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Sale of historic Mount Vernon church badly mishandled | READER COMMENTARY

Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, left, and Asbury House, right, are in the process of being sold. November 18, 2020
Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, left, and Asbury House, right, are in the process of being sold. November 18, 2020 (Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Your recent article regarding the fate of the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church warrants a comment — perhaps especially from someone who has been an active member of both the church and the Mount Vernon community for over 20 years (”A developer’s plans for a historic Mount Vernon church highlight a common problem facing Baltimore’s houses of worship,” Nov. 19).

While it may have been the correct choice for the congregation to sell the church and the adjoining rectory, the handling of the sale by the Baltimore-Washington United Methodist Conference has been irresponsible. The subdivision of the church from the adjoining parish house was controversial because it will be detrimental to the long-term viability and value of the church, according to leading architects and preservation experts.

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With very limited marketing of the property on a small, obscure website, the conference has agreed to sell the church and rectory to a developer who has offered no plans for the use of the church. He intends to sell the rectory for a nice sum, but the church? He’s not sure. Who buys a building of this scale without having first developed a financing and use plan? On the contrary, the buyer has shared his belief that the church needs very little repair and he intends to do the bare minimum to keep it standing.

With the sale, the community would be left as the church’s only defender, and it cannot afford the legal battles that would be necessary to protect the structure.

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The right thing for the conference to do is to terminate the tentative sale of the church immediately and to instead find a local or national preservation-focused nonprofit to which it can donate the property.

This is the only way that we can be assured of its repair, restoration and survival as one of the most evocative and preeminent buildings in Baltimore. Cementing a role for the building as a vibrant contributor to Baltimore’s historic, cultural and tourism sectors, as well as Mount Vernon’s revitalization, should be the singular goal of its current owner, the United Methodist Conference, and not the financial windfall that it is likely hoping for, and frankly, does not deserve, as a poor steward of the property for so long.

Susan Warren, Baltimore

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