Diamond In The Rough: 8,000 Square Foot, Unfinished Loft On Hollins Street


HOT HOUSE: 1008 Hollins Street, Baltimore 21223

Circa 1871 New York style loft building, former livery stable, then fruit warehouse in SoWeBo (Southwest Baltimore). Zoned commercial/industrial. Partly heated, rudimentary kitchen and bathroom. 8,000 sq. ft. with skylights, rope-operated freight elevator, remote control door: $575,000

What: A jaw-dropping, raw, Tribecca brand of loft space, one of the few left here in Baltimore. Originally a livery stable for a large undertaking operation on Baltimore Street, some of the interior wood has had a former life as caskets. The owner, an artist in the film industry, is half-hearted about selling. He has great plans (and materials) for a sweeping staircase, a reading loft and more. It was “very raw” space when he acquired it, 15 years ago, and served as party/performance space through the 90’s.

Still unfinished by most standards, he’s installed plumbing, new windows, and a giant triple-insulated skylight with a prism that attracts light to the interior in winter and refracts it in the summer. There are just enough amenities to support life, (stove, bathtub and toilet) if you’re pretty relaxed. Also “the roof is bad.” But there is real beauty in the giant scale of the place – 30 foot ceilings and exposed surfaces that reveal an ancient industrial past. Light that streams through clerestory windows, turning floating particles into hypnotic fairy dust. In the right hands, this would surpass the Woodberry Kitchen as a successful architectural renovation. Any takers?   

Where: Hollins Street is on the other side of Martin Luther King Boulevard, the bad side. Gentrification, however, is well underway.  The sleek new buildings of University of Maryland are just 100 yards away, across MLK, and coming this way. There are funky shops, cute restaurants and interestingly, many beauty salons already here. Not to mention the bustling Hollins Market right on the corner. Follow MLK Boulevard south to West Baltimore Street, take a right and then a left onto S. Schroeder Street, and a quick right onto Hollins. 

Why: Because you have either the eye of an artist or the head of a real-estate investor.You need one or both of those to realize the potential here.

Would Suit: Andy Warhol. This could be the Factory of Baltimore.

NB:  See “bad side” above, so no kids. Also, obviously, tons of work needed. It would be a labor of love.  

Sleek Apartment In Mid-Century Masterpiece


HOT HOUSE: Apt. #503, Highfield House, 4000 North Charles Street, Baltimore 21218

Streamlined one bedroom apartment in an iconic Mid-Century Modern building. 869 square feet, with 24-hour service, underground garage with valet parking, swimming pool: $125,000

What: Your life, only more like “Mad Men.” Built in 1964, Highfield House is one of two Mies Van der Rohe buildings in Baltimore.  In its day it was a major architectural statement. And if you  stand back and look, the strong, clean, “less is more” aesthetic, and Mies’ sure, restrained hand come shining through in the design of Highfield House today. The lobby is fabulously chic, with its black leather Barcelona chairs and glass floor-to-ceiling windows. It’s one of those places, like the Apple Store, where everyone becomes more interesting just by being there. The building is well-maintained and well-served, and they’ve done their best to keep it up to date while preserving its architectural integrity. Number 503, like all the apartments in Highfield House, has a wall of windows stretching along the back, maximizing the light and vistas. There are angled walls, which keep it from feeling boxy, hardwood floors and a sweeping sense of space for a relatively small area. Galley kitchen and bathroom are fine as is, but with some work, could be really great. This elegant and contemporary setting cries out for spare, modern decorating. If you can, leave grandma’s stuff behind. On the other hand, a cocktail shaker would look right at home.

Where: In the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood, about a half-mile north of Johns Hopkins University. Safe and walkable.    

Would suit: Don Draper, obviously. Emma Peel.   

Why: It’s the ultimate showcase for your Mid-Century furniture. And, it’s a very cool building, quite different from the other apartments along the Charles Street corridor, and with more luxury amenities than most. Residents are an interesting, artistic bunch.  

NB: 503 is not, by a long stretch, the best apartment in the Highfield House. The really spectacular ones are the high floor, corner three-bedrooms, and those where two apartments have been combined. In these, the feeling of light and space are awe inspiring – exactly the way the architect intended. None are for sale right now, but the right agent can get you on a waiting list. 

