The Homestead

The Homestead

In November 1993, Bel Air United Methodist Church was given the wonderful opportunity to purchase the adjoining property at 221 Linwood Avenue known as The Homestead.  Consisting of just over 6 acres, the property included a colonial revival style home built of Port Deposit granite, various garages and outbuildings, a tennis court, and beautifully  landscaped grounds. During that first year of ownership, The Homestead was selected as the Harford County AMC Cancer Research Center’s Decorator Show House. This was also  a great opportunity for the church because considerable interior renovations, including paint, wallcoverings, and some furnishings, were accomplished.

In January 1994, the  Homestead Advisory Committee was formed to assure maximum use of The Homestead in reaching the goals and purposes of the church. While the first task was working with the Decorator Show House committee, they also developed a site plan for the property and an application and guidelines for use of the house and grounds.

In the following years,  The Homestead hosted a number of functions and events for the church. There were weekly worship services, Disciple classes, youth group meetings, gatherings and bazaar workshops for the Bel Air United Methodist Women, Strawberry Festivals, church picnics, choir parties, and retreats for the staff, the District, and other groups. There were also  graduation parties, birthday parties, and weddings. The Homestead provided space for a counseling center, and a furnished space was available for use by overnight guests (such as speakers and visiting clergy).

With the completion of the church’s extensive building program in 1999 and 2000 (which added the Armstrong Center, an expanded  administrative area, renovated classrooms, the Narthex, and the balcony in the Sanctuary), the use of The Homestead changed as well.

Numerous committees have studied the use  of The Homestead property over the years, especially the group in 2003 that looked at the entire campus of the church. The interior rooms of The Homestead could not  accommodate large groups like the Armstrong Center rooms could. Over the years, both the house and the outbuildings provided needed storage for Toy Workshop, furniture and food ministry programs, and the Boy Scouts. But the house, outbuildings, and grounds increasingly required extensive maintenance and repairs.

In February of this year, The  Homestead Sub-Committee was appointed by the Board of Trustees. After reviewing the past studies, consulting with the Conference Board of Trustees, and much discussion, a  list of options was proposed. The Board of Trustees is currently considering the sale of The Homestead property as a whole or as several parcels (possible building lots). We have contracted with Frederick Ward and Associates (FWA) to conduct a boundary survey to determine a new property line just beyond our upper parking lot, and to conduct a subdivision feasibility study to propose options for the remaining acreage.

Prior to the sale of The Homestead property, it will be necessary to hold a Congregational Meeting and to receive approval from the District. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Caspero at 410-236-1203 or jfcaspero3@gmail.com or Doug McCorkle at 410-937-6283 or doug.mccorkle@outlook.com.

Spring 2021 Update on the Homestead

The Homestead Sub-Committee has continued working diligently and methodically to consider the future of The Homestead house and surrounding property. Over the years, a number of other committees were formed to discuss the use and vision for The Homestead, so our work is not novel. However, this committee is being charged with providing an action plan since the current state of the building requires that steps be taken to preserve it or take it down.

This message is intended to share three things: to share more information about The Homestead, to give an overview of our Sub-Committee’s progress, and to ask for your faithful prayers in this decision.

The early 1990’s were a time of rapid expansion of the Bel Air community and of Bel Air United Methodist Church. Our leaders, with an eye toward the future, purchased The Homestead  and the property surrounding it. Many members of the congregation gave faithfully to support that purchase and a subsequent expansion of the physical plant here at 21 Linwood Avenue.  The Homestead was purchased in 1993, and the Armstrong Center (including the Lightner Library, Youth Center, and large meeting rooms) was added within the next decade.

The current condition of The Homestead would require significant investment to mitigate current decline and to bring the property up to safe and useful standards. An estimate received in 2018 from Frederick Ward Associates (FWA) totaled more than $500,000 for such repairs. While not every repair or upgrade would need to be done, and in fact some recommendations listed in the report have been accomplished, we recognize that three more years of decline have also taken place since the report was issued. The bottom line is that it would take a sizeable investment just to make the building usable. We encourage anyone interested to download and view the report titled “Building Assessment – The Homestead” prepared by Frederick Ward Associates (FWA) in February 2018. Not only does it provide a pictorial and written account of the costs to improve/sustain the building at minimum levels, it is also a fascinating historical look at the property, the families associated with it, and the process by which our church obtained the property. The report also contains minutes from meetings of prior committees, demonstrating how this congregation over the years has wrestled with the questions of “what to do.” Those questions are not new, but at this point we need to come up with an answer.

That is what our Sub-Committee is currently engaged in. We have been meeting regularly to work through options for the property and building. Our intent is to provide updates when available, and to make a final recommendation to the Board of Trustees and Administrative Council sometime soon. Currently we have narrowed the options to three general categories. One option would sub-divide and sell building lots and also sell The Homestead, returning it to a residential setting. The second option would demolish The Homestead and retain all of the land that was purchased back in 1993. And the third option would sell the building lots and use those proceeds to demolish The Homestead, retaining some of the land for the church. There are still many details we are working on and questions we need to answer, but those are generally the global options that we are considering.

This is where we need everyone’s help. Please review the Frederick Ward report if you are interested. Please reach out to share your thoughts, and talk to your friends and discuss this important decision. But most of all, please pray. Pray for wisdom and guidance, pray for God’s plan to be revealed, pray for clarity on how The Homestead and property acquired over a quarter century ago can serve our mission in the next quarter century and beyond, and please pray for His kingdom to be advanced through the love of Bel Air United Methodist Church.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact John Caspero at 410-236-1203 or jfcaspero3@gmail.com or Doug McCorkle at 410-937-6283 or doug.mccorkle@outlook.com.