Belmont was built in 1738, home to Caleb and Priscilla Dorsey of Elkridge. The Manor House was passed through generations of Dorseys, Hansons and Bruce families. It was bequeathed to the Smithsonian Institute. The Smithsonian converted Belmont into a conference center. In 1983, The American Chemical Society purchased the property, which continued the tradition of providing excellent hospitality. In 2004, the Howard Community College assumed ownership while offering hospitality classes as well as continuing its tradition as a retreat and events center. The Howard County Recreation and Parks purchased the property in 2012. The Manor was restored and sits on 68 acres of rolling hills which includes The Cottage House, The Carriage House, The Caretaker’s house, a barn, an aqua garden, trails, a cemetery and extensive gardens. The property is also home to The Howard County Conservancy.
Belmont now hosts an array of events. These include weddings, rehearsals dinners, business meetings, holiday parties, anniversary parties, retirement parties, quinceaneras, bat/bar mitzvahs, retreats and bridal showers. Belmont also offers a variety of programs open to the public such as Ghost Tours, Movie Nights, Afternoon Teas and our Open Houses. Create your perfect event or take advantage of our many recreational programs. Belmont Manor and Historic Park awaits you.
In 1732, Caleb Dorsey of Annapolis and Hockley-in-the Hole on the Severn River, had purchased the land in which Belmont now resides. Caleb Dorsey’s son had several iron forges on the creeks that fed into the Patapsco River. A bustling and prosperous port then thrived in Elkridge. One of Dorsey’s sons, also named Caleb, was an avid foxhunter. While tracking a rare gray fox, Caleb found himself in unfamiliar territory near the home of Priscilla Hill. Their fortuitous meeting resulted in friendship and eventualy marriage. The elder Dorsey gave the land to his son as a wedding present and the younger Caleb built the manor house. On either side of the front door were placed two carved plaques, “CPD 1738.” Caleb and Priscilla had three sons and six daughters. When Caleb died in 1772, his son Edward inherited the property along with the iron forges and several other tracts of land.
After Edward died, his headstrong daughter, also named Priscilla, gained ownership of Belmont. Priscilla eloped with Alexander Hanson in 1805. Hanson founded “The Federal Republican,” a pro-British newspaper. He invested quite a bit of money into the endeavor. Hanson’s unpopular views resulted in his being attacked during the War of 1812 and he suffered permanent injuries. In 1815, Priscilla received her inheritance, Edward Dorsey’s property that she would name Belmont.
After Hanson’s death at the age of 33, Priscilla tried to run the farm, but financial problems beset her and she sold parcels of land in the 1830s. In 1839, she mortgaged the estate for $1,500. Realizing that her son, Charles, was addicted to gaming, Priscilla stated in her will that if Charles ever compromised the estate, it was to be transferred to his wife and to her family. In 1875, the property went to a sheriff’s auction where it brought $25. However, because of Priscilla’s foresight, the auction was contested and the property reverted back to Charles’ children in 1879. His daughters, Anna Marie and Florence, stayed on the property while other siblings moved away.
In 1917, the property passed to Mary Bowdoin Bruce, a descendant of Caleb and Priscilla Dorsey. Mary and her husband, Howard, restored the estate to its original beauty. Howard Bruce was the Vice President and General Manager of Bartlett Hayward Company, a small steel factory. His prominence increased during World War I and he became well respected in the financial and political arenas. During World War II, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for his vital contribution to the war production effort.
Although Belmont remained a working farm, Bruce’s predominant interest was in raising and breeding thoroughbred horses. He became the owner of the famed Billy Barton, who won numerous races including the Grand National Handicaps and the coveted Maryland Hunt Cup. Billy Barton is buried with full tack on, in an upright position, alongside another one of Bruce’s horses near the time-worn barn. In 1961, after Howard Bruce’s death, the property passed to his cousin David Bruce, the former Ambassador to Britain, who in turn, gave Belmont to the Smithsonian Institute. The Smithsonian converted Belmont into a conference center, where generals, vice presidents, astronauts and many other notables were able to meet in a quiet and controlled setting.
In 1983, the 85 acre estate was sold to the American Chemical Society, which continued the tradition of providing excellent hospitality to world leaders.
In 2004, Belmont was purchased by the Howard Community College. The Community College added hospitality classes to the Belmont experience while continuing the same traditions as the two previous owners.
On June 21, 2012, Howard County Recreation and Parks Government purchased Belmont to ensure the stewardship of this beautiful site for the residents of Howard County.