The story of how John McDaniel purchased a historic Howard County property is a curious one.
McDaniel, then in his late 30s, got an offer to head what was then Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. To lessen his commute, he and his wife, Ellen, began looking to move from their residence in Baltimore County. After scouting routes to get from Baltimore to Washington, McDaniel drew a circle on the map and determined Howard County to be the most central location.
The McDaniels had a passion for historic properties, so they instructed their real estate agent to find one that was historic and had enough land to house horses.
John McDaniel said their agent culled through state records and found Hickory Ridge, a property that had yet to be listed. The McDaniels and their agent toured the grounds and agreed “was the perfect spot."
"We fell in love with it,” McDaniel, now 77, said in a phone interview.
Because McDaniel happened upon the property before it was formally listed, its owner, Richard Jenkins, did not know how much he wanted to sell it for. McDaniel was unsure how much he wanted to pay. The two agreed to use two separate appraisers and go from there.
“We were only $100,000 apart," McDaniel said. He said Jenkins suggested the two “split the difference and have a drink."
“So that’s exactly what we did,” McDaniel said. "We had a bourbon in the living room.”
McDaniel purchased the home in July 1983 for $580,000, according to land records. He said the purchasing amount is not a true reflection of how much he invested in the property, which was once a residence for prominent families including the Hopkins, Owens and Clarks. While owning it for more than 30 years, he added 50 acres to the property from nearby owners. He estimated the cost of the venture and the home improvements to be “in the millions.”
The nearly 300-year-old, 65-acre property which inspired the naming of a Columbia village seven miles away is now listed for sale for $9 million.
The land was patented by a royal land grant to Col. Henry Ridgeley by King George II during the Colonial era. A stone cottage was constructed in 1748. In 1789, when George Washington became president, Ridgeley’s son, Greenberry Ridgeley, began to build the manor house. It expanded in the early 1800s and, in 1995, a modern kitchen was added, the listing says.
When the Hopkins family resided there for 75 years, the estate was known as White Hall, the listing said.
“Since I’ve been there, we’ve hosted every governor," said McDaniel, the founding CEO of MedStar Health, of Columbia, one of the largest health care companies in the mid-Atlantic region. He also served on the Maryland Racing Commission — three times as chairman — for 32 years.
The Hickory Ridge property is in Maryland’s Inventory of Historic Properties. In a form nominating the property to be on the National Register of Historic Places, state officials described it as a “most notable and significant structure both architecturally and historically.”
The gated, tree-lined property comprises the manor house, the stone cottage, a carriage house and an English greenhouse. The equestrian facilities include two barns that contain 20 stalls, a tack room and gym. The property also has a trail, two exercise rings and eleven paddocks and four ponds.
The manor house has four levels and 17 rooms, five of which are bedrooms. There is also a three-car garage, a reception hall, an underground wine cellar with a barrel ceiling, a sun room and library.
At least 20 acres of the land are under historic preservation, according to McDaniel.
It is districted for Dayton Oaks Elementary, Lime Kiln Middle and River Hill High schools, according to a brochure provided by Richard Watson, a realtor under Long & Foster Real Estate Inc., who is listing the property.
“I think it’s time to turn the property over to someone else to be the caretaker of,” McDaniel said. He said he and his wife are on the hunt for a smaller historic property, perhaps in Annapolis or Georgetown. They also own a home in Key West, Florida.