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Owings House owners suggest move to Reisterstown


The owners of historic Samuel Owings House want to move the 18th-century building to a new site in Reisterstown, where it would be restored and returned to its original use -- as a private home.

Built as the home of Samuel Owings II, for whom Owings Mills was named, the house is occupied by a restaurant and flower shop in a neighborhood now largely commercial.

Plans call for it to be moved to a more rustic, 7-acre site near Reisterstown, in the Valley of David section off Nicodemus Road. It would be restored, and become the home of Dr. David Miller, one of the owners.

Lawrence Link, principal at L. J. Link Jr. Inc., a Brooklandville architectural firm, said, "Our intent with the plan is to put the house back how it was before, prerestaurant, pre-everything."

Dr. Miller and a partner, Howard Brown, and their lawyer and architectmet Thursday with the Baltimore County Landmarks Commission, asking that the panel consider their idea to move the house brick by brick.

That would free the current site at Painters Mill and Dolfield roads, where the owners hope to build a nine-story, $20 million office tower.

The location targeted for the old house, although outside Owings Mills, could be on land that once belonged to Owings in the mid to late 1700s.

"He [Dr. Miller] felt this area was well within the acreage that Samuel Owings owned," said Julius W. Lichter, the owners' lawyer.

Owings built the two-story Georgian house in 1767. It is one of the 20 oldest surviving houses in the county.

The landmarks commission voted unanimously to consider the idea of moving the house, and its members will go independently to look at the proposed site, said John McGrain, the commission's executive secretary.

"The commission wasn't exactly crazy about the idea, but they ** are going to study it," said Mr. McGrain, adding that some of the panel's 15 unpaid members were skeptical.

At issue is whether the house, surrounded by offices, a fitness center and a bank, still can be considered to be in a historic setting. "The question is: Has the neighborhood lost its authenticity altogether?" Mr. McGrain said.

Commission members balked at the idea of moving the house brick by brick because of concerns that it would compromise the historical integrity of the building. They asked the architects to present a feasibility plan on moving the building intact at the panel's Aug. 10 meeting.

Mr. Link said it could be done either way.

But plans for the future of Owings House remain complicated by a legal squabble over the Fiori Restaurant and Wine Cellar Pub that closed last month. Eight years remain on a long-term lease.

Richard Pirone, a co-owner of the restaurant and pub, said last month that he closed because of a decline in business stemming from publicity about a possible move of the building. But he now says business had been bad much earlier -- and that as of June 1, he was 17 months in arrears on rent. He owes $100,000, according to complaints for repossession filed July 7 by the Owings House owners.

Mr. Pirone said he filed for bankruptcy protection the same day, gaining a 60-day reprieve to pay before being evicted, and since then has been "working feverishly" to find new partners.

The other tenant in Samuel Owings House, Christopher M. & Craig, a small florist shop, is looking for a new site. Owner Therese Krupnik has run the business in a small room next to the restaurant for less than a year, and said she hopes to find a nearby location as soon as possible.

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