Hot House: 10955 Nacirema Lane, Stevenson, MD 21153
Conversion, circa 1999, of 19th century bank barn. Wood frame on stone foundation, with eight upper and five lower bays. Wood shingle exterior and gabled roof, topped by original square cupola. The space includes 12,085 sq. ft. over 2.5 stories, with 6 bedrooms and 7.5 baths, a three story foyer and great room w/fireplace. High ceilings, gourmet kitchen, deluxe master bedroom suite, three stop elevator, state-of-the-art-systems. Pool, sports court, extensive bluestone hardscaping, two bedroom stone guesthouse, on 5.92 acre lot: $3.45 million
What: This barn is the last surviving parcel of a once-grand Greenspring Valley estate, which in its 200-year history was variously called Stoneton, New Stoneton and Nacirema (scroll down for history). Nacirema is American spelled backwards, and that was the name given to the property in 1888, when its 190+ acres and Victorian manor house were purchased by French-born Felix Agnus– a sculptor, soldier and adventurer who married well and rose to become owner and publisher of the Baltimore American newspaper, which later became the Baltimore News-American. The Agnuses raised horses and entertained on a large scale – 1,500 guests were reported at one party. When Felix died in 1925 (see legend of Black Aggie, here), the estate was subdivided. In 1940, the mansion lot and barn passed to Carle Jackson, son of the mayor of Baltimore, and his wife the opera star Rosa Ponselle. The couple had the Victorian house demolished, and built in its place an extravagant Italian country-style villa designed by Palmer Lamdin. That house was called “Villa Pace”, from the opera aria in which opera legend Rosa Ponselle made her debut, opposite Enrico Caruso, in 1918. Rosa Ponselle died in 1981, and Villa Pace briefly became a museum. Due to lack of funds, the house and 38 acres were sold to Susan and Thomas Obrecht in the 1980s, who later sold it to real estate developer David Cordish. The barn tract, which had been sold off in 1950, separate from the mansion tract, was purchased in 1998 by Beth Kaplan (now president and COO of Rent-the-Runway), who with her husband Bruce Sholk converted the barn into the luxury home featured here.
Where: Nacirema Lane is off of Greenspring Valley Road, just west of Stevenson University.
Why: An architectural stunner.
Why Not: The lavish interior design is at odds with the spare elegance of the barn exterior.
Would Suit: Barn owl.
NB: Rosa Ponselle is considered one of the greatest opera sopranos of all time. She died at Villa Pace in 1981, and was featured on a U. S. postal stamp in 1997.