Belmont Estate

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Belmont Manor and Historic Park
LocationElkridge, Maryland
Area68-acre (0.28 km2)
CreatedApril 11, 2015[1]
Operated byHoward County
WebsiteOfficial website

Howard County website

Belmont Estate
Belmont Estate is located in Maryland
Belmont Estate
Belmont Estate is located in the US
Belmont Estate
Nearest cityElkridge, Maryland
Coordinates39°13′12″N 76°43′53″W / 39.22000°N 76.73139°W / 39.22000; -76.73139Coordinates: 39°13′12″N 76°43′53″W / 39.22000°N 76.73139°W / 39.22000; -76.73139
Architectural styleQueen Anne, Georgian, Gothic Revival
Part ofLawyers Hill Historic District[2] (#93001000[3])
Added to NRHPSeptember 23, 1993

The Belmont Estate, now the Belmont Manor Historic Park,[4] is a historic estate located at Elkridge, Howard County, Maryland, United States. Known in the Colonial period as "Moore's Morning Choice",[5] it is listed on the Maryland Historic Trust (MHT), Inventory of Historic Properties (MIHP), and is on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) as part of the Lawyers Hill Historic District, Elkridge, Maryland.

From the late 17th century until 1962, the property was privately owned. The property was then successively owned and maintained as the Belmont Conference Center, by the Smithsonian Institution, the American Chemical Society, and Howard Community College. It is now the Belmont Manor Historic Park, owned by the Howard County and its Department of Recreation and Parks.


The estate has been associated with important personages from the late 17th century to the 20th century, including Dr. Mordecai Moore, Caleb Dorsey,[5] Alexander Contee Hanson, and David K. E. Bruce.[6] Built in the 1730s, it is one of the oldest colonial plantations in the region and one of the oldest sites in Howard County, Maryland. The plantation house, built in 1738,[4] is one of the finest examples of Colonial Georgian architectural style in Maryland.[7] The Belmont Estate now comprises approximately 68 acres,[4] and adjoins Patapsco Valley State Park. Facilities on the estate include the Belmont Manor House, a carriage house, a cottage, a large barn,[4] formal gardens, a pond, and an aqua garden.[8]


17th-19th century[edit]

An original reproduction of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart hung in the mansion for over a hundred years.

Dr. Mordecai Moore, Society of Friends in Maryland founder,[4] received a tract of 1,368[9] or 1,662 acres of land above Elkridge Landing called "Moore's Morning Choice", which was granted by King William III's 1695 land patent.[4] Moore's Morning Choice was situated on a ridge from which there are views of the lower Patapsco River Valley.[10] Belmont Estate included part of that land.[11]

Caleb Dorsey (1710-1722), of Hockley-in-the-Hole on the Severn River, was an early industrialist and farmer. He operated forges and iron furnaces along the Patapsco River, near Elkridge.[12] About 1735, Caleb Dorsey purchased Moore's property, and an adjoining tract Rockburn, for his sons Edward and Caleb Dorsey, Jr. operating it as a plantation with up to 94 slaves providing agricultural labor.[13] Caleb Dorsey, Jr. built his home, "Belmont", in 1738.[4] A pig iron forge was operated onsite along with nearby forges at Avalon and Hockley in a Hole.[14] Caleb Dorsey and his wife Pricilla Hill (died 1781) was buried onsite at Belmont.[15] Caleb Dorsey, Jr.'s son Edward inherited the property and slaves.[16] Edward later gave the property to his daughter, Priscilla, the wife of Alexander Contee Hanson,[7] a United States senator.[4] Following the American Civil War, Belmont became the social center of a new wealthy elite, notably the many lawyers who built homes at "Lawyer's Hill" near the Belmont property.[17] From 1873 to his death in 1880, Charles Grosvenor Hanson allowed the house to fall into neglect following the death of his wife.[18] An original reproduction portrait of George Washington painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1794 or 1795 hung in the mansion for a century and was sold in 1913 to a New York Collector for $15,000-$20,000 by the Hanson family.[19] Howard Bruce, who bought the house in 1918,[20] was the last owner to use it as a private residence.[4]

