Neighborhoods

Recreational Residential Real Estalking

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Federal Hill Townhouse

225 East Montgomery Street

$ 729,000

4 br/3.5 ba

From the outside there is a lot to like about this pretty Federal Hill townhouse. The tony Montgomery Street location is primo and the charming front and back outdoor spaces seem like they would require just the right amount of work (which to me means only one sunny Saturday per season).  Inside, things are less clear. While far from new (1992?), the majority of the finishes appear to be very well done (the polished wood built-ins almost give a yachting vibe) and are a testament to the ability of quality materials to stand the test of time. Conversely, there is about a quarter of the decor that, while newer, is, um, well…a hot mess. (Sorry kitchen, bathrooms and doors, I’m am referring to you.) I love the idea of the new buyer bringing all the components up to the highest level. Visualize: Enjoying the expansive views from the roof deck as REM’s “Automatic for the People” (yep, it was 1992) plays in the background. 

 

 

 

 

Roland Park Apartment 

4300 Roland Avenue, #301

$279,000

2br/1 ba

I’ll start by admitting that I am a sucker for these 1920’s Roland Park apartments. Something about them reeks of intellect and culture. It is no surprise then that I am smitten with this Roland Avenue residence. Housed in an architecturally exquisite building, it is a virtually untouched gem of an apartment. Check out the fireplace mantle, high ceilings,  sun room, moldings and original windows for reasons to fall in love with the place. Don’t check out, however, the incongruously renovated kitchen. Hopefully, they left the bathrooms alone. Visualize: Sipping tea as you work on your thesis for your Hopkins Anthropology doctorate.

The Old School House In Dickeyville

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Hot House:  5002 Wetheredsville Road, Dickeyville, Baltimore, Md. 21207

1830 semi-detached, stone colonial, updated and well maintained, overlooking the Gwynns Falls in Dickeyville.  Two thousand sq. ft. includes three bedrooms, two and a half baths, two-car garage with loft:  $300,000 (recently reduced from $350,000)

What: Originally the village school house, this is one of several houses currently for sale (see photos) in Dickeyville, a historic neighborhood tucked away in northwest Baltimore with the storybook feel of a small 19th century village.

At 5002 Weatheredsville Road, a narrow brick path leads through the picket fence and into a large, bright living room with a wood-burning fireplace. Dining room, laundry room and a country-style kitchen are also on the main floor. French doors in the kitchen open to a brick patio surrounded by trees — you can hear and see the trickling of the falls. Upstairs are three nice bedrooms with large closets. Period details include beamed ceilings, crown moldings and wood floors. Central air, too.

Dickeyville is one of Baltimore’s great hidden neighborhoods, a real trip back in time. Baltimore author Laura Lippman grew up here. It is close-knit and friendly community, situated at the beginning of lovely Leakin Park with its 15 miles of hiking and biking trails. There is no through traffic, so it’s quiet and safe, with good ethnic diversity and an arts and crafts sensibility. People who live here love it, and many have been here a long time.  The community association is strong and active.

Where: Inside the beltway, near the Baltimore County line in Northwest Baltimore City, close to the Forest Park municipal golf course ($30 to play).  Take Northern Parkway west, past the Pimlico Racetrack to Wabash Avenue. Take a left on Wabash and go about a half mile to Hillside. Take a right on Hillside, go 1.5 miles, then turn right onto W. Forest Park Avenue. After a half-mile, turn a sharp left onto Wetheredsville Rd.  Dickeyville is about 15 minutes from Mt. Washington, much closer to Security Boulevard and Woodlawn.  

Why: Park-like setting, absolutely unique, charm in buckets — visitors will go nuts.  Walk out the door to access 15 miles of trails. Famous for musical 4th of July and other parties. Houses are well-priced.

Why not:  Here’s the problem. Dickeyville is basically in Forest Park, a middle class Baltimore city neighborhood with pockets of urban decay and almost no decent retail — like a grocery store. There is a nice nursery school here, but public schools are poor. Cute and safe as Dickeyville is, sadly, you have to leave Dickeyville to shop, eat and work. Closest shopping is Security Boulevard.

Who: Tom Sawyer and Becky, now working at the Social Security Administration.  Fans of Historic Williamsburg. Pottery major at MICA.

NB:  You could open a coffee shop here (check zoning) and be a true small town hero. Friends at MICA could make an indie movie about it.  

Inside Creepy Mansion "Mensana"

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Earlier this week I heard about an estate sale that’s happening over the weekend, and since I don’t work on Fridays, I decided to drive north of Baltimore to find the house.I always find it incredibly sad to see a place that had at one time been glorious, filled with parties and laughter, now so run down and pitiful. This is the case in this house. You can read a little bit about the house, and see some images of its former life here .

