Jimmy Laughlin and his partner Brad Sweet weren't looking to buy a home, much less a historic mansion, when they stumbled across Belle Grove Manor.
The old estate, which sits on an acre off of South Belle Grove Road in the Paradise neighborhood of Catonsville, was on the market last year. Sweet, a native of Relay, had first seen the house when he was looking at houses to buy four years earlier.
The home was built in 1871 by Darius Carpenter Howell and originally sat on 25 acres. Old photos of the home were featured in last week's column in Catonsville Patch.
Last year, they heard the home was for sale. Sweet remembered the house. The next day the two made an appointment with the realtor.
They walked through the 9,000-square-foot home for an hour and 20 minutes. At the end of the tour, Laughlin said he told the realtor, '"Tell us what we have to do to get this place.'"
The two were captivated by such features as the pocket doors, tall windows and original floors.
The family there had owned the house for about 40 years and kept its 21 rooms in good shape. But since moving in, Sweet and Laughlin have developed a grand vision for a renovation including painting the exterior, restoring the hardwood floors, adding period wallpaper and upgrading the kitchen.
"You value the history and the character these places have," Sweet said. "They all have a story."
Since moving in, the two have painted some rooms, added central heating and air conditioning and upgraded the electrical system. The home is registered as a historic home both nationally and in Baltimore County.
They have also enjoyed living in the neighborhood and have become involved in the Paradise Community Association.
The land behind Belle Grove is up for re-zoning, where a land owner wants to build townhomes in what was the old caretaker's home of the estate.
Laughlin and other Paradise residents spoke out against the zoning changes at a recently.
The wooded acres behind the property would be gone with the development. Laughlin, who has spent time clearing the brush and working on the property, often sees foxes and many birds on the acres.
One of the trees on the property is also believed to be one of the oldest in Catonsville, according to claims from the previous owner, he said.
"All of this will be gone if the development happens," he said.