This old (infamous) house; Tudor Hall: After state laid low, new buyers must be trusted to preserve home of John Wilkes Booth.


PERHAPS fate or poetic justice decreed that a young couple would outbid more organized suitors for Tudor Hall, the home near Bel Air that once belonged to the Booth family.

The nearby community college wanted it. Actors Stacy Keach and Hal Holbrook lent support to the college because several members of the Booth family were renowned Shakespearean actors in the 19th century. Historians also have great interest in the property because one of Junius Brutus and Mary Ann Booth's 10 children was John Wilkes, who killed President Abraham Lincoln in 1865.

But no one matched last weekend's $415,000 bid by Elizabeth and Robert Baker, partner in a garden nursery business. The couple, in their late 20s, like old houses and plan to live there with their young daughter. It's a low-key, and fitting, ending to the suspense that has lingered over this property since last winter, when the husband and wife who had lived there for the past 30 years died within weeks of each another.

This is only the seventh time the property has changed hands in 152 years. Some of the owners offered public tours by appointment. For many Marylanders, though, the connection to John Wilkes Booth is one they would just as soon forget.

State and local officials, who find money for this project and that, laid low when the college sought help. It seems far-fetched that a politician could harm his career by helping save a home that belonged to a presidential assassin more than a century ago, but no one apparently wants to test that theory.

Considered one of the best examples of Gothic-revival style in America, Tudor Hall seems to stand against time even as the farm view beyond its leaded-glass windows becomes more suburban. We wish the Bakers good luck and hope they are sincere in their commitment to protect their new home, undeniably a piece of Americana and Maryland lore.

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