Chestertown Architectural Gem, With History On The Side


HOT HOUSE: ‘Lauretum’  954 High Street, Chestertown, Kent County, MD. 21620

Queen Anne-style Victorian, stucco over brick, built in 1881. Well-maintained and currently run as The Lauretum Inn, a bed and breakfast, with nine bedrooms and 6 1/2 baths, on 6 acres near the Chester River: $932,500

What: An architectural masterpiece in the exuberant, eclectic style of Queen Anne, as well as a beacon to Maryland history buffs. Lauretum,, the name means ‘laurel-grove’, was built in 1881 by Harrison W. Vickers, son of Maryland Senator George Vickers, and paid for by a $75,000 win in the Louisiana Lottery. (Senator Vickers, on his deathbed, cast the deciding vote against the impeachment of President Andrew Jackson.) Designed by Baltimore-based, internationally known architect Edmund G. Lind, Lauretum was one of the first architect-designed homes of its period in Chestertown, and it looks like Mr. Lind gave it everything he had. Mansard roof with jerkin-head gables, towers (including one ‘secret’ tower), double-tiered porches, plaster moldings, striped mahogany floors, interior shutters, beaded paneling, formal fireplaces etc.  But don’t be intimidated by all the history and gables –Lauretum is a warm, comfortable home. From the wide verandas overlooking the park-like grounds, to the new gourmet kitchen, and modern –- yes, modern — bathrooms,  it’s an idyllic spot by any standard. The floor plan is surprisingly open and unstructured. Large, sunny rooms lead toward that stunning kitchen and out onto the south-facing porch. The house has a second kitchen and laundry room, which are the only concessions to its B&B status. It could be un-B&Bd quite easily – just take down the sign and call it home.

Where:  Lauretum sits high on six acres above Chestertown, a mile or so from town, adjacent to Washington College and the Chester River. High Street runs up from the pleasant downtown, where spring, summer and fall, visitors keep things humming.  To get there from Baltimore, take Rt. 50 to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, then north on 301. Exit to 213 North. It’s about 1 ½ hours from Baltimore and Washington D.C.  Founded in 1706, Chestertown has a year-round population of about 4,500. 

Why:  Eastern shore lifestyle. Farmers markets. Chance to become a leading light of Chestertown society.   

Would Suit:  People who’ve always wanted to run a B&B (there’s more of them around then you might think). Urbanites looking for a unique summer experience.  

NB: Winters might be a little slow. 

Renovated Carriage House In Secret Location


HOT HOUSE: 4723 Falls Road, Baltimore, 21209

1902 Stone carriage house in a unique, secluded setting.Four bedrooms, four baths, newly renovated, with separate office wing, on 1.02 acres: $995,000 

What: A lodge-style manor house, hidden behind tall hedges, improbably located on (but not visible from) Falls Road at the entrance to Roland Park.  Once you find it — nearby neighbors did not even know the house was there — it is very, very pretty. Natural stucco and stone walls with a slate roof and dovecote cupola. Interesting architectural details everywhere. Everything extremely ship shape. At the back, separated by glass doors,  is a large office area with its own entrance, conference room and cubicles. There’s still plenty of room though — this is a good size house.  Front door leads directly into the living room. To the right are the dining room and kitchen, butler’s pantry/wetbar and cozy bookcase lined den. Hardwood floors and finishes are perfect, bathrooms look new, walls in soft shades of grey, beige and cream. The lot is large and surrounded by large trees and shrubs. There are several garden rooms and stone patio areas. On the upper level, you could have a pool or a tennis court, or both.     

 Where: Take 83 to Cold Spring Lane, and a left onto Falls Road. At the second light, take a right onto Hillside and an IMMEDIATE right into the driveway. Follow the driveway to the end. Hillside runs up the south side of the Baltimore Country Club property, past the old tennis courts, and meanders on up to Roland Avenue.

Why: No one will ever know you’re there. A great place to run your stealth-wealth enterprise, hide from the coppers or plot world domination — extra office cubicles for your minions already in-place.

 Would Suit:  Sleeping Beauty, wicked witch,  or a family who likes the surprise factor of this location.