Belmont Conference Center[edit]

Smithsonian Institution (1962 - 1982)[edit]

In 1962, the then owner of Belmont, the noted American diplomat, David K. E. Bruce, former ambassador to Britain, France and Germany, sold the property for $500,000 and then donated Belmont and 339 acres to the Smithsonian Institution for $5.00 as a philanthropic gift.[21] The Smithsonian Institution maintained the property as a conference center.[22]

The Belmont Conference Center was established in 1964 and was in almost continuous operation until 2010. Belmont hosted numerous conferences, social gatherings, weddings, meetings, and other functions. Examples of the numerous academic, government, and non-profit conferences held at Belmont include:

  • In 1967, a conference entitled "Bibliography and the historian: the conference at Belmont of the Joint Committee on Bibliographical Services to History"[23]
  • In February 1976, a four-day conference on the use of Human Subjects for Research took place at the Belmont Conference Center. The Belmont Report, resulting partly from this conference, was published in 1979.[24]

American Chemical Society (1982 - 2004)[edit]

In 1982, The Smithsonian Institution sold the Belmont Conference Center and the majority of the Center's surrounding land to the American Chemical Society for $2 million.[21] The American Chemical Society continued to maintain the property as a conference center.

The John Clare Society of North America held their first international John Clare Conference at the Belmont Conference Center on March 21–22, 2003. The Society is a non-profit literary organization devoted to the study, preservation, and publication of the works of English poet John Clare.[25][26]

Howard Community College (2004 - 2012)[edit]

The American Chemical Society sold the Belmont Estate to Howard Community College (HCC) for $5.2 million in 2004.[27] The Government of Howard County, Maryland, provided a loan of $2.6 million to the College toward the purchase of the Belmont Estate. The College used Belmont's facilities to provide educational programs for students enrolled in the College's culinary program, and to operate the Belmont Conference Center.[4]

On September 30, 2010, Howard Community College announced that it could no longer afford to maintain and operate the Belmont Estate, due to the effects of the economic recession, and that it planned to sell the property.[27] The Government of Howard County stated that they retained the right of first refusal based on their 2004 loan agreement with HCC.[4] In June 2011, Howard County signed an agreement with HCC to purchase the Belmont Estate. During the period September 2011 through May 30, 2012, the Government of Howard County conducted a detailed study of the feasibility of purchasing and operating the property for public purposes.[citation needed]

Belmont Manor and Historic Park[edit]

Day of Service Tree Planting in 2012 at Belmont with Governor Martin O'Malley

On May 30, 2012, Howard County Executive Kenneth Ulman announced that the County would exercise their right of first refusal and purchase the Belmont Estate from the college. The $5.2 million property was put up for sale, with public offers of half the purchase price eight years prior. The purchase included a debt forgiveness and $89,000 to the college. An additional 13 acres were sold for land development to subsidize the purchase cost, leaving only 68 acres of the original property.[28] Howard County officially assumed the deed of the Belmont estate from Howard Community College on June 21, 2012.[29][30]

In a radio interview on June 29, 2012, Kenneth Ulman stated that the Belmont Estate would complement other Howard County nature attractions, including the Howard County Conservancy, located in Woodstock, Maryland, on a 300-year-old, 232-acre farm; and the James and Anne Robinson Nature Center, located in Columbia, Maryland, on 18 acres of land adjacent to the Middle Patuxent Environmental Area.[31]

Howard County subsequently established the Belmont Manor and Historic Park in summer/fall 2012.[32] The park is operated by the county's Department of Recreation and Parks, to be used as a conference center and a site for weddings, private parties, and environmental education programs.[4] The Manor opened for public operations in April 2015.[33]