The house sits high on a hill overlooking the lush and serene Green Spring Valley, just north of Baltimore. As you drive up a winding drive to get to the house, you get a good idea of how massive and well-built the place is.The overcast and gloomy weather did nothing for either the interior or the exterior, and everything was just flat and grey. In fact, some of my shots looked like I’d used a black and white filter to take them.When I entered the house, there were flashes of the place it used to be. Beautiful wood and plasterwork, elegant fireplaces…It’s solid as a rock, and many of the architectural details remain. In a nutshell, the house was built in 1900 by one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and most recently, it was owned by a rather nefarious doctor who used it as a “pain” clinic, and was later stripped of his medical license.I wasn’t certain whether these walls were papered or painted, but the transition between scenery and paint was badly handled.Even in the overcast, the rooms were bright, and their proportions were good.The details were beautiful.As I went up the sweeping staircase, I was struck by the solidness of the bannisters and railing and the good condition of the hardwood steps.The bedrooms, and there are six of them, all en suite, were used as patient rooms, and there are pieces here and there that remind you that it was a “medical” facility.

But there are also details that remind you of the former good life that the house lived.  The marble fireplace surround,and the sweet sconce, one of only a few that weren’t ripped out.The en suite bathrooms still had their “non-mixer” sinks and tile walls and floors. And having grown up with sinks like these, where the hot and cold water taps don’t mix, let me just tell you that it’s a complete and utter pain!When I walked around the house, I was gutted about how the property had just gone to seed. The beautiful old boxwood were full of dead branches and had become overgrown. Boxwood need air to circulate between their branches or they become diseased. I walked around and pulled handfuls of boxwood branches (with permission) to try and thin them a bit.One of the most melancholy things I saw was an old wicker chair, slowly rotting on the formerly gracious front terrace.To me, the little chair epitomized what the house had become… a slight shadow of its former self.

Oh, what did I get, you ask? Only two books.

Details: 
1716-18 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD  21153 
In between Greenspring Avenue and Stevenson Road on Greenspring Valley. 
Look for two white brick entrance gates and veer to the LEFT when coming up the driveway. 
You can TEXT 443-865-4813 for more info…


Recreational Residential Real Estalking

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It’s the doldrums of February in the real estate market and this week yielded slim pickings in the open house department. Looking not to waste your time and gas, I only listed the two worth the drive. Happy looking.

 

4613 Roland Avenue

$ 789,000

6 br/3.5 ba

This victorian in Roland Park has a nostalgic “faded southern belle” vibe. Just check out the dining room. Can’t you picture the dinner party in “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” taking place right there? Unfortunately, along her many charms (the curved leaded glass window, herringbone parquet floor, and original tiling in the baths to name a few) this lady is bound to be high maintenance. Be prepared for plenty of expensive upkeep. But don’t be too hard on the old gal, at over 100 years old, she’s earned a little pampering. Visualize: sipping sweet tea on the generous front porch.

 

801 Key Highway

$ 1,450,000

2 br/2.5 ba

Come on, aren’t you a little curious? Just what does a “Ritz Carlton Residence” look like? Well grab your chance to take a tour at the Inner Harbor location this weekend. The condominium style homes are lovely in photographs and their beauty appears to be more than skin deep. For example, kitchens are appointed with Viking appliances, custom European cabinetry and a dedicated service entrance though the pantry (creepy but cool?). Beyond the front door, the amenities of the development are endless: a marina, pool, fitness center, board room, lounge, private gardens, screening room, game room, concierge, doorman and valet parking. Kinda reads like a description of a five star hotel. Weird. On the negative side, all this luxury does not come cheap and depressing rumors of low occupancy were rife when the development opened a few years ago. I’m starting to hear, however, a buzz and that makes me think that now is the perfect time to take a peek. I’ll meet you there. Visualize: The doorman carrying in the groceries as you check on your Cinghiale reservation with the concierge. 

In Wyman Park, A Nice Little Row House

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HOT HOUSE: 3733 Keswick Road, Baltimore 21211

End-of-group brick townhouse built in 1927, in good condition. Three floors, 2,200 square feet, with four bedrooms, two full and one half baths, finished basement and rear mahogany deck : $ 274,900

What:  A basic row house, recently and nicely refurbished, which, in addition to the price and location, makes it an interesting proposition. Open floor plan and high ceilings add light and space. The kitchen is new, with Energy Star appliances, blonde wood cabinets and corian countertops. There are hardwood floors in the main rooms. Large finished ‘above-ground lower level’ has the fourth bedroom and custom storage.

