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Historic Annapolis mansion considers eco-friendly upgrades

Chase Home hopes to become local example for energy and money-saving retrofits

By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

7:01 PM EST, February 21, 2013

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Faced with the challenge of keeping a historic mansion warm for elderly residents while reining in costs, the nonprofit organization that operates the 18th-century Chase-Lloyd House in Annapolis is turning to 21st-century techniques to save the day.

Chase Home Inc., an organization that runs the historic building as both housing for elderly women and a tourist attraction, recently contracted for an energy audit to determine if technology can help offset some of the high costs of operation.

"We want to see if there's a way that we can reduce our footprint and our expenses, and be better stewards of the environment and not hurt the fabric of our building," said Molly Smith, vice president of the house's board of trustees and the chief executive officer.

The long-term goal, she said, would be for the Chase-Lloyd House to become a local example of how Colonial-era buildings can be retrofitted with efficient technologies that don't wreck the historic nature of the structures. Annapolis has a well-known historic district, and the city and Anne Arundel County boast dozens of historic buildings. The Chase-Lloyd House is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The recommendations are expected to include a mix of geothermal heating and air conditioning, insulation and maybe specialized pop-in storm windows. The existing gas-fired boilers are expected to become less of a factor.

"You have elderly ladies there, and you want them to be comfortable," said Tom Boyer, owner of Infrared Tools Energy Services in Crofton, who is working on the audit.

Depending on the options chosen, costs could range from $60,000 to more than double that, before rebates and other incentives, he said. Operating expenses, however, would drop sharply.

Smith said energy costs average a few thousand dollars a month. The organization operates on an endowment. Although it accepts donations, it has not been actively raising funds.

"It would be nice if we had a windfall in the stock market. Or maybe a fairy godmother will appear," Smith said.

The 11,200-square-foot Georgian-style house, which Smith describes as a living landmark, features a main floor that's open in warm weather for the public to view the elaborate ceiling and moldings, the grand hall and Palladian windows, and the carved marble mantels.

The upper floors are private. Women who can live independently pay what they can afford for the rooms on the second and third floors, where each of the eight bedrooms has a bathroom and spectacular view of Annapolis. Rent, which includes meals, doesn't cover operating expenses, Smith said, and the energy audit is an initial step toward trimming the bills. Any changes to the property must meet strict historic regulations.

The Chase-Lloyd House has a storied past, according to its operators. Construction of the private home began in 1769 when the site was owned by Samuel Chase, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Cash-strapped, he sold the unfinished building in 1771 to Edward Lloyd IV, who owned an Eastern Shore tobacco plantation and whose son became a Maryland governor.

The mansion returned to the Chase family in 1846, and eventually Hester Ann Chase Ridout owned it. Her 1886 will directed that the house be turned into a residence for elderly women, to be managed by trustees. An endowment was created through the sale of other assets, Smith said.

Modernized over the years, the house has storm windows, a 20th-century kitchen and an elevator. But the attic has to be heated to keep sprinkler pipes from freezing, and it has little insulation. Insulating the roof would help, but it must be done in a way that won't allow moisture to collect and rot the wood.

The idea for the audit came from Annapolis Green, a nonprofit network.

Boyer has some experience trying to make old buildings energy-efficient. Last year he took a look at the Charles Carroll House, a nearby historic site that has offices but no residents.

Eileen Leahy, chair of the Carroll House's board of trustees, said Boyer's survey was a starting point, advising where indoor air was escaping from the house, but didn't extend to a cost and savings analysis. That led to a seminar last September that focused on energy conservation at historic properties, run by Four Rivers: The Heritage Area of Annapolis, London Town & South County. The Chase-Lloyd House then sought and received a $2,500 matching grant from Four Rivers toward its audit.

The Chase-Lloyd House's board will study Boyer's report in coming months. The board itself is unusual, Smith said: Ridout's will mandated that it include at least four women — unheard of in Ridout's time.

"She was forward-thinking," Smith said. "That's what we want to do: be forward-thinking."

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

twitter.com/andsiegel

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