be saved,why don't you buy it and restore the building. Why should your desire have impact on the land owner.
Mark Patro December 11, 2012 at 03:05 AM
JTF, I've already answered this question but i will again for you. The property owner does not have to be impacted to save the house. It could be moved. The hope here was to stimulate conversation and possibly and bring the pending destruction of this house to the attention of someone with a solution. In the end we have learned much about the history of this house from people who are desendants of previous owners. This house does have history and that is worth knowing if nothing else. We've also learned how difficult it is to have a conversation about something that impacts this community. Maybe that alone was worth the conversation.
Mike Pierce December 11, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Bill, the deeds are traceable online. You don't have to go to the court house anymore. In fact, if you go there, all you do is use their computers to do exactly what you can do at home.
Geographer December 11, 2012 at 04:21 AM
The Joppa Rd and Belair intersections have changed over the past 150 years. The tollgate was at the location of the present day KFC. East Joppa Rd. actually used to start at the present location of Papa Johns and the Auto store (since it has moved southward). The residence location are subject to debate because of the road shifts. Also Belair Rd was an unpaved "two-laned" road which lied roughly in the present day northbound two lanes. These homes were never complete roadside as they are today; they used to have front yards.
Geographer December 11, 2012 at 04:30 AM
Value is only a matter of what one individual feels it is worth. Historical value really has no monetary value. In 100 years the Giant food store will hold value if it is still standing. The Indian springs by Cedarside Ave to me holds significant value; yet, it is hidden/ buried and forgotten. These springs were build and used prior to 1600 by Native Americans using the trail. These springs since have been actively used up until the Civil War. I feel that should be a spot for enlightening Perryhall's history, but its not.
Tony December 11, 2012 at 09:48 AM
Agreed, my parent’s old house holds historical significance to me. If the new owners decide to sell it I am going to see if I can get some government assistance to move it to my backyard.
Mark Patro December 11, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Tony, are you sarcastically implying that every time individuals in the community speak up using their constitutionally protected right to free speech they are always asking for government assistance?
Tony December 11, 2012 at 03:47 PM
No, not every time, but in this case there is no way a private person would want to loose their money on this dump so it would have to be the government who would save it. It would also be the case with my parent’s house. No person would want to loose money on that stupid endeavor so the government would have to be the one willing to loose the money. Just a quick question have you ever looked into the cost of asbestos removal?
Acts Like Summer December 11, 2012 at 05:55 PM
I think Mr. Patro makes an excellent point about community involvement. Nearly every Patch article is full of people complaining about the community but very few people actually want to do anything about it, they want everyone else to solve the problems of a community they consider themselves to be apart of despite their inactivity. Let's all take a little more interest in the place we call home.
Joseph Norman December 11, 2012 at 07:23 PM
Acts Like Summer: I am very interested in the place I call home, and have no issue in general with the process of community involvement. I do, however, disagree with the sentiment held by Mr. Patro and others that this particular dwelling is worth saving simply because it is old, but that does not mean I am someone who sits on the sidelines and expects others to solve problems for me. In fact, the opposite is true - I am very interested and that is why I was asking questions to determine just what the historical and/or architectural significance of this structure is so that I could form my own educated opinion of its value. I was simply engaging in the community conversation that Mr. Patro intended to start by taking in information and asking informed questions. The point I am trying to make is that just because I disagree with someone who labels himself as a community activist doesn't mean that I am against citizens being involved in their community or being hostile towards the idea, which Mr. Patro has suggested. It just means that in this particular instance I do not share his opinion, plain and simple. Disagreement is not the same as disrespect.
Gregg Roberts December 12, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Mark, For the record you are a community hero. Hero - -because there aren't many at all like you. So your distinction of honor is based on the apathy of the majority of the community in some part. You are right. At least we know more about the house now and maybe the new owners will put up a sign with a picture of the house that reads like the one at KFC ''This historic landmark was demolished in order to bring you this gas station. Welcome to Perry Hall.'' Or that picture could be posted at the Perry Hall Library's ''museum'' of portraits of buildings from Perry Hall knocked down. If it is any consolation to you, the buildings are gone at the same time the people with the old town spirit in Perry Hall are in large gone as well. I don't know you but I congratulate you and thank you for your defense of the historic Perry Hall.
Gregg Roberts December 12, 2012 at 03:01 PM
And another point in address to above comments and the article: Poor Little Rich Girl may not be our finest example of a historic building but it was one of the few left that has not already been demolished. Therefore the criteria has to be relaxed a bit.
Mark Patro December 12, 2012 at 03:03 PM
thanks Gregg
Heather Patti December 28, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Ronald Vos, I would very much welcome the opportunity to speak with you about your research of Perry Hall History, as I am an amateur local historian. Does anyone realize that George Washington DID spend many nights at The Red Lion Inn in WHITE MARSH? Does anyone know where it is? It was demolished years ago. My concern is that as time goes by and people forget, or newcomers never know, more buildings with historical value will be ruined. My family actually has roots to the Perry Hall Mansion, but I realize this is not the only structure worthy of attention.

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