 NB:  Explaining, constantly, how to find the house could be annoying, assuming you want to be found. You are just a few feet from the road, so traffic noise is a given.


Living in A White Part of Town


Originally posted on

For four months earlier this year I lived in Hampden, a Baltimore neighborhood known for its overwhelming whiteness… and its locally owned restaurants, chic boutiques, quirky wine shops. What’s a little history of KKK presence (in the 70s) and heavy meth use when there’s a cupcake shop around the corner? Cupcakes equal not racist. So Hampden’s website had me hooked despite other online red alerts, warning me against moving to a place where only 3.5 percent of the population is black. 

“I can’t speak on the racism firsthand but Hampden is known as the white neighborhood and its isolation has helped keep it this way,” warned a Yelper.

Thing is, Hampden wasn’t just “the white neighborhood,” it was the neighborhood people who look like me avoided. As recently as 1987, Hampden made headlines when a black family moved after its windows were smashed in, but I was determined to move in. I’m a sucker for sun-drenched bedrooms, exposed brick, duck confit tacos and a $500 month-to-month lease.

So I wasn’t going to let Hampden’s dark past keep me from the hipster side of Baltimore, and after a week of diligent Craigslist searching, I moved into a rowhouse with a hipster librarian, and thus, became one of very few black people to live in Hampden.

Actually that’s not fair. It’s not like I was the only black person in sight. Every day, a crowd of black middle schoolers wearing neon-colored hoodies, oversized spectacles and crazy-tight jeans gathered in front of the 7-Eleven to wait for the bus, as did weary black seniors. There was also a Malian man who owned the Halal restaurant down the street, but I think he lived nearby in Druid Hill Park, which is predominantly black. 

Still for the entire four months I lived in Baltimore, I never saw another black adult who actually lived in Hampden.

“You know you live in the white neighborhood, right?” my friend asked one day when she picked me up for a ‘buppie’ happy hour in downtown Baltimore.

“I know,” I sighed, all too familiar with the question slash declaration. “I like it, it works for now.”

Hampden’s overwhelming whiteness didn’t scare me, because I’m used to living in places where most of my neighbors don’t look like me. I grew up in the notorious Dove Springs, which is more than 85 percent Latino. When I whipped out the Spanish, “mis vecinos” asked in delighted awe if I was Panamanian. In college, I was one of three black residents in my dorm. Ironically, years later, I got the most hassle on the street living in Cuba and Ghana, where I could disappear into the crowd with ease. 

I wasn’t convinced that passing up on the benefits of a place where you’d rather live was worth living in a place where you completely blend in. After a while, I got tired of people telling me which neighborhood I was supposed to feel more comfortable in. And in the end I felt plenty comfortable walking the streets of Hampden past the tough-looking, loud-talking tattooed white guys or the old white men in front of the post office. My windows never got smashed in and no one tried to chase me out of the neighborhood with a flaming cross. But even these facts, according to some, were based on what I looked like. 

“People don’t mess with you because you’re pretty,” argued one of my roommate’s friends as we sat around debating whether Hampden was a racist neighborhood. “When I walk home at night in this neighborhood, I am completely freaked out,” she continued.

This woman, who was black with a white boyfriend, recounted tales of awful things men yelled at her when she walked around at night after hanging out on Hampden’s main strip, The Avenue. And for the record I think she’s gorgeous, but according to her my looks were what saved me from a regular gauntlet of racial insults. It sounds utterly ridiculous, shallow, superficial and just plain silly — but I did see her point. 

On afternoon walks to the post office, old white men always smiled, often complimenting me on my looks in that half-creepy, half-harmless way so many old men do. Older white women at the bus stop randomly started conversations with me, always mentioning that I was pretty.

“You’re really pretty!” blurted an eight-year-old Hampdenite as I walked by her and her sisters on my way to lunch. They all had wild curly brown hair and freckled olive skin.  As far as I could tell they were regular Hampden white girls with regular white Hampden parents who had likely grown up right there in the neighborhood.

“Thank you!” I replied, smiling outwardly and inwardly as I headed to pick up my usual $7.99 Chicken Jalfrezi plate from the Halal restaurant down the street. Clearly Hampden was changing. Maybe I was the one changing it. Three little white girls saw me, a deep brown-skinned woman with natural hair, and saw that I was beautiful. That was something.