Historic preservation[edit]

The front entrance of the mansion, decorated for the holiday season

A number of organizations have played an important role in promoting, and advocating for, the historic preservation of the Belmont Estate. These include the Rockburn Land Trust, the Save Belmont Coalition, Preservation Howard County, Preservation Maryland, the Maryland Environmental Trust, the Friends of Patapsco Valley & Heritage Greenway, Inc, and the Land Trust Alliance.[citation needed]

Preservation Howard County's president, Fred Dorsey, a descendant of the original owners of the estate, has said that because of its experience, the county is the rightful owner to provide stewardship of the historic property. Maintenance issues are some of the challenges, including maintaining the exterior that had been coated with lead paint.[4]

Historic designations[edit]

The original historic site nomination for Belmont was researched and prepared in the mid-1970s for the Maryland Historical Trust (MHT). Further research and updates by Howard County and the State of Maryland were carried out in 2010.[22]

The Belmont Manor House and Estate are included on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), as part of the Lawyers Hill Historic District in Elkridge, Maryland,[2][34][35] which was added to the NRHP on September 23, 1993.[36]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yeager, Amanda (April 13, 2015). "Elkridge's historic Belmont Manor reopens". The Howard County Times. Baltimore Sun Media Group. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Lawyers Hill Historic District, includes photo of Belmont Manor House (photo credit: Amy Worden, 09/1991)
  3. ^ National Park Service (2008-04-15). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Gunts, Edward (September 20, 2012). "The past is prologue for Elkridge's Belmont Manor". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Stein, p. 197.
  6. ^ Besse, Ruth (17 May 1985). "Traveling Back in time". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ a b Hammond, John Martin. Colonial mansions of Maryland and Delaware. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and London, England: J. B. Lippincott Company. pp. 174–175.
  8. ^ "Belmont Manor and Historic Park map" (PDF). Howard County, Maryland Recreation and Parks. Retrieved September 25, 2014.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Howard County Historical Society. Images of America, Howard County. p. 27.
  10. ^ Stein, pp. 41 and 242.
  11. ^ Janney, Elizabeth (July 8, 2013). Elkridge. Arcadia Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7385-9927-4.
  12. ^ Mangus, Becky (June 4, 2012). "300 Years of History Preserved at Belmont". The Business Monthly. Archived from the original on August 7, 2012. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  13. ^ Moss, Paulina C.; Hill, Levirn (2002). Seeking Freedom: The History of the Underground Railroad in Howard County. Columbia, Maryland: Howard County Center of African American Culture. p. 64. ISBN 978-0971939400.
  14. ^ Diggs, Robert Schnepfe (1937), The early history of Elkridge Landing [Term Paper], Maryland Room, McKeldin Library: University of Maryland, p. 5
  15. ^ Ridgely, Helen West; edited under the auspices of the Maryland Society of the Colonial Dames of America (1908). Historic Graves of Maryland and the District of Columbia. New York: The Grafton Press. p. 156.
  16. ^ "Runaway Slave ads". Baltimore Advertiser. 20 July 1790.
  17. ^ Stein, p. 133.
  18. ^ Celia M. Holland. Old homes and families of Howard County, Maryland: with consideration of various additional points of interest. p. 302.
  19. ^ "WASHINGTON PORTRAIT SOLD: More Than $15,000 Paid Maryland Family for a Century-Old Stuart". The Washington Post. 8 April 1913. p. 1.
  20. ^ Earl Arnett; Robert J. Brugger; Edward C. Papenfuse (22 March 1999). Maryland: A New Guide to the Old Line State. JHU Press. p. 388. ISBN 978-0-8018-5980-9.
  21. ^ a b "Belmont Conference Center Sold". Smithsonian Institution Archives. Smithsonian Institution. January 13, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  22. ^ a b Howard County/Comprehensive Planning, HO-43: Belmont [Maryland Historical Trust Worksheet and attachments] (PDF), Maryland State Archives, retrieved 20 November 2013
  23. ^ "Bibliography and the historian: the conference at Belmont of the Joint Committee on Bibliographical Services to History, May 1967". 1968. Retrieved 2013-10-20.
  24. ^ Office of the Secretary, The National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research (April 18, 1979). "The Belmont Report: Ethical Principles & Guidelines for Research Involving Human Subjects". U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Archived from the original on October 20, 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  25. ^ "The John Clare Conference 2003: Conference Schedule". The John Clare Society of North America. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  26. ^ "John Clare Conference 2003 - Photo Gallery". The John Clare Society of North America. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  27. ^ a b "Howard Community College to shut down Belmont Center". The Baltimore Sun. September 30, 2010. Retrieved September 25, 2014.
  28. ^ Grunts, Edward (September 20, 2012). "The past is prologue for Elkridge's Belmont Manor". The Baltimore Sun.
  29. ^ "County Decides to Purchase Belmont" (Press release). Ellicott City, Maryland: Howard County. May 30, 2012. Archived from the original on April 21, 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  30. ^ County Council Of Howard County, Maryland (2012). "Resolution No. 113-2012" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 20, 2013. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
  31. ^ "#69 - County Executive Ken Ulman". And Then There's That... HoCoMoJo (Howard County Mobile Journalism). June 29, 2012. Archived from the original on November 1, 2012. Retrieved October 20, 2013.
  32. ^ "Belmont Manor and Historic Park". Recreation and Parks. Howard County, Maryland. Archived from the original on July 2, 2013. County of Howard.
  33. ^ Yeager, Amanda (May 26, 2015). "Former school tops Howard County's endangered sites list". Howard County Times. Baltimore Sun Media Group.
  34. ^ "MARYLAND - Howard County - Historic Districts: Lawyers Hill Historic District". National Register of Historic Places. American Dreams Inc.,. Retrieved April 18, 2018.
  35. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: LAWYERS HILL HISTORIC DISTRICT (HO-610)" (PDF), Inventory of Historic Places, Maryland Historic Trust, State of Maryland, August 19, 1993
  36. ^ National Register of Historic Places: Listed Properties as of 06/01/2014 (Excel Spreadsheet), National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, June 1, 2014, retrieved April 18, 2018

