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Baltimore County sells historic Perry Hall Mansion for $5,000; plans call for bed-and-breakfast, event space

Baltimore County sells historic Perry Hall Mansion for $5,000; plans call for bed-and-breakfast, event space

A northeastern Baltimore County mansion that once housed the family of an 18th-century merchant-turned-Methodist leader and that lent its name to the Perry Hall community will change hands for a fraction of its assessed value.

The Baltimore County Council approved the $5,000 sale of Perry Hall Mansion to Kingsville businessman Robert Lehnhoff, who plans to turn it into a bed-and-breakfast and part-time event space.

The county has owned the two-story, 16-room, Georgian-style mansion on Perry Hall Road since 2001, when it paid $335,000 to then-owner Thomas Mele II. It is now valued at $853,900, according to state property assessment records.

The county never used the property and it needs “extensive maintenance and repair” before it’s safe to occupy, according to Deborah Shindle, the county’s chief property manager.

Lehnhoff, a Baltimore County native who owns a landscaping business, said in an interview that he formed a limited liability company to renovate the property.

“I grew up in the neighborhood, and it’s always been a piece of property I’ve admired,” he said, though he said he is “by no means a history buff.”

Lehnhoff said he planned to restore the mansion to its former glory using a $250,000 county grant that comes with the sale. He also plans to self-fund part of the repairs, apply for grants, and fundraise to finance the rest of the upkeep.

The mansion was once part of a vast 1,000-acre estate, first occupied by Harry Dorsey Gough and manned by enslaved people who tended to cattle, as well as tobacco and other crops, according to Historic Perry Hall Mansion Inc., a restoration group, and the records of the National Register of Historic Places. Gough, born in 1745 to a wealthy Annapolis family, had bought the property in 1773 from the widow of Corbin Lee, who died before he finished building the mansion.

While Gough married a devout Methodist, Prudence Carnan, in 1771, it wasn’t until 1775 that he converted to the then-fledging religious movement, building a chapel on the property. Carnan was the sister of the former Gov. Charles Carnan Ridgely, who owned Hampton plantation near what is now East Towson.

The Perry Hall Mansion site has dwindled to just a few acres and the building is in a state of disrepair, closed to visitors with a chain-link fence, and a shadow of its former self. Maintaining it has become costly, which is why the county opted June 3 to sell it, according to council fiscal notes. Between 2004 and 2010, the county made nearly 100 repairs, partly using a $400,000 state grant to stabilize the exterior and replace the roof, along with other repairs and renovations.

The Perry Hall Mansion in Perry Hall, MD on Thursday, February 11, 2016.
The Perry Hall Mansion, as shown in 2016.

Lehnhoff’s group, Harford Building LLC, has engaged in a feasibility study, which will likely take six months, as the county and the Maryland Historical Trust review his proposals, Lehnhoff said. His plan is to eventually transition ownership to a nonprofit.

Because the mansion has a historic easement, it needs to offer some type of public access. Lehnhoff plans to eventually rent part of it out for events, like weddings.

He anticipates starting construction “sometime in 2025.”

“Our intent is to have some sort of soft opening for the community,” said Lehnhoff, who noted its physical prominence in the Perry Hall community. “We want to make sure it’s something that works for the neighborhood.”

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