And the little white girls on my block had a new compliment waiting every time we came across one another. “Your hair is pretty! We like your jacket!”  They were genuinely delighted whenever I said “Hi,” barraging me with curious questions like, “How old are you?” and “What’s that for?” pointing to the iron key I wore on a chain as a necklace. “This is the key to my castle in California,” I told them. They loved it. Just curious little girls.

But somehow is it my so-called prettiness that was neutralizing all the racial tension? Providing me with a kind of beauty buffer against the racially exclusive environment of my neighborhood? I don’t want to believe that — it’s such a shallow Band Aid on such an ugly wound. 

I’ve got other hypotheses. Perhaps in a traditional working class neighborhood like Hampden where historic Mom & Pop shops are being replaced with high-priced boutiques, racial difference is less of a threat than class difference. Perhaps my narrow nose, long hair, and undeniably black skin put them at ease.  

Maybe it’s simply because I never acted like an outsider, so the locals just decided I belonged. Perhaps I blinded myself to the occasional hateful glare because acknowledging it would mean that I did, in fact, live in a neighborhood where some of my neighbors’ skin crawled at the sight of mine. Maybe it was a little bit of all of this. Or maybe it was just time for people to ignore imaginary “tracks” and live on whichever side they chose. 

After just four months, I left Hampden for my hometown of Austin, where I am now once again one of the 8.1 percent. I love Austin, but I miss Hampden. I don’t know if I paved the way for more new neighbors of color or if I was just the unlikely exception.

What I do know is that I’ll miss all those curious little white girls who looked past whatever barriers were supposed to be between us and called me pretty. The little girls who think there’s a castle in California with my name on it.


Kaneisha Grayson is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas. She writes about happiness and gives dating advice at, and she runs an admissions coaching business for non-traditional business students at She is a graduate of Pomona College and Harvard Business School.

Up On The Hill:Best Porch In Roland Park


HOT HOUSE: 203 Ridgewood Road, Baltimore, 21210


Shingle-style Victorian, built in 1901 by a Scottish shipbuilder, on the market for the first time since 1965. Well-maintained, with eight bedrooms, five full baths on .35 acres: $949,000


What: A historians and architects delight, this is a much-admired Roland Park home, whose owners, Martin and Meredith Millspaugh, are longtime Baltimore civic leaders. The front porch is spectacular  –wrapping around the front of the house, overlooking the tree-lined street, with polished cabinet-grade fir floors and mahogany railings.  It’s hard to move inside from the porch, but once there, you are welcomed by rooms flooded in light, and a circular design that moves gracefully around through living room, family room, mud room, pantry, kitchen and dining room, all well-proportioned and generously endowed with fireplaces. The kitchen is large and airy, modern in feeling, with a custom designed, Spanish-style adobe fireplace in the eating area, a large range-hood, aged oak cabinets and Portuguese tiles.  Rooms upstairs flow nicely off a central landing. There is a very large master suite, with dressing rooms and bath.   Third floor has a long, sunny playroom/studio with lots of built-in storage and closets. Some modernization is needed: the bathrooms, naturally, where a few more showers would come in handy, and the kitchen want some updating — maybe just new appliances.  Hopefully no one will touch the kitchen fireplace, or the silk panels in the dining room.  From the back, there is level rear access from the lane behind the house. The basement is unfinished, but dry as a bone, roof and furnace have been recently replaced. There is some a/c, you may want to add some more.     


Where: Ridgewood Road is a right turn off of Roland Avenue heading south, just

before Cold Spring Lane.  The house is about halfway down the street, on the right. Cold Spring Lane takes you right out to 83 and Falls Road, and you are just a walk from Miss Shirley’s, Video American and Petit Louis.


Why: First, the porch is a dream.  Your 50th birthday, your daughter’s wedding reception … right here. You can practically hear the clinking wine glasses. Second, it’s unusually tight and comfortable for such a large house – must be the shipbuilder ….


Would Suit: Modern, (or not) Family.


NB: Backyard is not large, but plenty of room for the swing set and lacrosse pitch.





