Portion of Family's Historic Manor To Be Sold for Senior Housing

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By Lori Aratani
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 16, 2008; Page B01

The descendants of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence announced yesterday they have reached an agreement that will allow limited development of senior housing on their historic Doughoregan Manor in Howard County but will keep most of the ancestral property — visited by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson — in family hands.

Camilla Carroll and her brother Philip D. Carroll said they have agreed to sell 150 acres of their 892-acre family estate to Erickson Retirement Communities. Erickson also reserves the option to purchase another 38 acres. In addition, the Carroll family will donate 36 acres of their property to the county for a park. The historic manor, part of which dates to 1727, will remain intact.

The sale price was not disclosed.

“We’re delighted to have found a solution that brings more senior housing into the county, provides more ballparks for kids and that has minimal impact on schools and roads,” Camilla Carroll said in a prepared statement. “It has taken us five years to find a win-win solution for our family and our community, but we’ve finally found it with this plan.”

The news was welcomed by county officials, neighbors and those in the historic preservation community, who had feared the historic property, once part of a 13,000-acre estate owned by Declaration signer Charles Carroll, might be sold and turned into subdivisions. Those fears were heightened in 2007, when a historic easement protecting the land expired.

“There was a lot of uncertainty of what would happen” to Doughoregan, said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman (D), who visited the property not long ago. “It is arguably the most historic unprotected property in the region. It’s a wonderful gem.”

The intensely private Carrolls had long maintained they wanted to keep the property in family hands, but had told county officials they needed a plan that would provide for upkeep and maintenance of the manor and other buildings.

Brad Phillips, a spokesman for the Carrolls, said the Erickson deal will keep at least 665 acres in family hands in perpetuity. The agreement will require county review, a process that could take up to two years.
The deal calls for the construction of up to 1,500 independent living and health-care units. If Erickson officials choose to purchase the additional 38 acres of land, the organization could build another 500 units. County officials like the plan because it is targeted at seniors and unlikely to have significant impacts on schools and traffic.

“It’s a creative proposal that has the potential to be a win-win solution for the preservation of this national historic treasure,” said County Council Chairperson Courtney Watson (D-Northeast County), who represents the council district where Doughoregan is located.

Erickson officials issued a one-sentence e-mail statement about the deal.

“We look forward to working with Howard County officials to bring a full-service Erickson campus to the historic Doughoregan Manor site that will combine a maintenance-free active lifestyle with an ever-expanding host of amenities, social activities and wellness and medical centers, proven to improve both physical and mental health,” said spokesman Mel Tansill, senior director of corporate public affairs for Erickson Retirement Communities.

The home of Charles Carroll, the only Roman Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence and the last of the 56 signers to die, at the age of 95, has long topped preservationists’ lists of endangered historic sites. Some have even called it Maryland’s Monticello.

It is the only one of the signers’ homes still in family hands. Chares Carroll, who died in 1832, is buried in the small chapel that adjoins one wing of the manor.

“Doughoregan Manor is one of the most significant privately owned properties in Maryland and arguably in the country,” said Tyler Gearhart, executive director of Preservation Maryland, the state’s oldest historic preservation organization.

The property was named a national historic landmark in 1971. But as with many historic properties, upkeep and tax liabilities made it difficult for descendants of the original owners to maintain.

When family matriarch Nina Ryan Carroll died in 1989, county officials said her heirs paid $10 million to settle the estate. In 2006, family members told county officials it would cost as much as $8 million to cover the costs of maintenance and upkeep on the home and outbuildings just for three years.

“It’s a good day for historic preservation in Howard,” said Mary Catherine Cochran, president of Preservation Howard County. “Assuming this goes through, this is our best case realistic scenario.”

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