In a few months, a historic house on a hill in Cape St. Claire will sport a new roof to go with its new paint job and the garden beside it, the latest moves to save a piece of the county's past.
The goal is to bring back into use a vacant, dilapidated home whose initial part was built before 1800, and preserve the outbuildings that lie near it on the site's 22 acres.
"We want to keep the history alive," said Barbara Morgan, president of the Goshen Farm Preservation Society, a small nonprofit organization whose members have been working on the property and raising money to fix it up.
"We want to open it up so it can be used for a meeting space, for us, for our gardeners, for Boy Scouts, for moms' groups, for the public," she said.
The preservation group coalesced as the possibility emerged several years ago that the site, owned by Anne Arundel County school system, could end up sold for development and bulldozed, Morgan said.
The place reflects everyday life in a bygone era, when families made their living from the land and on the water. The oldest part of the wood structure, now covered in stucco, was built more than two centuries ago.
"In the 18th century and early 19th century, you would have seen houses very similar to that over the landscape. What is amazing about that one is that it survived," said C. Jane Cox, a cultural resources planner for Anne Arundel County. "And it's in the middle of Cape St. Claire."
The site, which includes other buildings and foundations of those that no longer stand, is "part of a pattern of history of that area," Cox said.
This is the first year in least 40 that part of the former farm is in agricultural use. It sprouted a community garden of about five dozen plots, wrapped by an old picket fence rescued from a roadside by gardener-in-chief Nicole Neboshynsky.
After Neboshynsky successfully grew a test plot last year that was surrounded by weeds more than 5 feet tall, the gardeners' efforts to turn the soil hit rocks. That led county archaeologists to mark off what may be the remains of stone foundation pillars for long-gone structures. Gardens in those areas were raised to prevent disturbing the soil, but old artifacts have randomly turned up.
Cox said she has yet to sort through the hinges, pottery and tile shards, nails, horseshoes and more that gardeners found in the soil.
Since 2010, the organization has been leasing the property from the school system at no charge. Lisa Seaman-Crawford, director of facilities for the schools, said the system has no plans for it.
"Our efforts are to support them but not to box ourselves in," said schools spokesman Bob Mosier.
The lease calls for the organization to restore the building so that it could be used by the public and school system, but no specific educational uses are planned.
The society's tentative plans, which will be submitted to the Maryland Historical Trust for approval, call for installing windows — long since destroyed by vandals — restoring paneling that's more than a century old, rebuilding walls and modernizing the electricity and plumbing.
The group is scrambling to raise money for a state matching grant of up to $150,000 by a February deadline. So far, it's about halfway there, with much of the proceeds coming in jars at events, raffles for kayaks and a sailboat, a spring jazz festival and donations. A Halloween fundraising party and other events are coming up.
Historically, the land was part of 290 acres patented in 1663 as Leonard's Neck, according to the preservation group. Over the years, it changed hands many times, and acreage was sold off, including for the development of Cape St. Claire. The site has long gone by a biblical name — there was no Goshen family ownership.
Around 1942, Morris L. Radoff, the state archivist, and his wife, May, bought Goshen. The school system bought about 30 acres from them in 1967 for St. Claire Elementary School. It bought the remaining property, including the house, about eight years later, with the provision that the couple could live out their years there. May Radoff died in 1991, having survived her husband, according to the organization.
A caretaker left in 2005, Seaman-Crawford said.
The property deteriorated. Vandalism did have one positive note, revealing what had been suspected.
"For some of that, we thank the vandals. [The damage] showed the kitchen section was a separate building. It was somewhere else on the property and moved," Morgan said. Another addition went on after World War II.
"There was a barn back in the day," Morgan said, recalling a structure that burned down. "I would love to see that rebuilt."