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Finding out who owns town hall Family gave Savage the historic building, but deed is not clear


State historical preservationists say spending the money set aside to renovate Savage's historic town hall wouldn't be a problem -- if only they could figure out who owns the 73-year-old building.

"We need an accurate deed that shows who owns what," said Richard Brand, administrator of the Maryland Historical Trust's easements program. "It's been the major obstacle. We need to clear that up prior to release of any money."

Two years ago, the General Assembly approved a $70,000 grant to help restore Carroll Baldwin Memorial Hall, an old stone building that has a leaky roof, outdated electrical system and rotting window frames.

Howard County agreed to contribute $67,000 toward the renovation project, and the Savage community raised another $3,000.

Built with stones from the bed of the Little Patuxent River, the hall sits at Baltimore and Foundry streets and long has been a meeting place for the Savage Community Association and for social gatherings.

It was donated to the Savage community by Leslie Evans and Co., the former owner of Historic Savage Mill, and Sallie Baldwin, who built the hall in memory of her brother Carroll, president of the mill from 1905 to 1918.

But the deed on the property doesn't clearly state specifically what property was donated to the Savage community, Mr. Brand said.

The historical trust must have approval of the property's owner before it can allow state money to be used for renovations.

"Sometimes with historic properties, actual ownership interests aren't clear," Mr. Brand said. "That's definitely the case here. The property interests are hazy."

Members of the Carroll Baldwin Memorial Institute, which oversees the hall, say they are having the property surveyed and hope to clarify ownership in the next few weeks.

"We've waited a long time to fix her up," said Cathy Whitehead, president of the institute. "We're doing everything that's necessary to meet the needs for the grant."

There is no time limit for the Savage community to prove its right to the property.

In the meantime, institute board members have been trying to assure Savage residents that problems with the project are minimal.

"Everything's moving forward," said board member Deborah Shultz. "Some of these things take time."

If all goes well, Ms. Shultz said, bids to perform the renovation work should be sought in the next couple of months.

The tight-knit town of 2,850 has a deep passion for its historic structures.

The town's centerpiece is Historic Savage Mill, which provided jobs for as many as 400 workers during World War II, when it produced 400,000 pounds of cloth a month. Now it has been converted into an antiques and crafts mall.

Another historic feature is the Bollman Truss Bridge.

The suspension bridge, designed by Wendel Bollman of Baltimore, who pioneered the use of iron in bridge construction, was built in 1869.

Volunteers have used mountain climbing equipment to patch leaking areas of the town hall roof.

Two lawyers who rent space in the basement try to keep the property free of litter.

"It's a really wonderful old building," said James Sauer, a lawyer who has had his office in the building since August 1994. "We try to keep it that way."

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