London's Publik House in need of restoration


London Town Publik House is falling down.

And its gardens are in sorry condition too.

The London Town Foundation Inc., a nonprofit corporation that manages the 10-acre site in Edgewater for Anne Arundel County, wants to do a $550,000 restoration.

It would be the largest such undertaking at the property, and one historians say is crucial to keeping the 230-year-old house on the South River standing.

Unless the work is done, the brick house, a National Historic Landmark, will rot from the foundation up, say members of the corporation.

Already the cellar and foundation are crumbling because of moisture.

If the work is done, crews could fix the moisture problem, irrigate and reopen much of the garden to the public, and repair and move the county's second-oldest tobacco barn. The barn was brought to the site in 1980 from an old county plantation.

The corporation also would use some of the money to renovate the visitor center, once a men's poorhouse that now houses offices, a gift shop, library and other rooms.

"Our plan would be to do this work over the next two to three years," said Ellen K. Rothman, executive director of the foundation.

The success of the plans depends on the state legislature approving a $275,000 state bond. Del. Michael E. Busch, the Annapolis Democrat who heads the House Economic Matters Committee, said the county's delegation favors the renovation.

What makes passage likely this year, he said, is that the county has matching funds available.

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary is asking the County Council to approve $100,000 in the coming fiscal year's capital budget toward the work. This money would be in addition to $160,000 approved last year, said Mr. Gary's spokesman, Larry R. Telford IV.

Mary S. Brown, a foundation board member, said she and others are baffled by the moisture problem. "We don't know why water is coming in," she said.

Ms. Rothman, the executive director, said the landmark home should not be allowed to deteriorate.

"There is not much left of Anne Arundel County heritage," she said. "The county has owned [the Publik House] for longer than most buildings in the state are standing."

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