A bridal shop represents happiness and love, but the owners of Towson's M'Jourdelle are in a fight over whether their building should be declared a historic landmark.
To the owners of M'Jourdelle, 617 York Road, their building is a place to sell bridal gowns and other wedding finery. They would like to keep it that way.
But to historic preservationists, the building is Schmuck House - pronounced "Schmook," as in cook - an 1830s edifice that has ties to the founders of Towson.
Baltimore county officials say the stretch of York Road that includes M'Jourdelle - north of the traffic circle known as the Towson Roundabout - has attracted inquiries from developers.
The Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission voted June 8 to place Schmuck House on the county's preliminary landmarks list for its "general connection with county history" and as "a notable example of craftsmanship."
"The Schmuck House is a connection to the ... history of Towson and gives it an identity that no one else has," said Carol Allen, president of Historic Towson Inc.
But the building's owners - Dr. Rolendo and Delia Sabundayo and Dr. Enrique and Nelina Sajor - oppose the landmark designation.
"We are definitely going to appeal," Bob Carr, a lawyer for the owners, said in an interview. "It's the ugliest block in Towson, and we're the main [building] going into it. Once the committee has to tour our building, it will not appeal to them, and they will change their minds. It is so ugly, so ignored, so unauthentic."
When Delia Sabundayo and her partners bought the building in 1981, she said, she did not know that it was such an important property.
"When we came to look at the house, there were gypsies living upstairs and the place was rat-infested," Sabundayo said.
"There was never any documentation given that the place had any historical significance. It was sold to us as commercial property," she said. "I'm surprised about the big hullabaloo about the historical value of the property."
The stone building bears the name of Solomon Schmuck, a second-generation Pennsylvania German who was an early landowner and businessman in Towson. His wife, Catherine, is thought by county historians to have been the daughter of Ezekiel Towson, of the family that gave Towson its name.
Tax records show that Schmuck House was built between 1833 and 1841, according to "Baltimore County Panorama," by Neal A. Brooks and Richard Parsons.
"This structure is a wonderful opportunity to show what was once a wonderful streetscape," said Elise Butler, programs director for Preservation Maryland. "It is critical that this site be preserved. The Schmuck House can be a cornerstone for the renewal of that portion of York Road and of Towson."
The stuccoed and paneled south wall of Schmuck House stands next to an abandoned Shell station and a pizza shop with boarded windows and high grass.
"The property is on the circle, and it's the nexus point in Towson," said Andrea Vanarsdale, revitalization director for the county Department of Economic Development. "That's a preferable spot to have.
"We've had a number of inquiries about the property" on that stretch of York Road, she said, for possibilities such as an office building or a parking structure.
Walgreen's, one of the nation's largest pharmacy chains, is mentioned when the 600 block of York Road is discussed. But John Bessey, vice president of Phillips Edison Development Co., which locates and leases sites for Walgreen's, said he could not comment on inquiries about purchasing land in the Towson area. He said the company is interested in acquiring property in the Baltimore area.
Landmark status protects a property from demolition on purpose or by neglect. Changes to the property must be reviewed by the landmarks commission. The goal is to keep the exterior the same to preserve its historic quality.
The preliminary landmarks list, including Schmuck House, has been sent to the county executive's office for a 60-day review before it is submitted to the County Council. The council has 30 days to hold public hearings and then decides whether to adopt properties as historic landmarks.
Kim Abe, administrative secretary to the landmarks commission, said that the landmark designation is not a death sentence for future development.
"Anything could happen on that property. Creative designs and creative alternatives can be done," she said. "The property could still be used commercially. The landmark doesn't mean that it precludes any development on that property."