Campaign launched to turn Hopkins birthplace into a museum, restaurant and inn

Rachael Pacella
Contact Reporterrpacella@capgaznews.com

A campaign launched Tuesday will raise money to purchase the birthplace of Johns Hopkins, in order to restore the structure and turn the now vacant house into a museum, restaurant and inn.

Hopkins, a famous Baltimore philanthropist, helped start the hospital and university that now bear his name.

Hopkins was born in the house in 1795. The building was a part of the Whites Hall plantation, located in Gambrills, where Hopkins lived until he was 17, according to an historic resources evaluation form from Anne Arundel County.

Today the Whites Hall house is part of a 13-acre property, which was purchased by Polm Cos. President Rick Polm through development interests about a decade ago. In January 2016 the Polm Cos. requested a demolition permit to tear down the building. In April 2016, however, the group announced that it would seek a "suitable and qualified preservation buyer."

The Johns Hopkins House, a recently formed nonprofit led by Bob Brown, of New York, hopes to be that buyer. The charity is not connected to Johns Hopkins University, Brown said.

Brown's grandfather purchased the circa-1760 home in 1910 from the Hopkins family. Brown's mother was born there in 1920. His grandfather later sold the home during World War II.

That family connection, the importance of Johns Hopkins, and that the structure is significant for its architecture are all reasons why Brown says he wants to make sure the home is protected. According to the county, the building is of a "high" historic significance.

The property's Flemish bond brick Georgian house is one of the few examples of that style of architecture to survive in northern Anne Arundel, according to county information.

Brown has created a nonprofit through which to raise money to purchase the home and property. Brown is the only member of the nonprofit, right now, but said he would soon establish a board for the organization.

That nonprofit, The Johns Hopkins House, is hosting an online fundraiser through the crowd-funding website Kickstarter in order to raise the money needed to buy the property.

Brown has an $800,000 contract to purchase the parcel; if the Kickstarter fundraiser is successful, that contract would be changed to the nonprofit's name before execution, he said.

The Kickstarter's goal is to raise $298,000 in a 30-day time frame. That figure is enough to put a down payment on the house, and also enough to put one or two years worth of mortgage payments aside in an escrow account, Brown said.

If successful, Brown said his nonprofit would like to turn the house into a museum to inform people about the plantation's history, as well as the significance of Hopkins. That aspect would be run by the nonprofit, as would a restaurant and inn Brown has proposed for the building, to help make the museum self-sufficient.

For more information on the effort, go to the group's Kickstarter page at www.kickstarter.com/projects/649956964/save-whites-hall-johns-hopkins-birthplace.

Johns Hopkins University spokesman Dennis O'Shea said Tuesday that the university is supportive of the effort, though the school is not involved in the fundraising effort.

"We are grateful for the effort to preserve Mr. Hopkins' birthplace and we hope for its success," O'Shea said in an email. "The university's own resources for preservation of historic homes are already deeply committed."

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Sarah Gantz and Amanda Yeager contributed to this report.

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