Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008

Crown Farm Historic District considered

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The city resumed discussions Monday about establishing a historic site at the soon-to-be-developed Aventiene community in Gaithersburg.

‘‘This could create a unique educational opportunity for the citizens of Gaithersburg by showing what a farm complex was like a century ago,” said Jacqueline Marsh, city planner.

Aventiene, which used to be called Crown Farm, is a 182-acre planned community off Fields Road near Interstates 270 and 370 to begin construction this spring, is designed as five neighborhoods built in a neotraditional style near a transit stop for the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway.

In one section is the 47-acre England Crown Farm complex, which includes a late 19th century home, a log cabin, a smokehouse, a corn crib, barns, dairy farm buildings, silos and sheds built over the next two centuries.

Developers formally promised to give the property to the city as public parkland in August 2006, stipulating that the buildings must be considered for historic designation or preservation and the city’s Historic District Commission must set parkland boundaries.

In early December, HPAC suggested historic designation for 10 of 20 buildings and set site boundaries, Marsh said. The committee also supported a consultant recommendation to move Heeter-Crown House to make the area complete.

Heeter-Crown House, once owned by a German blacksmith’s slave-owning family, now sits across a field from the stately English Crown family home. If recommendations are approved, the house, once slated for demolition, would join both the ‘‘English Crown Manor House” and a neighboring log structure.

‘‘Moving the house would complete the historic farm setting and it would fit in well architecturally,” Marsh said.

Moving a farmhouse can be difficult, said Judy Christensen, an HPAC member and executive director of Gaithersburg’s Historical Association.

But a major road in the new development would have run 10 feet from the historic home’s front porch and interfered with ‘‘that rural feeling.”

Three adjacent livable historic buildings would appeal to buyers, she said. So will a 20 percent state tax credit on the cost of restoring the buildings and a 10 percent county tax rebate.

The Heeter-Crown House’s pre-Revolutionary war roots provide ‘‘an interesting history in Gaithersburg,” she said.

The homes will be in private use, which is their best chance for preservation, and perhaps the site would one day have a visitors’ center or history center, she said.

No decision will be made on park operation until the entire parcel is deeded from the developers to the city, Marsh said. The city will need to determine a revenue source for maintaining the buildings.

Have Your Say

Gaithersburg’s Planning Commission will hold its record open until 5 p.m. on Feb. 4. The Planning Commission will make a recommendation to the Mayor and City Council on Feb. 13. The Mayor and City Council’s record will stay open until 5 p.m. on Feb. 14 with anticipated policy discussion Feb. 19. Mail or bring written comments to Planning Commission, City Hall, 31 S. Summit Ave. Gaithersburg, MD 20877.