Excerpt from the Baltimore Sun:

A Baltimore County Councilman has honored three Southland Hills community leaders for their work advocating for the preservation of the former Presbyterian Home of Maryland building, which is located in the west Towson neighborhood.
David Marks named the trio — Therese McAllister, Paul Saleh and Kate Knott — his Fifth District Citizens of the Year during a Dec. 17 event in Southland Hills.Marks, a Perry Hall Republican who represents District 5 on the council, which includes Towson, launched a citizen of the year program in 2011, he said, adding that he has used it as a way to recognize deserving members of the community who may otherwise be overlooked.McAllister nominated Knott for the award in November, she said. Both women have been campaigning to preserve the Bosley Mansion, a part of the former Presbyterian Home of Maryland property identifiable by its large white pillars.

While McAllister nominated Knott, Marks said he believed that McAllister and Saleh, the president of the Southland Hills Improvement Association, also had worked hard to preserve the structure and so decided to honor all three.

The trio have invested hundreds of hours of work into preserving the Bosley Mansion, said Marks, who also supports saving the structure.

Rally at Presbyterian Home in Southland Hills

“These individuals have gone above and beyond the typical group of community leaders,” he added.

A piece of history

In May, the Presbyterian Home of Maryland nursing home announced it would leave the Towson mansion after nearly 90 years of operation there, putting the building, parts of which date to the mid-19th century, up for sale.

McAllister and others say the presence of the building was a factor when they purchased their houses, adding that the large green lawn on the 4.5-acre property is used as an unofficial community park, though the land is owned by the Presbyterian Home.

In May the Preservation Alliance of Baltimore County, at the request of the Southland Hills community, submitted a request to the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission to have the property added to the county’s list of historic landmarks.

Submitting that request was essentially a way to pause the process of deciding the property’s future, because while the designation is being considered the building can’t be demolished, according to county officials.

If the historic designation is approved, the exterior architecture of the building can’t be altered without the approval of the county’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, nor can the structure be torn down without its approval. A hearing before the commission to decide the property’s status as a historic landmark was scheduled for Jan. 12, but was delayed until April 13 at the request of the owners of the Presbyterian Home.

Ultimately the Baltimore County Council would vote on whether to add the property to the list.

In a letter to Baltimore County officials dated Jan. 4, the owners of the Presbyterian Home state that Towson-based developer Caves Valley Partners is under contract to purchase the property, but that Presbyterian Home officials are talking with two back-up buyers should Caves Valley decline to purchase the property.

The hearing on the status of the building as a landmark has been delayed so parties can discuss uses for the property with the community and reach an amicable agreement before the hearing, Baltimore County spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said in a Jan. 6 email.

Josh Glikin, a West Towson resident acting as the attorney for the Southland Hills Improvement Association, said the group is open to compromise. It would like to see the building preserved through a residential use, such as senior condominiums.

Last summer, Caves Valley Partners proposed turning the property into office space for Baltimore County, a prospect neighbors protested, saying that they feared such a use would lead to traffic congestion and put stress on street parking in the neighborhood.

Baltimore County officials withdrew from the proposal.

Caves Valley officials did not respond to a request for comment.

Bosley Mansion research

McAllister said she nominated Knott because of Knott’s efforts in researching the history of the mansion.

“A lot of people say they will do things and then [we] never hear from them again,” McAllister said, adding that, in addition to following through on her promise to help research the Bosley Mansion, Knott also became a member of the Southland Hills Improvement Association board.

Knott said she began researching the history of the mansion because she and other Southland Hills residents are concerned about its fate. R

esearching the history of the building to prepare for hearing before the landmarks commission has become a part-time job for her, said Knott, a nurse practitioner and mother to a 4-year-old daughter.

“My mom’s family has been in Towson since before the Civil War,” Knott said. “The history of Towson is important to me, and we’ve lost so much of it already.”

Knott has also organized volunteers in the community who have assisted her research. The group has learned that medical doctor Grafton Bosley inherited a large parcel of land in 1850, including what is now West Towson, and decided to build a home on it — the Bosley Mansion.

The mansion, which went through several owners, was bought by The Presbyterian Home of Maryland in 1928.

Knott said Saleh, who did not return a call for this story, has also been very supportive in the effort to save the building, taking on the role of communicating with Marks, as well as keeping in touch with the owners of the Presbyterian Home.

McAllister also has organized support around the effort, Knott said.