The old Pest House in Cockeysville has been named as an "endangered" historical site. The 1872 house was originally built to house the poor with communicable diseases.
The old Pest House in Cockeysville has been named as an "endangered" historical site. The 1872 house was originally built to house the poor with communicable diseases. (File photo by Joe Soriero, Baltimore Sun)

An 1872 building in Cockeysville that was built to house poor people who had communicable diseases is now facing an unhealthy future itself, and is on a newly released list of "endangered" or threatened historic properties in Maryland.

The "Pest House," a boarded-up structure that stands behind the Historical Society of Baltimore County, has been vacant since the early 1900s, and its interior has been ruined by vandals.


The site is among 10 locations listed on the 2012 Endangered Maryland list of threatened historic properties, released March 15 by the nonprofit Preservation Maryland.

A panel of preservationists selected the list from nominated properties and assessed the level of threat, historic and architectural significance and community support for preserving the site.

The program's purpose is to generate public awareness of Maryland's threatened historic properties, generate possible solutions and serve as a call for action.

Preservation Maryland notes that the Pest House is the subject of efforts to preserve it as a center for county African-American history.

In July 2011, the Baltimore Sun reported that Louis Diggs, a county historian and author of several books on African-American history in the county, is the lead organizer of an effort that is hoping to raise some $300,000 for a renovation job. Diggs said he believed the house was built of stones from the Texas, Md., quarry where African-Americans labored.

The Pest House is associated with the nearby Almshouse, which serves as headquarters for the Historical Society of Baltimore County. A description on the HSBC website notes that, "While (the Pest House) still is attractive on the outside, it has been almost destroyed by vandals."

About the Pest House history, the HSBC site notes that, "In 1872, hospitals would not admit patients with communicable diseases, such as small pox. There were no effective treatments for such communicable diseases.

"Thus, the Pest House was used to segregate those with serious and contagious diseases.

"It was separated from the Almshouse by a fence. The infected had to come to the fence to get their food. Those patients recovering, or not too ill, took care of the very ill," says the HSBC description.

Preservation Maryland is the state's oldest historic preservation organization. Founded in 1931 as the Society for the Preservation of Maryland Antiquities, the group works to preserve Maryland's historic buildings, neighborhoods, landscapes and archaeological sites through outreach, funding and advocacy.

The program, Endangered Maryland, is sponsored by Coakley & Williams Construction Inc., which recently completed the renovation of the Maryland State House.

Other locations on the list include Bostwick, a Prince George's Countysite that was damaged in last year's earthquake; a Silver Spring church that could be leveled to make way for a new house of worship; and "Superblock," a section of Baltimore's west side that the group says has redevelopment threats to its "outstanding collection of historically and culturally significant buildings."

This year's list also names a working class category — "Maryland Watermen" — as being endangered as well due to declining oyster populations.