Fight to preserve cottage

The Baltimore Sun

The fate of a 1920s cottage in the heart of Cockeysville could rest with the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission, which is being asked to decide if the home meets its criteria for historic designation.

The house at Sherwood and Cedar Knoll roads overlooks a stretch of York Road known as Antique Row. The two-story home was designed and built by the Offutt family, known for its generations of attorneys and judges and its ties to the area's founding father Joshua F. Cockey. The residence, which has grown by two additions, sits in the shadow of an old stone church and cemetery, where its original owners are buried.

The current owners, who were traveling and unavailable for comment, bought the home in 1994, rezoned the property for commercial use and operate a framing and furniture business there, under the name of Mareposa LLC. They plan to raze the home and build a three-story office and retail complex on the nearly 1-acre site.

Some neighbors plan to attend tonight's preservation commission meeting to argue that the project is not in keeping with the area's historical character. If the commission decides to place the home on a preliminary list, the owners could not demolish or make any changes to the structure pending a review by county officials and a public hearing.

"By every measure, 2 Sherwood Road is a historic structure in a historic setting," Lou Gunshol, president of the Knollwood Community Association, wrote in remarks he prepared to deliver at the meeting.

"The heart of this structure was built, owned and lived in by Cockey and Offutt family members from 1926 to 1994, nearly all of its life span," he wrote.

But according to a report prepared by the county planning department, the home does not rise to landmark status. It "does not retain the essential physical features that made up its original character and appearance, which are necessary to convey historic context," planners wrote. It lacks distinctive architecture, and its 1926 construction is much later than the period that characterizes Cockeysville's most notable buildings, the report says.

Becky Gerber, a historian and community activist, said the county should make every effort to preserve the home, not only for its ties to families that played a large role in Cockeysville history, but also for features including marble quarried at Beaver Dam and early multicolored Butler stone that cannot be duplicated today.

The planning report says those materials exist in many remaining buildings of that era.

"This home is an important element to an area that has buildings dating to 1798," Gerber said. "It is an important part of the setting of old Cockeysville."

Residents said that they will argue that an office building would not mesh with the surrounding architecture in Sherwood Hill. They will show photos of Victorian-era homes and Sherwood Episcopal Church, built in the 1830s and a candidate for the National Historic Register.

"Razing the cottage will have a devastating effect on the efforts of many who are trying to have Sherwood Hill designated a state historic district," said Dudley Hodgson, whose Victorian home on Cedar Knoll Road dates to the late 19th century. "And it will destroy the quaint and scenic setting that marks the entrance to our neighborhood."

Residents will also discuss the adverse impact of increased traffic on Sherwood Road, which was recently dubbed a scenic byway.

"We know this is a last-ditch effort to convince them," Hodgson said. "This home is historically significant. So many of these places are dying. Let's keep this area the same and not destroy this part of our history."

The commission meeting is to begin at 6 p.m. in Room 104, Jefferson Building, 105 W. Chesapeake Ave., Towson. Information: 410-887-3495.

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