Courtland Lee paid $10 for a nearly 200-year-old log cabin in Landover, saved it from demolition and planned to invest $90,000 to restore it. But the project wasn't as easy as he expected.
Lee, a geological consultant, moved the four-room house, known as Grigsby's Station Log Cabin, from a site at 7474 Landover St., 6 1/2 miles to Glenn Dale in March. But he has had to keep it suspended on moving blocks while waiting for the Prince George's County board of zoning appeals to waive a regulation that prevented his getting a building permit.
Last week, the board reversed an earlier decision and gave him the go-ahead.
The cabin, scene of an 1884 convention of the National Equal Rights Party, has been officially declared historic. At that meeting nearly a century ago, Washington lawyer Belva Lockwood was nominated for U.S. president--the first time a woman entered the race.
The cabin was used as a summer home by Amanda Best, a Washington resident who supported Lockwood, the first woman admitted to practice before the Supreme Court.
"I'm anxious that the next woman who decides to run for president will do it in the home and keep up the tradition," Lee said.
The cabin's former owner, James Rogers sold the land on which it stood and donated the cabin to the Prince George's County Historical and Cultural Trust, a government-appointed group that monitors historical preservation. The trust sold it for $10 to Lee, one of hundreds of applicants, and he promptly moved it to the Camelot subdivision of Glenn Dale, where he lives. A spokeswoman for the trust said he was picked because he could move it quickly and had a site available. But Lee soon ran afoul of county zoning regulations.
A subdivision regulation requires that property owners pave the roads on their lots before they get building permits. Lee, backed by the historic preservation arm of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, said he didn't want to widen and pave the 100-year-old country lane, which extends from Sir Walter Drive. He said he wanted to keep the gravel road and surrounding trees. The only other home on the road is Maple Shade, also an 18th century building.
The board had originally ruled against Lee May 12. But the board since has received a letter from the County Department of Public Works and Transportation in support of Lee, saying a gravel road would do.
The two-story cabin was built of logs in 1790 at a plantation called Northampton, near Largo, where Amanda Best's husband was overseer. The cabin was moved in the 1880s, said Joyce McDonald, a spokeswoman for the trust. It has since been restored twice, the second time in 1939 as a hunting lodge. Rogers lived in it for five years.
Lee unveiled his restoration plans for the home to the preservation commission last week. He said he intends to give the outside an 18th century look, with small-paned windows, doors with shutters and a chimney with two stacks. It will be furnished with modern conveniences. He hopes to finish the job by fall and rent the house to a tenant.