According to historians, Belmont was originally part of a 1,662-acre tract called Moore's Morning Choice, granted by a 1695 land patent from King William III of England to Mordecai Moore, founder of the Society of Friends in Maryland
The manor house was built starting in 1738 by the next owner, Caleb Dorsey Jr., an ironmaster, and remained in the extended Dorsey family for more than 200 years. The home of two U.S. senators, Alexander Contee Hanson and Howard Bruce, it was last used as a private residence in 1964, when the Bruce family sold it for $500,000 to an anonymous purchaser who donated it to the Smithsonian. The Smithsonian sold it in 1982 for about $2 million to the American Chemical Society, which used it as a meeting center before selling it in 2004 to the college.
Byrd said the county will sell a 13-acre parcel attached to the estate to generate funds to support the main property, and rent out two of the smaller houses for additional revenue. He said the remaining tract presents opportunities for educational programs about wildlife, nature, history, conservation and other subjects. He noted that Belmont is surrounded by Patapsco Valley State Park and can be connected to it by walking trails.
Byrd said the county estimates that it will cost $500,000 to $600,000 to get the buildings and grounds ready for use by the public. He said the county hopes to make the entire operation as financially self-sustaining as possible, and he noted that several community groups have offered to help clean up the gardens and complete other work on a volunteer basis.
Everyone involved, he said, believes Belmont is a valuable addition to the county's portfolio and worth protecting for the future.
"It's like any old house," he said of the manor. "It just needs lot of attention. It's going to be a long-term project, no question. "
Baltimore Sun librarian Paul McCardell contributed research for this article.