Chronology of the MHLEC Building
1866 Building constructed.
1866-1941 Wesley Chapel/Grace Methodist Episcopal Church-South
1941-1949 Recreation building of the Reisterstown United Methodist Church.
1949 Sold to Louis E. Susemihl for $6,000.
1959-1973 Reisterstown Federal Savings and Loan Bank (lease, Susemihl was VP).
1975-1979 Shaw’s Antique Shop (lease).
May 29, 1980 sale by Anita D. Susemihl to Donald E. Grempler for $96,000.
1980-2001 Real estate offices, Grempler Realty
Dec 15, 1999 sale by Donald E. Grempler (Co.) to Mary Bell Grempler for $0.
Nov 1, 2001 sale by Mary Bell Grempler to Reisterstown LLC for $400,000.
2001-2017 Real estate offices, Long & Foster Realty
2017-2019 Living Faith Chapel
2020-Present Maryland Horse Breeders Association
History of the Building
by Jim McConkey
The new MHBA headquarters has a long history in a town that hosted one of the earliest horse races in the county.
By 1737 Baltimore County deemed it necessary to have access to western lands and ordered that a road be built connecting Baltimore City and Hanover, Pennsylvania. The road, destined to become the modern-day Reisterstown Road, was little more than a dirt horse path at the time, and no doubt followed existing Indian trails. Around 1800 it was paved with stones and equipped with toll gates.
John Reister, an immigrant from Germany who first settled in Frederick County, moved to the area that now bears his name about 1758, when he patented 20 acres of land on both sides of the turnpike. His settlement was initially known as Reister’s Desire, and later Reistersville. Now known as Reisterstown, the area is one of the oldest surviving settlements in Baltimore County.
As early as 1778, ads in the Maryland Journal and Baltimore Advertiser were already promoting horse racing in Reisterstown: “To be run on the 29 th day of October, a purse of One Hundred Dollars, free for any horse, mare, or gelding carrying weight for age, the best of three half-mile and half-quarter heats.”
Although the village of Reisterstown was predominantly Lutheran, they were tolerant of other religions and Methodists had gathered in the area since about the 1770s. The Methodist’s first sanctuary, a one-room log cabin, was constructed in 1791, and land behind it donated by Nicholas Rogers was dedicated as a burial ground. A brick brought over by Methodists from England was used as the cornerstone for the cabin. A newer building was constructed in front of the original log cabin in 1830, with the same brick being used as its cornerstone. Following tradition at the time, the sanctuary was upstairs with a meeting hall below, and there was an earthen ramp to get to the elevated sanctuary. The original cornerstone brick is still visible in the narthex of the church’s 1974 building.
In 1833 the original Asbury Chapel, as it was then known, even granted local Black slaves permission to use their chapel for services. This was highly unusual since education of slaves was almost universally forbidden at the time. During the Civil War the schism over slaves and states rights caused 109 members (presumably the pro-slavery members) to defect and form their own church, the Wesley Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church-South. The secessionists constructed their own building across the street at 319 Main Street around 1866, the only example of Greek-revival architecture in Reisterstown. This is the same building we now occupy. In 1883 the church changed its name to Grace Methodist Episcopal Church-South. Just after the Wesley chapel was erected, the original Asbury Chapel built its third incarnation in 1868 on land donated by Dorothy Gore, granddaughter of the founder of Reisterstown, closer to the turnpike, at 246 Main Street. Both the Asbury and Wesley Chapel buildings are still standing.
The Wesley Chapel was basic, as were most churches at the time. A large gold cross stood at the front, an organ built by the renowned M. P. Moller Organ Company of Hagerstown,
Maryland supplied the music, and wooden pews seated the congregation. The Chapel was originally heated with coal, and it was difficult for the church to find a reliable caretaker who would light the fire on time so the building would be warm for services. After several years when coal was difficult to obtain, the furnace was eventually converted to oil. The furnace was unfortunately unreliable and required fixes and repairs for years. The unstable climate, no doubt aided by rodents, led the decay of the bellows for the organ, requiring further repairs.