Brooklyn In Baltimore: A Townhouse In Federal Hill


Hot House: 225 E. Montgomery Street, Federal Hill, Baltimore 21230

Two story town house in Federal Hill, circa 1900, newly renovated. Unusual in having front and back yards plus a separate carriage house with apartment.  Four bedrooms, three and a half baths, with rooftop views over the Baltimore harbor: $729,000

 What: Steps from Federal Hill Park, just off the busy streets of this popular neighborhood, sits this modern town house. The winding brick path behind the wrought iron fence is a nod to its history. The sleek garage (no desperate hunt for street parking here) and interiors bring it right up to 2011 — 2,080 square feet of urban oasis. The living room is long and narrow, like all Federal Hill houses, but architecturally kind of interesting. The stairs have been pushed into the back of the house to get more light and space. Supporting the stairs is a single large round column, faced in blond wood. There is also a living room fireplace with a contemporary blond wood surround. The kitchen is at the back of the house, up a short flight of stairs, and modern, with new appliances. View of the private stone patio in back, and the carriage house beyond.  Second-floor master bedroom suite is large and cleanly designed, with good built-in storage. Master bath has unusual salt and pepper tiling, big glass shower and separate whirlpool tub. Two additional bedrooms, both have built in storage. The fourth bedroom is above the carriage house, a posh guest set-up with a full bath. Roof deck on the house has great views of Federal Hill and the harbor. Hardwood floors, throughout, central a/c basement wine cellar.      

 Where: E. Montgomery Street is the first street up Federal hill, behind and parallel to Key Highway. 225 is between Battery Avenue and William Street. Across Federal Hill Park is the Visionary Arts Museum. Nearby are the Cross Street Market, Regis (the legendary Federal Hill hangout) and bars, coffee shops, shopping. All this, and free public transit. The area is well served by the free Charm City Circulator bus.

 Why: The urban vibe.  Historical and hip. Busy streets, lively shops, the butcher at Cross Street Market. There is a strong neighborhood feeling here, with lots of people who have been here for years, plus new families and singles – the glorious rainbow, etc. And …the house is shelter mag ready, you won’t need to do a thing.   

Would Suit:  Someone looking for the Brooklyn in Baltimore. For you guys, it’s either here or Canton.

 NB: Architects might wish previous owners had spent a few more thousand to have the decks done in metal, not wood.  There’s not much school choice around here, but  Federal Hill Elementary gets increasingly good reviews.




A Keeper, On Poplar Hill Road


HOT HOUSE: 904 Bellemore Rd., Poplar Hill, Baltimore, 21210

Two-story stone house built in 1954, with six bedrooms and five baths, in North Roland Park. On .8  landscaped acres, with a 49 foot swimming pool and stone terrace: $795,000 (twice reduced)

What: A well-designed, Chicago Prairie-style house in good condition, nicely situated above the street and backing on the playing fields of Boy’s Latin School as well as the Jesuit House grounds. Impressive but not grand, the wow factor is supplied by a beautiful large pool, a rarity in Roland Park, nestled next to the house, with a bluestone surround and overlooked by a stone terrace. Interiors are sensible and well proportioned, with many high-quality details  — “random width peg installed hardwood flooring,” crown molding, wood-burning fireplaces and a library with custom shelving. The master bedroom has it’s own wing with en suite bathroom.  Bedrooms are fine, and generously supplied with closets.  Kitchen was built in the nineties and, like much of the house, it will want some cosmetic updating eventually.  It does have a wrap-around seating area in the bay window, which is very cozy.  Zoned a/c. Three car, heated garage. 

Where: Bellemore Road is a left turn off of Roland Avenue if you’re heading south towards Lake Avenue (there is a First Christian Church on the corner of Lake and Bellemore). 904 is on the right, with stone pillars leading up the drive to a large parking pad. It’s a pleasant mile-or-so walk down Roland Avenue to the schools and Eddie’s. Bellemore Road continues down the hill, and has access to Falls Road at the other end, with Whole Foods and Starbucks and all of Mount Washington nearby.

Why: You could live here a long time. The house is plenty large for a family, but not so rambling or hard-to-keep-up that you feel like you have to move when the last kid leaves home. Pretty neighborhood, lots of people walk around here. Great pool.

