Kickstarter campaign aims to save Johns Hopkins birthplace

WASHINGTON — Whites Hall, a historic 18th-century home in Crofton, Maryland, that was the birthplace of Johns Hopkins, has been threatened with demolition, but a group of preservationists has turned to crowdfunding in hopes of saving it.

The Kickstarter campaign, called “Save Whites Hall: Johns Hopkins’ Birthplace,” has set a fundraising goal of $298,000, and has been launched by a new nonprofit called The Johns Hopkins House Inc.

The group says the house’s current owner, Maryland developer The Polm Companies, which at one point sought to demolish the house, is now committed to preserving the piece of history.

Whites Hall was constructed around 1785 and was originally a 500-acre tobacco plantation when Hopkins was born there in 1875. Slave labor was employed on the farm, though the family’s slaves were emancipated in 1807.

“The freeing of the Whites Hall slaves is thought to have contributed to Johns’ sense of public duty and social justice later in life,” the nonprofit said in a statement. “Little known is that he bequeathed funds not only to found a university and hospital, but also an orphanage for ‘colored children’ in Baltimore.”

If the money is raised — Kickstarter works on an all-or-nothing model, meaning if the nonprofit doesn’t reach the goal it gets nothing — The Johns Hopkins House Inc. plans to add a museum, a nonprofit restaurant and an inn to self-sustain the property.

The estate now includes 13 acres.

Restoration would be overseen by Dennis Pogue, a former vice president of preservation at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate.

The Kickstarter campaign launched Tuesday morning and lasts for 30 days.

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