At a convention in Kansas City, Missouri in 1939, the various factions of the Methodist Church agreed to reunite under the new moniker of United Methodist Church. The congregations of Asbury Chapel and Wesley Chapel (Grace Methodist) reunited and moved back to the Asbury Chapel in 1941, retaining the Grace Building as a Sunday School and activities building for another decade. The large cross was moved across the street and installed in the Asbury Chapel. The organ was sold to the Sudbrook Methodist Church on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville for $450, and bids were also received on the pews. The building continued to be used for Sunday School and recreational purposes.
With a leaking cellar and roof, repair costs mounting on the old building, and plans brewing for a new Sunday School building of their own, the church began looking for buyers for the Grace Building in 1949, asking $15,000. Despite considerable interest, there were no takers and later that year they sold the building for a mere $6,000 to their neighbor, Louis Susemihl, an electrical contractor., who lived in the adjacent house to the north, 317 Main Street. The Susemihl house, currently “The Elephant’s Trunk,” is one of the oldest houses in Reisterstown, and one of the few remaining log cabins. It was probably built circa 1800 by John Reister, Jr., son of the founder of Reisterstown. The house was enlarged and a brick veneer added in 1845, but underneath it is still a log cabin.
It is not clear whether Mr. Susemihl ever did anything with the building himself. At the time, he owned the Susemihl Electric Company, and was later was appointed to the county’s electrical board. At some point during the next decade, he branched out and became vice president of the newly formed Reisterstown Federal Savings and Loan Association. In a highly irregular move, at least by today’s standards, he then leased his own building to the bank for the next 20 years. By the time the bank opened, the original semicircular windows above the entrance doors had been bricked in.
A few years after Mr. Susemihl passed away in 1967 the bank moved to a new home on Pleasant Hill Road about 1973. Before long, Shaw’s Antiques had leased the Grace Building from Mrs. Susemihl. Shaw’s occupied the building for the next five years, selling heirloom jewelery, oil paintings, silver, porcelain, clocks, and other fine antiques.
After the antique store had its run, Mrs. Susemihl sold the building to Mary Bell Grempler for $96,000 for use as a real estate office. Mrs. Grempler had started the business over remorse for buying an expensive dress, but fearing no one would take a female real estate agent seriously, named the business after her husband. Her business acumen led Grempler to soon become the largest real estate agent in Baltimore County. Being an airline pilot by training, Mr. Grempler had little to do with the business until it became successful. Grempler Realty is credited as a pioneer in using computers for real estate sales, and Mr. Grempler did much of the programming.
Donald E. Grempler Real Estate transferred the property to Mrs. Grempler in 1999 for no fee after her husband’s death. In 2001 Mrs. Grempler sold the office for $400,000, which continued to serve as a real estate office under Long and Foster for the next 15 years, run by long-time Reisterstown Realtors Cookie Stone, her husband Dave, Steve Daniller and Angela Evans. The four have since relocated to 46 Main Street.
It appears that during the tenure of the real estate companies the large rear addition to the building was added, the half moon vent near the ridgeline was removed, and that the address was changed inexplicably from 319 to 321 Main Street. No other buildings in the area changed addresses. The color of the brick indicates that the south wall of the low bumpout behind the original sanctuary was also replaced or rebuilt when the rear extension was added. The exact dates of these modifications are not currently known.
After Long and Foster moved to new quarters, the building briefly reverted to its original religious use as the temporary home of the Living Faith Chapel from about 2017-2019. LFC moved to a new, permanent home in Owings Mills about the same time as MHBA plans for a permanent home at Goucher College fell through, and MHBA found its new home on Main Street in historic Reisterstown. Bringing new life to the historic former Grace Methodist Church, in a town known for one of the earliest horse races in the county, the MHBA has settled in a very appropriate new location.