The Town of Bel Air has been graced with a number of historic residences stemming from a sometimes storied past (horse racing, agriculture, investment, health-care center for this northeast part of Maryland). Not the least of which is the Liriodendron Mansion, acquired by Harford County, which strives to maintain the building and immediate grounds. We know the mansion as a wonderful, center of town place to visit and to attend special functions in a beautifully peaceful country atmosphere.
Adjacent to the mansion is the handsome Graybeal-Kelly estate, a classic Georgian-style red brick home which served as a manor house from its construction in 1835 through the mansion's construction circa 1898. Yes, it has a longer and more storied history than the later mansion! This estate, with its out-buildings (frame barn; board-and-batten house) dating from the mid-1850s and rolling hills, clay tennis court and broad areas for croquet, horseshoes, boccie, badminton and picnics, should become an official part of Harford County's present in order maintain its historic past.
The well-maintained house itself is a grand, two-and-a-half story, two fireplace residence with a personal air to it that lends itself to group activities, museum displays and a center for learning about our area. Add in its proximity to main roads and we have an ideal family cultural center. I wish others could have a chance to visit; I know it provides a heartwarming experience.
I urge the Harford County government (or Bel Air itself, which could annex the property which sits on its border) to consider acquiring the Graybeal-Kelly property while it is still available. Both its location and history truly make it "The Heart of Bel Air," and it should be kept safe from developers who seem bent on clearing the county of its heritage.
RJ de Pontbriand
Bel AirCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun