At 17th-century, the future could look a lot like its past

EDGEWATER, Md. (AP) — When they moved to the Edgewater home, it was so dilapidated there were goats running through it.

Really, says 89-year-old Beverly Johnson, who owned the home along with her husband for around 38 years.

“It was a mess inside,” she said.

Before she knew it, her husband Leon Johnson was signing paperwork to buy the estate. The Gresham Estate, once owned by the pirate William Cotter, and most notably owned during the Civil War by Commodore Isaac Mayo until his death, was built in the late 1600s by John Gresham II.

After a restoration from the Johnsons, it has exchanged hands again to Anne Arundel County, and will be managed by London Town, a Colonial town and garden about 10 minutes away. London Town has been offering tours of the home, and helping to plan for its future.

“The outside of the house definitely looks like a 19th-century or an early 20th-century house,” said Rod Cofield, the executive director of London Town. “When you go inside though, you can definitely tell late 20th century, and early 21st century modifications were made.”

Leon originally purchased the house because of his equipment. As the owner of Johnson and Johnson Pools, neighbors started complaining about the many vehicles, Beverly said. With more space, Leon built a pavilion and pond around the home, and spent about four years restoring it.

There have been several expansions and additions over the years, with the earliest around the 1800s. The original building didn’t have a kitchen or indoor bathrooms. Most of the history of the home has been told from Leon, though London Town is hoping to continue confirming details, like of the former slave quarters in the attic.

And though the now-kitchen features a wood burning stove among the regular appliances, a second-floor bathroom has a modern bathtub with whirlpool jets and a fireplace. Because it has been lived in for several decades, the place presents a unique opportunity, Costein said.

Potentially in the future, it could be a space for renting for weddings or private events. Costein envisions renting the property for a Thursday through Sunday — with everything from a rehearsal dinner to a wedding on one property.

Historic homes that are restored and used as displays can be notoriously hard to manage, Costein said.

“They’re very expensive and they don’t really support themselves,” he said.

If the home does end up being used for events, it will get back to some of the intention the Johnsons put behind it. After building the pavilion, the Johnsons used it as a place for picnics for friends and family for years — as well as for local church groups.

“We’ve been married 69 years. Other than family, this place has surpassed memory building,” Beverly said.

The Johnsons moved out in November 2017 to downsize. The county picked up the property with plans to develop a recreational park near a wastewater treatment plant in the area, according to Cofield. With London Town managing the property, the once-dilapidated home from a century ago, may remain in prime condition for years to come.

“It’s so neat to come back and think about the beautiful history,” Leon said. “I consider it an honor that the Lord had me buy this place.”

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Information from: The Capital, http://www.capitalgazette.com/

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