Further reading[edit]

  • Bruce, David K.E.. (Nelson Douglas Lankford, editor). OSS Against The Reich: The World War II Diaries of Colonel David K.E. Bruce. Kent, Ohio: The Kent State University Press, 1991.
  • Hall of Records, Ann Arundel County-1972. Annapolis, Maryland.
  • Hall of Records, Howard County, Maryland. Annapolis, Maryland.
  • Howard County Historic Society, Inc., "Belmont'", Vol. I., No. 2, March 1959.
  • Lankford, Nelson Douglas. The Last American Aristocrat: The Biography of David K.E. Bruce, 1898-1977. Boston: Little Brown & Co., 1996.
  • Maryland: Belmont: Howard County, pp. 166–183. Families: Dorsey, Hanson. Index - references to Belmont: pages 10, 166, 168, 171-177, 179-180, 182. Belmont Illustrations (photos): Exterior, page 168; Entrance, page 178
  • Newman, Harry Wright. Anne Arundel Gentry: A Genealogical History of Some Early Families of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, Volume 3 (Volume 3). Annapolis, Maryland, 1933 (reprinted 1979).
  • Stein, Charles Francis, Jr. The Origin and History of Howard County Maryland. Published by the author in cooperation with the Howard County Historical Society. Baltimore, Maryland: Press of Schneidereith & Sons, 1972.
    • Besides the references listed above, the genealogy and history of the Dorsey family are outlined on pp. 193–201.
  • Warfield, Joshua Dorsey. The founders of Anne Arundel and Howard Counties, Maryland. Baltimore, Maryland, 1967.

External links[edit]