Financial programs target home restorers; State initiatives meant to encourage rehabilitation


The 127-year-old Dutch Colonial house at 49 E. Baltimore St. is at a turning point: the new owner thinks it can be restored to the point of becoming a satellite bed-and-breakfast for the luxurious Antrim 1844 a few blocks away in the heart of Taneytown.

But if the owner, Bill Davis, doesn't find a way to finance the new roof and exterior painting, the place is likely to rot beyond repair.

Davis, an upholsterer, learned late last week of money available from Maryland's Department of Housing and Community Development to rehabilitate aging historic homes and storefronts. In Taneytown, many of those have been carved into apartments.

"It's hard to keep both businesses and people in small towns," said Marge Wolfe, the deputy secretary of the department. "It's an economic problem."

But towns such as North Beach in Calvert County and Oakland in Garrett County have begun to turn the tide.

The process starts with a core group of people, said Wolfe and Steven Sager, a former mayor of Hagerstown who works in the department's Western Maryland office. They spoke Friday at the Taneytown Business Breakfast, a meeting of town officials and business people working in northwest Carroll.

Wolfe told the crowd of about 100 about the Capital Access Program, recently authorized by the Maryland General Assembly. The initiative permits creation of reserve accounts to help guarantee bank loans to certain borrowers seeking to renovate older buildings. She also mentioned other state and federal incentives for rehabilitation.

Davis welcomed the news. "If they could help me to get into it, I could do it right. A new roof and a coat of paint would prevent it from rotting any further."

The home has peeling gray paint and wood shutters. A stately three stories, it has a summer kitchen, a carriage house and original columns supporting the porch. It was built in 1873.

A friend told Davis to cover the house with aluminum siding and be done with it -- he'd never have to paint it again. But Davis says that's a mistake made by too many people who buy older homes.

Sager, the former Hagerstown mayor, applauded that.

He said the attitude toward older buildings follows a cycle. What was once out of favor is now back in vogue. About 20 years ago, Sager said, several buildings in downtown Hagerstown were "modernized" with metal facades. The movement now is to remove them to expose the architecture, he said.

"Ultimately, I think this could be one of the best things that could have happened for many of our older communities," Wolfe said.

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