Locust Inn Solomons MD
Solomons, MD – Time was, the Locust Inn was a rather popular location on Solomons Island. According to the Calvert County Historic District Commission (HDC), the three-story structure still has considerable significance that preserves the area’s history. Nearly 30 years ago county officials tagged the property where the building is located as an historic district. Now the owner of the property and many Calvert County officials believe a mistake may have been made in 1988 when historic district status was granted.

Recently, local restaurateur Jeannie Cousineaux Stone—on behalf of the current property owners, PAR Limited Partnership—submitted a petition to the HDC to have Locust Inn’s historic district designation removed. The new property owner’s plan is to raze the structure, which cannot happen if the building is officially historic. The issue has been the focus of a Calvert County Planning Commission work session and a joint hearing conducted by the planning commission and the Calvert County Commissioners. The latter hearing was held April 11.

Several spoke in favor of retaining Locust Inn’s historic district status. Richard Dodd affirmed that Locust Inn remains “architecturally significant” and its historic nature has increased since it is “the only survivor” of “Old Solomons.” The building existed during the turn of the 19th century when Solomons was a popular destination for visitors traveling by boat. It was a time when the tourism industry was thriving on the island. Noting that Solomons will observe its 150th anniversary this year, Dodd asked, “do we want to destroy the significance of this place we are trying to celebrate?”

Local historian Dr. Ralph Eshelman said Locust Inn is “sound and rehabilitatible. This structure fully meets the criteria” and could be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “Do not destroy this historical building in Solomons,” Eshelman stated.

While Locust Inn may have been a gem back during Solomons’ halcyon days, its recent history is not very sterling. On an online site called Yelp, a scathing review of the building by a Montgomery County resident from nearly 10 years ago when the building was still in use for visitor lodging describes the Locust Inn as “the most repulsive place I have ever stayed. This site of defilement ruined my trip to an otherwise lovely island.”
PAR Limited Partnership’s attorney Stephen Oberg told the two panels that the “historical significance is gone. This thing has deteriorated.” Oberg noted that the addition of aluminum siding to the structure’s exterior and an aborted attempt to build a swimming pool on the property have compromised any historic integrity. “Where was everybody when these changes were made?” He asked.

“I’ve been around a long time,” said Commissioner Pat Nutter [R – District 2]. “I didn’t know it [Locust Inn] was historic. How can you call it historic if you’ve changed it? The integrity’s gone.”

Commissioners’ Vice President Evan K. Slaughenhoupt Jr. [R – District 3] opined that a “zoning error was made” in the late 1980s when Locust Inn was deemed historic. He added the current building does not have the feel of an historic building.

“You could almost pick and choose, and say everything’s historic,” said Commissioner Mike Hart [R – District 1].

Commissioners’ President Tom Hejl [R – At large] suggested that perhaps a plaque could be placed at the site noting that the structure once stood at the site.
After the planning commission members participating in the hearing (commission member Maria Buehler recused herself since she worked for Stone for several years) voted unanimously to recommend removal of Locust Inn’s historic district designation, Chair Carolyn McHugh stated, “I don’t think there are any winners here.”

When the issue came to the commissioners, Slaughenhoupt made the motion to close the record and have county government staff submit a recommendation to the commissioners. The board will make their final decision after the recommendation is submitted.

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com