Historic Oakdale opens as the 34th Decorator Show House for Historic Ellicott City Benefit – Baltimore Sun


When it opens to the public on Friday, Historic Oakdale will be Historic Ellicott City Inc.’s 34th Decorator Show House.

With 24 rooms and 12 fireplaces in more than 9,500 square feet in Woodbine, the former home of Maryland Gov. Edwin Warfield is also “probably the largest home” the group has ever built, according to Connie Siegel, president of the nonprofit.

“I don’t know of a bigger one under one roof,” said Siegel. “We pulled all the rabbits out of the hat for that.”

“It is,” said Wiley Purkey, vice president of HEC. “It’s bigger and better than before.”

It’s been two years since Historic Ellicott City Inc. hosted its popular fundraiser, the Decorator Show House. While it would be easy to blame the pandemic, the decision not to host a home in 2020 was made at the group’s first meeting of the year, as members bemoaned the need for labor and the difficulty of finding acceptable homes.

“There’s a lot to do,” Purkey said. “Houses are usually put on the market or recently sold. People have to give up ownership for four to six months.”

Parking is also a problem. A shuttle service was required to transport guests for the 2019 model house.

“People didn’t like the shuttle,” said Joan Becker, treasurer of Historic Ellicott City, and its expense also hurt the group’s profits. Typically, the nonprofit tries to keep expenses — on insurance, minor repairs, programs, and advertising — under $50,000. The shuttle cost $22,000, Becker said.

Show Houses net about $70,000, Purkey said, and all funds will be used by the nonprofit to “rebuild, restore, and preserve” historic buildings in historic Ellicott City. Previous projects have included the restoration of the Thomas Isaac Log Cabin and the Historic B&O Railroad Museum in Ellicott City.

“It’s what we do and what we’re known for,” Siegel said. “It’s always a challenge. We looked at two other properties beforehand.”

Oakland ticked all the boxes, with plenty of space for parking and the other fundraiser amenities, including a boutique, coffee shop, and space for local artists to work and make sales. The property’s owner, Theodore F. Mariani, only asked that the show be held in the spring, not the fall when shows typically take place.

“Each model house is different and has different challenges,” said Becker. “This one is almost too big. It goes on and on.”

For the first time, special events are also planned during the show house’s opening hours. Black Ankle Vineyards in Mount Airy will host wine tastings on May 20th and June 2nd and a vintage car event is planned for May 22nd.

Design at Dusk events featuring a private tour of the home with a designer’s presentation and refreshments are also planned.

“It’s nice to be able to do different things,” Purkey said. “We want new ideas.”

There will also be an estate sale, Becker said, as the home’s furnishings, including oriental rugs, artwork and antiques, will have to go.

“They want to clean the house,” Becker said. In January, designers could walk through Oakdale and pick their top three rooms to decorate. Twenty-two rooms over two floors have been renovated, with some given a theme, such as the library’s dog theme.

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On Tuesday morning painters were retouching the trim, a volunteer was busy in the gardens and work was being done around the pool. Inside, a designer was putting the finishing touches on her room and the boutique had yet to be organized.

“It was a wonderful fit,” Siegel said. “It is a very stately house. You probably won’t see one of that size or that architectural detail.”

A preview party on Wednesday was almost fully booked and Siegel expects the show house to be a success and is hoping for up to 5,000 visitors. Siegel believes the home is big enough for people to spread out and social distancing due to concerns surrounding a pandemic. Masks are optional.

The 34th Decorator Show House of Historic Ellicott City, Oakdale, 16449 Ed Warfield Road, Woodbine opens May 13 at 10:00 am. It is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 5pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm until June 5th. Ticket prices vary. Call 410-461-6908 for more information.


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