Howard Lodge, a 21/2 -story brick house built about 1750, was recommended for inclusion on the prestigious roster earlier this year by a state preservation panel.
If the recommendation is accepted by the National Park Service, Howard Lodge will join Doughoregan Manor near Ellicott City as one of the few 18th-century mansions in Howard County that are on the National Register. A final decision is expected by year's end.
Located in the 12000 block of Howard Lodge Road, Howard Lodge is a rare example of a property from the 1700s that has survived into the 21st century, said Howard County architectural historian Ken Short, who prepared the nomination.
Unlike some large houses that have been saved by being converted from private to public us — such as Oakland in Columbia — Howard Lodge started as a private residence and stayed that way.
As a result, "it's a really good example" of a mid-18th-century dwelling, Short said. "It has an amazing amount of architectural detail surviving from that period. It's probably one of the grander houses [from that era] in what is now Howard County."
Short said the house has survived over the years when others have been lost or torn down because it has had a succession of caring owners and never fell prey to speculators. "It's far enough out that it's outside the area of heavy development," he said.
Currently listed on Maryland's Inventory of Historic Properties, Howard Lodge stands on a 15-acre parcel that also includes a barn, smokehouse and other outbuildings. It was originally part of a 2,500-acre tract owned by the Dorsey family, early landowners when Maryland was still a British colony and the land was part of Anne Arundel County.
According to Short's nomination report, the house was built by Edward Dorsey, grandson of the pioneer settler of Howard County, and is approximately two miles southeast of Sykesville in north-central Howard County. The land on which the house sits was granted by patent from Lord Baltimore to John Taylor in 1727. Known as Taylors Park, it consisted of 1,500 acres, half of which was sold in 1744 to John Dorsey.
Short states in his report that, "John Dorsey … gave his son Edward Dorsey, who had married in 1750, 740 acres of 'Taylors Park' and seven … slaves. The date of construction for the house is not known, but a date from the 1750s is usually assumed, and this seems reasonable given the physical details of the house; certainly it was standing by sometime in the 1760s."
The house has a symmetrical front, five bays wide, with a mixture of Flemish bond, English bond and "header bond" brickwork. There is a gable roof with an east-west ridge and wood shingles, and a two-story addition on the north side that was built about 1825 and houses the kitchen. Besides the house, there is a stone dairy and a stone smokehouse, probably dating from the first quarter of 1800s, a barn built on an old stone foundation and a contemporary garage.
Noteworthy interior features of the house include large rooms; corner fireplaces with 19th-century mantels; fine paneling, and the original wide pine floorboards,
According to land title records and Short's research, the property was sold out of the Dorsey family in 1856, and has had about two dozen private owners since then.
The National Register is a list of properties that the federal government considers worthy of recognition and preservation because of their historical and cultural significance.
Listing a building on the register cannot automatically save it from demolition, but it indicates that it is worthy of protection. The recommendation to add Howard Lodge came from the Governor's Consulting Committee, an independent review board that advises the Maryland Historical Trust and State Historic Preservation Officer J. Rodney Little. The panel met last month to consider a formal nomination from Howard County's Department of Planning and Zoning.
Short said the nomination process is under way now because the property changed hands in mid-2010 and the new owners, who wanted to see if it could be listed, contacted him.
"They knew it was historically significant," he said.
The current residents are a couple, Bernard Rauscher and Francesca Galbani, and Francesca's sister, Nicoletta.
Francesca Galbani, a computer consultant born in Italy, said she and Rauscher, an astrophysicist with NASA, wanted to buy a residence that was different from the contemporary homes on the market.
She said they have enjoyed living on the property for the past year, have four horses there and don't plan any major changes.
"We love it," she said. "It has character. It's not like the houses that are built now and all look the same."
She said she and Rauscher started the National Register nomination process because they felt it was important to acknowledge the property's significance. "It was our initiative," she said. " We are 100 percent behind it."
Short said he is not sure why the building is called Howard Lodge, because no one named Howard ever lived there and it was never used as an inn. He said he believes a historian at some point may have erroneously thought it was owned by George Howard, a former Maryland governor.
Galbani said she heard that a previous owner from the late 1800s, lumber dealer Theodore Mottu, had a primary residence in Baltimore and kept the Sykesville property as a private hunting lodge. Because it was in Howard County, she said, Mottu called it Howard Lodge.
Galbani said maintaining a property such as Howard Lodge requires a lot of work, but it has been worth it.
"None of us regrets it," she said. "We're just fascinated with it all."
Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed research to this article.