Nearby properties are well-kept and tidy, with lots of trees. Neighbors seem to be proud members of the 99%, judging by the signs.   

Where: Keswick Road runs from Roland Park south across 40th Street and down through Hampden. This house is three blocks south of 40th Street and three blocks north of the Avenue, on the east side of the Rotunda. Hopkins has just purchased the large Zurich insurance building at the Rotunda, so it’s a good bet that with Hopkins as an anchor, and the mall owner shopping around for a boutique grocery store (Trader Joe’s?) to replace the Giant, eventual redevelopment of this area will raise property values all around.

 

Why: Affordable property in a safe, stable city neighborhood.   The open spaces of Wyman Park, famous for its dog walking areas, are just a two minute walk away. The fun shops and restaurants on the Avenue in Hampden are about five.

Why Not:  No really good public schools.

Who: Young professionals, or older with dogs.  JHU employees could walk to work from here.

NB: No central air.

 

 

Gestalt & Pepper: Where The 20-Somethings Go

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It feels like yesterday Ashley Behrens, a fresh-scrubbed Towson University sophomore at the time, started babysitting for my daughter. Today, Ashley is all grown up and a busy teacher, living in Federal Hill and spending time with her boyfriend. Catching up with her reminded me of my own halcyon days: no kids, no mortgage, no problems. As she described her many nights out on the town, I wanted to know her young, urban perspective on the Baltimore food scene.

Now, if you see a breathless housewife, drink in hand, on the dance floor at Ryleigh’s, you’ll know why. Ah, to be 25 again!

 

Home cook assessment:  Do you consider Durkee Onions and Campbell’s Mushroom Soup legitimate ingredients or cheating?

Yes, definitely cheating. When I cook, I stick to fresh ingredients.

 

Saturday night with the boyfriend: Where do you book? What do you order?  

Vino Rosina in Harbor East. The scallops and escargot are beyond. Mezze in Fells Point. Can you ever go wrong ordering a ton of tapas?

 

Where would you take fun friends in from New York?

Thames Street Oyster House or Mamas on the Half Shell, both authentic seafood experiences for out-of-towners.

 

How about for a special dinner?

Charleston has amazing food and an ever-changing menu, fit for special occasions. I also love the farm-to-table philosophy and cozy atmosphere at Woodberry Kitchen.

 

Where is your go-to place for drinks? Why?

Ryleigh’s Oyster Bar in Federal Hill for the variety of freshly squeezed crushes and the dance floor. Ropewalk Tavern (also in Federal Hill) if it’s a beer drinking night. Oh, and Bond Street Social (in Fells Point) is the new spot for happy hour. I go there, too.

 

Any drive-ins, diners and dives?

Broadway Diner in Highlandtown and Jimmy’s in Fells Point are my diners. As far as dives, Cats Eye Pub in Fells has great live music or Walt’s Inn (in Canton) for a late night karaoke session.

 

What new restaurant are you dying to try?

Wit and Wisdom at the Four Seasons.  Brunch and happy hour were great there so I assume dinner will be nothing less.

 

Where do you grocery shop and why?

Harris Teeter downtown or Wegmans (in Hunt Valley) on my way home from work.

 

Is there a food item that you regularly go out of your way to buy?

I am very thankful Towson Hot Bagel expanded downtown to save me from a long drive for fresh bagel sandwiches on the weekends. They’re that good.

 

What Baltimore restaurant has the best vibe?

I like Blue Hill Tavern in Canton or Pazo in Harbor East. Good food, cool atmosphere, and delicious cocktails.

 

OK, we gotta do it. Best crab cake?

Mamas On The Half Shell or Rusty Scupper.

 

Anything on your wish list for the Baltimore food scene?

An authentic pizzeria on the south side of town.

Lululemamas!

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There is no better place to run into friends than Stone Mill Bakery at Green Spring Station. Stacy Lebow and Elise Morris, old friends, both showed up wearing Lululemon tops. (And they didn’t even call each other!) The hot Vancouver-based company sells yoga-inspired athletic clothing that has become the uniform for chic exercising moms. We’re lucky enough to have a Baltimore store on Aliceanna Street in Fells Point (soon to move to Harbor East, we hear).

Stacy Lebow and Elise Morris, Stone Mill Bakery, Green Spring Station

We talked to Stacy first.

Hi. I love your top.

Thanks. It’s Lululemon, my favorite thing to wear when I work out.
    

