Women’s Museum seeks New Home
The Mary Edwardine Bourke Emory (MEBE) Foundation announced Wednesday they will not be continuing their quest of opening a Women’s Museum at the Bloomfield Farmhouse. The County was approached in March to place a four-acre Maryland Historic Trust (MHT) easement surrounding the Bloomfield Farmhouse, located in the middle of White Marsh Park. This structure has been undergoing a renovation project for the purpose of housing a state women’s museum undertaken by the Foundation, a non-profit organization that has a 25-year lease to renovate the structure. The County has supported these efforts, however the acceptance of an MHT easement places financial uncertainty on the county as the property owner and the future developer of the surrounding 300-acre public park.
Todd R. Mohn, PE, County Administrator stated, "The MHT program is a great program for a smaller property which contains one or more historic structures and features being actively renovated under local government control and government initiative. Because the program limits so much activity on the structure(s) and the surrounding property, the MHT easement is not a good fit for a large county park such as this, and occupied by multiple public uses. It becomes difficult to follow a long-term easement protocol which limits all improvements without MHT authorization".
The MHT easement would provide the women’s museum project approximately $200,000 in State grant funds that would go towards the estimated $4 million project. The foundation is currently solely responsible for the cost of the overall project and has no comprehensive financial plan for the additional funds required to develop the farmhouse as a public venue. Major infrastructure upgrades and preservation of the structure are necessary requirements which also include ADA accessibility, fire suppression systems, accessory building and a public sewer extension.
Recent meetings between county staff and members of the Foundation led to the County’s reservations in applying an MHT easement encumbrance on the property. This would lead to a result in which if the Foundation was unable to raise sufficient funds to complete the Museum, the County, as the property owner, would still be restricted by the easement thwarting possibilities of finding another beneficial community use for the property.
Steve Chandlee, Director of Parks and Recreation stated, "The foundation can continue with their plans at Bloomfield. We are concerned about the additional restrictions that come with a 40-year encumbrance, which will restrict public activities and maintenance of White Marsh Park.”
The County respects and encourages this ambitious project. It regrets the departure of the Mary Edwardine Bourke Emory Foundation but wise stewardship of parks and public assets does not allow burdening the County with this easement. The County Commissioners wish them best of luck as they pursue their goal of creating the first State Women’s Museum.