The Von Paris family lost their historic Baltimore County home to a fire. (Baltimore Sun video/Lloyd Fox)
A historic Upper Falls residence built over 150 years ago and owned by John F. von Paris, the president of the Von Paris Family Moving and Storage company, burned to the foundation late Wednesday afternoon.
Baltimore County Fire Department spokesman Nicholas Tyson said the three-story Georgian-Colonial home at 11611 Franklinville Road in the northeast part of the county was “a total loss” after a fire raged throughout the building and collapsed the second floor.
Family members and home owner John von Paris walked around home Thursday morning, surveying the damage and sorting through debris left over from the 1860s farmhouse.
Von Paris, who is also a Maryland Transportation Authority board member, said his parents bought the 50-acre property in 1958 and it’s been in the family ever since. He said it has served as a “centerpiece” for the family, hosting reunions and parties — always offering a meeting place for everyone.
When his parents died three years ago, von Paris and his wife, Patricia, bought the farm from the estate, moved in and started renovations. He said the couple replaced the roof and siding, installed hardwood floors and built porches.
“We’re devastated,” von Paris said. “This house means so much to us. We are all part of it, all of us. My wife and I, my brothers and sisters and their families, they all are part of this.”
The fire department said Thursday the cause of the fire remains under investigation.
The fire took several hours to douse with firefighters still tackling hot spots at around 8:30 p.m.
Von Paris said the family’s black Labrador, Darcy, died in the fire but their yellow Lab, Gunner, made it out alive and is now recovering at an animal hospital in Bel Air. Nobody was home at the time of the fire, Von Paris said, and no people were injured.
The historic farmhouse features a prominent, 25-foot cupola that once topped St. Joseph Church in Fullerton. Von Paris and his sister, Anne McMahon, said they would regularly host holiday gatherings at the farm, most recently Christmas Eve just a few weeks ago. The two said the property has been home to eight weddings, including McMahon’s in 1969 where she and her new husband at the time took off in a helicopter after the celebration.
“These things pass away, but our memories don’t pass away,” McMahon said. “They live in our hearts.”