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Days are numbered for historic Bel Air house facing demolition

The historic Joesting-Gorsuch House on Winters Run Golf Course in Bel Air is nearing demolition to make room for new houses, the club's president says.
The historic Joesting-Gorsuch House on Winters Run Golf Course in Bel Air is nearing demolition to make room for new houses, the club's president says. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Baltimore Sun)

Despite calls to save one of the oldest standing structures in Harford County, the Joesting-Gorsuch House on the Winters Run Golf Course near Bel Air is likely to be torn down in the coming weeks, as is an adjacent red barn visible along Tollgate Road.

"The house and the barn will be gone as soon as a demolition permit is approved," Chris Demetrakis, president of the golf club's board, said last week.

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Demetrakis said county inspectors were scheduled to visit in the coming days before the demolition permit to take down the house and barn is approved.

County government spokeswoman Cindy Mumby confirmed last Wednesday that the county received an application for a demolition permit on May 11, but said it has not been approved yet.

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She said the next step in that process involves a site visit conducted by Department of Inspections, Licenses and Permits staff. Mumby said county officials "are awaiting word from Winters Run that utilities have been disconnected and the site visit can be scheduled."

Last September, the county's Development Advisory Committee reviewed plans to build five houses on 12 acres near the club entrance off North Tollgate Road. Gemcraft Homes, of Forest Hill, is the contract purchaser. The homes would be served by on site wells and septic systems, as there are no public services in the immediate area.

Demetrakis said previously that the club is not using the property where the homes are planned and proceeds from the sale will be used for capital improvements and debt service.

During the DAC review last year, county planners said they had asked the club and the purchaser to "consider preservation or relocation" of the house and barn.

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Demetrakis said Gemcraft has been going through "a long, drawn-out process" of obtaining various county approvals.

"Everything is still progressing," he said. "We're working through the process for the development."

Demetrakis said he hopes the final plat for the development is recorded in county land records by the end of this year.

Building permits can be applied for once the final plat for a project is recorded, according to Harford County development regulations posted online.

The Joesting-Gorsuch House, which historical records indicate was built between the 1680s and 1730s, has not been used by the club for several years. It was formerly used as a residence for the golf course superintendent.

The structure is also listed on the Maryland Historical Trust's Inventory of Historic Properties, but that does not protect it from being demolished.

Demetrakis stressed that the house is not in its original form, and it has been remodeled several times. He said that anyone who wants to save the structure should "go through the due diligence and move it themselves" to preserve it.

C. John Sullivan Jr., who lives near Winters Run and drives by the Joesting-Gorsuch House each day, expressed dismay that there has been little public effort to save the structure.

Sullivan, a member of the Harford County Liquor Control Board, also spoke during last September's DAC hearing, where he encouraged the preservation of the house.

"It's our heritage, and it'll disappear in an instant," he said last week. "Hit it with one wrecking ball and it's gone forever."

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