How would you describe your fashion style?

Bohemian. 

 

That would explain the feather I see in your hair. 

It’s trendy fun! It comes out in a week. Like nail polish! 

 
What do you wear for an evening out?

I dress according to what fits my body. And I love scarves and wraps and shawls — and dresses! I do get my hair blown out occasionally. That’s my one indulgence. My mother
was a photographer so I’ve always had pictures taken of me. And pretty hair is an important accessory!

 

How do you two know each other?

We met when our children were very young at preschool.

 

And Elise, where did you spend your morning?

I just came from playing tennis!

 

And you both love Lululemon! Are you sure you didn’t plan your matching tops.

Of course not!  But I’m glad we ran into each other!  (Stacy)  

More Retail at Harbor East

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I love Harbor East.  The Landmark, Sassanova, Cinghiale, Patrick Sutton and now the glistening new Four Seasons all have the power to bring my staid suburban self downtown on a regular basis. You’d think that would make me happy, but noooo! I want more! I want a destination where I can while away a full day with a little shopping, eating, drinking and onto more shopping. So far, Harbor East is more of a half-day kind of place. 

Changes are rife, however. We’ve already reported that Anthropologie is in Harbor East’s future. As excited as I am at the prospect of stocking up on mustard yellow day coats, I am delighted to learn there are more stores on the horizon.

We promised not to name names, but we hear that a certain preppy chain, known for its classic with a twist look (used to be in the Gallery at Harbor Place…how many more hints can I give you?) and a cosmetics store whose fans include RuPaul and Lady Gaga, are  very close to closing the deal on setting up shops there. 

I love what this development means for the future of Harbor East. It’s a stamp of approval that reads “viable retail market.” Hopefully, along with more national chains, it will attract smaller independent stores to round out the shopping landscape.

Now I can see the perfect downtown day-trip taking shape: a day of shopping ending in a makeup application for a big night out! Now if only there were a great hair salon too? (Wink, wink, we hear that’s in the works too.)


A Peek Inside John Waters’s Baltimore Home

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I was always hoping I’d get invited over for afternoon tea or a Justin Bieber-themed dinner party, but I’ll settle for Rookie Mag’s photo tour of John Waters’s Baltimore home.



True to form, there are plenty of kitschy books (I’m Fifteen… And I Don’t Want to Die!), art objects (a Yoshitomo Nara ashtray), photos of ladies with big hair, fake cats, and… plastic food. Why not?

 

One perfect touch: Waters’s “idea board” is topped with the classic BELIEVE bumper sticker, rearranged to read BE EVIL. Also appreciated:  the subtle shout-out to Baltimore superstars Wye Oak. John Waters has good taste!

 

 

I can think of nothing more Waters-esque than these action figures of famous pop-culture accidents (Britney flashing the paparazzi; Michael Jackson dangling his baby off a balcony).

Check out the rest of the photos here.

Recreational Residential Real Estalking

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Are you in market for a new home? Are you thinking of selling your house and need some price comparisons? Are you a house obsessed lookey-loo? Well, grab a Starbucks and power up the GPS. We have your Sunday afternoon covered with our picks of the best open houses this week. 

 

1107 Harriton Road

$ 740,00

4 br/2.5 ba

It’s all in the bones of this Poplar Hill Tudor. Sure, some surface updates are needed, but the existing decor is tasteful, so you could go at your own pace. What I can’t get over is the beauty of the elements that would never need changing: the gorgeous staircase, the quaint dormered ceilings and the deep windowsills. I would buy the house based on the panelled doors alone. A visit is sure to uncover more lovely architectural details. Visualize: Sitting with piles of wallpaper swatches — all the work here appears to be the fun kind.

 

605 Marwood Road

$ 339,000

4 br/1 ba

What in the name of “Calico Critters” is that darling front door about? From there, a step inside this Towson house is a bit of a let down. The decor is very dry. Those cozy bedrooms and lovely screened porch, however, lead me to think that it would be a snap for someone with a great eye to turn this place into a gem. A perfect starter home for a family with style. Visualize: Poring over your subscription to “Cottage Living.”

 

11702 Clairmoor Road

$1,795,000

6br/5.5 ba 

It doesn’t come cheap but this Lutherville home has ridiculous “easy living” appeal.  No detail is overlooked in this immaculately maintained home. And while it is undeniably well done and attractive (the garish red bathroom a huge exception), I wonder if it’s just too 1999? The pillars seem a little dated to me. For close to $2 million, couldn’t you get the 2012 model? Best to look. Visualize: Checking in with the gardner before you head out to shop.

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