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Catonsville Historical Society to sell its property, seeks new home for artifacts

Anne Luco, president of the Catonsville Historical Society, surveys flood damage in the society's basement after historic storms and flooding in July 2018.
Anne Luco, president of the Catonsville Historical Society, surveys flood damage in the society's basement after historic storms and flooding in July 2018. (Cody Boteler / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

The Catonsville Historical Society will sell its property on Frederick Road after suffering severe flooding in its museum last year.

The property includes two buildings: the museum, which was damaged in the flood, and a fully-furnished home. Contents of the house , which was not damaged by the flooding, will be auctioned off.

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The society’s museum flooded with about 18 inches of water, and its basement, which held its train garden and 150 years-worth of historical issues of The Catonsville Times, was completely submerged in the late May flooding in 2018.

Cleanup and remediation work cost the society nearly $30,000, and a letter from president Anne Luco said repairs are estimated to cost about $75,000, so selling the property would be the most “fiscally responsible” move.

That way, Luco explained, the society could focus on its mission of sharing Catonsville’s history, rather than pouring capital into a building that she said wasn’t really bringing in revenue.

“It’s been very challenging time. It was a very difficult decision to make to sell the property. It kind of feels like the end of an era,” Luco said in an interview. “At the same time, we are staying focused, we’re not closing the society, not ending the society. We’re looking forward to moving in a new direction.”

Luco said that “new direction” could be a series of rotating displays that are posted in local businesses along Frederick Road, for example. She added that some businesses have already expressed interest in incorporating more about the area’s history into their designs.

While the property is being sold by Karen Gatzke, a local Realtor, the surviving artifacts — like items from an old blacksmith shop and World War I memorabilia — will be moved to a climate-controlled storage facility while the society figures out its next steps.

Richard Opfer Auctioneering, based in Timonium, will handle the auction of the contents of the house, mostly furniture and other home goods like flatware. Luco said the auction is likely to take place in late June and proceeds will be to “partner with the community” in order to continue the society’s programming and find a home — or homes — for its artifacts.

“We don’t have a specific plan for [the proceeds], but we’re looking into how we can work with the community to display the artifacts that we have,” Luco said.

Luco said the Catonsville Historical Society is in need of two board members. Interested volunteers can email the society at catonsvillehistory@gmail.com.

The Historical Society is not, however, the only institution in the village that houses the region’s history. The Catonsville Room, on the basement floor of the Catonsville branch of the Baltimore County Public Library, houses two-dimensional artifacts, like property records, manuscripts and high school yearbooks.

Monty Phair, a librarian who’s in charge of the Catonsville Room, said he’d “personally” be interested in housing some of the historical society’s artifacts, but that the library just doesn’t have the space for it.

“It would be great in the best of all possible worlds to have space for objects … I just don’t think it’s realistic,” Phair said.

The Catonsville Room at the library is open from 2 to 5 p.m. every Thursday and from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month.

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