Would Suit: Kids from one to ninety-two, with tons of fun stuff to do – billiards room, rec room, swimming pool, fish pond, playing fields and popular sledding hill right next door.

NB: Pool may be a little scary for people with non-swimming toddlers. Not a real “neighborhood” feeling on Bellemore.  House is all front, no backyard to speak of, but still very private.

A Place In History: Mansion on Mt. Vernon


HOT HOUSE: 16 E. Mt. Vernon Place, Baltimore 21202

An original Mt. Vernon Place mansion, circa 1855. Historic property, 6,200 sq. ft., newly renovated, with adjoining carriage house: $2.45 million

What: Opportunity knocks. This is a chance to own one of Baltimore’s real historic gems. Built in 1855 for Charles Carroll of Doughregan, who was the grandson of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the famous Baltimorean who laid the cornerstone of the B&O Railroad. The house is also a former home of John Work Garrett, longtime president of the B&O and Baltimore philanthropist, who also owned the Evergreen House in North Baltimore. More recently, Baltimore philanthropist LeRoy Hoffberger lived here. Along the way, it housed the Mt. Vernon Institute for Young Ladies and Little Girls, a school for girls.  Beautifully renovated just two years ago, (the new owners divorced and left town) and restored from an apartment house to a single-family home, the house is now in mint condition. Music from the Peabody Institute across the street floats in the air, and creates a pleasant bustle of artistic endeavor in the neighborhood. The interior is grand in the manner of the Garrett-Jacobs mansion in the next block, but smaller and with more natural light. Carved moldings, hardwood floors, wood paneling and marble mantelpieces abound. Over four stories, there are six large bedrooms with lovely modern baths, an au-pair/staff/mother-in-law suite, a library and a master bedroom with two astounding dressing rooms.  Also, two kitchens, two laundry rooms, a cigar room  — specially ventilated so that no smoke leaks into the rest of the house — sauna, steam room and beautiful carved and working fireplaces. The main kitchen is a dream, with granite and marble countertops, custom cabinets, lighting and storage features as well as an adjoining butler’s pantry. Full, unfinished basement. Central air. The carriage house is accessed through a walled courtyard, and contains a garage with street access, as well as a fully equipped, good-sized flat that could be a separate rental unit.

Where: 16 E. Mt. Vernon Place is between St. Paul’s and Charles Street, before the church, almost directly across Mt. Vernon Place from the Peabody Institute, overlooking the trees and fountains of Mt. Vernon Place. Nearby, within and easy walk are Tio Pepe, Sotto Sopra, Helmand and lots of great hang outs – Maire Louise Bistro, Milk and Honey, Iggies and around the corner, the Maryland Club.

Why: Because you believe in Baltimore, and that eventually, you’ll be sitting on a goldmine.

Would Suit: Patron of the arts, city-dwellers-and-proud-of-it. Incoming downsizers from the Greenspring Valley. Might also appeal to the right corporate client. Agora publishing owns, and has beautifully restored, several properties on the square as offices.

NB: For such a large house, there is not much private outdoor space – a very small garden area in the courtyard. The guys who congregate on the benches in the park may not be your ideal neighbors.

Real Estate Gossip: Cliffeholme Sells, Stemmer House’s New Owners, Tony Foreman’s New Restaurant’s Opening Date


We learned over the weekend that Cliffeholme, the historic mansion in the Greenspring Valley that we wrote about in August, sold last Friday. Still no word on the identity of the new owners. But we did finally find out the identity of the new owners of Stemmer House, the 27-acre, three-building, two-pond, six-garden estate, also in the Greenspring Valley, that we wrote about in May. It sold to the CEO of Lion Brothers, an old Baltimore embroidery company. Our source tells us that the family has established a close relationship with former owner Barbara Holdridge, who lived in the house for over 35 years, and is working closely with her to make sure every change is done with the utmost care. Sounds like they are up to the task of caring for and preserving this lovely, cherished Baltimore County property.

Lastly, Tony Foreman’s new restaurant in Roland Park, originally slated to open at the end of the year, will not open until mid-March, we are told.  Residents’ concerns — although not from the RP homeowners’ association — have delayed the project, but it is still on track to open, just a little later than anticipated.