The goal of the new owners of the historic Landon House in Urbana is to restore the building to its pristine condition at the time of the Civil War.
Dr. Praveen Bularum, Dr. Rohit Khirbat and Katepalli Srinivas, partners in PCR Ventures LLC, bought the property in April for $850,000 from Tycon Realty LLC.
"We want to restore Landon House to its glory," said Bularum in an interview at his family medicine office on Thomas Johnson Drive.
Bularum said the group hopes to open the historic house around March. The initial plan is to restore the outside to its appearance during the Civil War, when the house was the site of J.E.B. Stuart's Sabres and Roses Ball and a hospital.
The historic house will be preserved, and some of the 5.7 acres will be developed with retail buildings. The entranceway to the house will be visible from Md. 355.
"Historic preservation comes with a historic cost," Bularum said. "We could not survive without developing some of the land."
But that is not in the immediate future, Bularum said.
"We are spending millions on the restoration of the building and clearing the growth that has kept the house from view. Some people don't even know it is there," he said.
Landon House will have to compete with other event centers for weddings and special occasions, but Bularum said the house will be a place people want to go for their event.
"You would not want to go to someplace rundown for your wedding," Bularum said.
The physician said he used Landon House four years ago for his daughter's birthday and fell in love with the place. But it needs a lot of repairs and maintenance, Bularum said. "At the time, I never thought I would be part of its restoration."
"The roof is in bad shape, water damage, many repairs are needed," Bularum said.
Bularum and Khirbat live in Urbana, and Srinivas lives in Clarksburg. Bularum has a second medical office across from the Landon House, in a former church building also used by a psychologist/social worker and a massage therapist.
The physician said plans are for a bed and breakfast at the Landon House, space for meetings and special events and potentially a pub in the basement.
"We are part of the community, want to grow with the community," Bularum said. His group has had inquiries from a floral shop and a photography business for the office buildings, which may be built on the property at some point.
"And there could be professionals using the offices, perhaps even medical professionals," Bularum said.
Denis Supercynski, principal planner with the Frederick County Planning Department, commended Bularum and his partners for their efforts on the building plan.
"It (Landon House) is really a key part of Urbana," Supercynski said. "It was used as a school, a military academy, for the Sabers and Roses Ball."
It's not possible to keep the entire site as a museum piece, Supercynski said. "The owners' plan is a great way to get people to the building."
Although the building is on the National Register of Historic Places, that doesn't prohibit what the private owner can do, the planner said, including tearing it down — which is not part of PCR's plan.
"It is a historic structure within the boundaries of Maryland’s Civil War Heritage Area, and is situated along the Antietam Campaign Civil War Trail. A marker at that location addresses the 'hospitality to hospital' theme of this site’s Civil War history," said Elizabeth Scott Shatto, director of the Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area and coordinator of the Frederick Historic Sites Consortium. Shatto also works with the Tourism Council of Frederick County.
"Early in September 1862, Confederate cavalry chief Gen. J.E.B. Stuart occupied Urbana and hosted a dance at the Landon House, then the Landon Female Academy. The dance was interrupted when Union cavalry threatened the Confederate picket posts at Hyattstown, but resumed after Stuart’s men had reinforced the pickets. Later, the building was used as hospital," Shatto said.
The Heart of the Civil War Heritage Area encourages preservation and heritage tourism initiatives, including those that might involve the Landon House, Shatto said.
"While we do not generally get involved in property preservation advocacy as it is outside our mission, and we have made no public statement regarding the Landon House, of course we encourage the preservation of our community’s heritage through its historic properties," said Duane K. Doxzen, acting executive director of the Historical Society of Frederick County.
Supercynski said there has been speculation the building was originally located elsewhere, disassembled and brought to Urbana. The planner said there is no precise evidence of that, though some of the materials for the building may have come from other structures, as that was a common trend in the past, using wood or other materials from one building to erect a new one.