Neighborhoods

Ruxton Refined

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Let’s play a game. Pretend you are the co-founder, former chair and CEO of one of Baltimore’s most successful investment firms. You are married to a Louisiana-bred beauty who is known for her grace and impeccable taste. Picture your house. Epic loveliness, right? Well, Chip and Rand Mason’s (yep, Legg Mason) Ruxton home is selling for $5.6 million and, if you’re doing imaginative visualization with me, it is not going to surprise you in the least.

The “venerable French inspired manse” is certainly both epic and lovely. Set on 12 acres on Ruxton’s most coveted street, Circle Road, the house has all the expected amenities: six bedrooms, grand foyer, pool, pavilion, tennis court and plenty of patios and terraces from which you can soak in the surrounding beauty. Mrs. Mason’s Louisiana roots are evident throughout the home. Notice the unmistakable French Quarter-style shutters and ironwork in the exterior shots. Makes me want a beignet. Oh who am I kidding, make it a Hurricane. The theme continues inside where the French furnishings are done up in a palette scooped right from a gelato shop. Tres jolie. The peach and mint living room is quintessential Southern prettiness but the real star of the show is the master bedroom. The curved wall of windows and the ridiculously sized “sitting area” make me woozy, and downright snoozy, with delight.  I picture lounging on that green banquet, enjoying my tea, while planning a festive brunch menu (which I will pass to the caterers of course). Hey, a girl can dream.

Chip retired from Legg Mason in 2008 and one could assume that is the impetus for the move. He started Mason and Co. at the age of 25 and after merging with Legg and Co. in 1970, took the company public in 1974. His ride to success has included a deal with Citigroup which brought the company to a peak of $830 billion in asset management in 2005. No wonder the house is similarly generous. Mr. Mason also takes his civic duties seriously. He has chaired the Securities Industry Association, served as Emeritus trustee of Hopkins and on the boards of the BMA, United Way and National Aquarium just to name a few. Perhaps the guy is just tired of mowing that 12-acre lawn–kidding, kidding! Rumor has it that the couple spends most of their time in Florida these days and are looking downtown for their next Baltimore pad. With his resources and her discerning eye, it’s sure to be a showstopper.

Is $30 million Too Much to Ask?

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HOT HOUSE: Tudor Farms, 3675 Decoursey Bridge Road, Cambridge, MD 21613

Spectacular hunting lodge with 6,250 acres of land, indoor riding ring and stables, indoor tennis/sports center, two guest houses, barns, kennels and picking house, in Cambridge, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore: $30 million.

What: Built as a weekend retreat in 1990 for Wall Street hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones–who later pled guilty to federal wetlands violations there–this is a grand, Adirondack-style hunting lodge of turn-of the-century splendor.  Eleven bedrooms, ten and a half baths, and eight fireplaces on three stories make it a natural for large group entertaining (your family reunion!),  and would work really well as a small hotel or private hunting club. Heated and cooled with geothermal energy, the house is supplied with all the custom features you would expect in a $30 million property. Gourmet kitchen? Duh. Yoga room? Yup. Games room? Check.  Walk-in closets, built-in bookcases and hardwood floors? Check. Window treatments all in-place, and included, a nice touch.  In the living room, a breathtaking wall of glass overlooks the water. Even so, the real appeal of the place is at least as much about the property as the house.  Head for the basketball court or the equestrian center, to check out the riding ring and pristine stables.  Then off to the kennels, ready for your pack of hounds.  This is a nature connoisseur’s paradise.  Considered “one of the most important hunting estates in the country” and categorized for tax purposes as a “hunting and fishing reserve,” the land has been carefully managed to insure the widest variety of native wildlife. There are ponds for fishing, wetlands and woodland for hunting duck, goose, turkey, pheasant, deer and more. The peaceful, private atmosphere (broken only by occasional gunfire…) creates a haven for man and beast. Fun fact: The lake on the property has islands in the shape of the owner’s initials PTJ.   

Where: Cambridge (pop.12,326), a pretty town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Its also one of the state’s oldest towns, so guests not out hunting on the reserve can get a little history and shop its galleries and markets. To get there, take Rt. 50 east over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Go about 40 more miles and you’ll cross the Choptank River and be in Cambridge. Decoursey Bridge Road is about six miles out Bucktown Road from Cambridge. 

Why: The picking house obviously–how many people do you know who have one?  But really, because this is an over-the-top man cave, a boy’s retreat, where hunting is the main event and every day is Superbowl Sunday. The former owner’s status as a Wall Street celeb gives it extra cachet.  Jones, 56, nickname PTJ, is a Memphis boy and UVA grad/major donor who made a killing in the 1980’s futures market as head of Tudor Investments. He founded the Robin Hood Foundation with Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, married an Australian model after dating Bianca Jagger and Christina Onassis, and was involved in a minor scandal when his environmental planner, hired to create ten duck ponds on the property, was convicted of knowingly in-filling wetlands and sentenced to two years in jail. Jones paid $2 million in fines. Interestingly, Jones is also the star of a rogue documentary called “Trader,” (a clip currently shows on the Baltimore Fishbowl video landing) recently released on You Tube after years off the market (rumor is that Jones tried to buy all the copies out there) in which, among other things he predicts the Wall Street crash of 1987.  Current worth, $3.3 billion.  

NB: No swimming pool–possibly due to environmental concerns or restrictions. Also, an ongoing battle with nutria, a small destructive rodent currently infesting North American wetlands.  

Would suit: Teddy Roosevelt…Great White Hunter…Dick Cheney… 


Donate Your Pennies: Poe House in Poorhouse

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The historic Poe House at 203 Amity Street lost $85,000 in city funding last year–they’ve been told to expect no further support–and is temporarily closed while EAP-loving local volunteers scramble to assemble funds to reopen the museum building to the public.

Enthusiastic Poe-studying students in Mr. Zimmerman’s history class at the Crossroads School in Fells Point have raised about $500 to save the house from closure. Local writer Rafael Alvarez, a former Sun reporter, now president of the Poe Society of Baltimore, encouraged the middle schoolers to take up a down-home drive, Pennies for Poe, inspired by historic events.

More than 150 years ago, local schoolchildren began collecting pennies to purchase a marker for Poe’s grave–you may recall, the author died scary broke and alone in 1849, at (gasp) 40. Finally, back then, a few businessmen got word and pitched in, bringing the grand tombstone total to $1200 and ensuring that the author’s grave would include a legit headstone to praise his name.

Alvarez has extended “Pennies” by enlisting several local establishments to feature a Poe House donation fishbowl or coffee can (see bar/restaurant list below). He’ll visit more city schools this fall to talk Poe facts and invite kids to fund-raise.

“Not everyone who comes to Baltimore confines their adventures to the Inner Harbor. Many tourists–along with locals–wander to see the more obscure gems of Crabtown, like the house on Amity Street where Edgar Allan Poe lived for a time with his wife and mother-in-law and is said to have written the ever-fabulous ‘MS. Found in a Bottle,’” Alvarez says. “We are collecting so many pennies that a search is on for a well-hidden, secure and empty swimming pool to fill with pennies. Pennies will save the Poe House as sure as William Donald Schaefer still knows where an abandoned and burned out car waits to be towed away by the Department of Public Works.”

A sizable swimming pool of change might just do it. There’s still a long way to go to reach the foundation’s $85,000-deep goal, so dig beneath your sofa cushions, pat under your car floor mats, and break the piggy bank. Help keep the horror master’s doors from creaking creepily shut for evermore.

Make checks payable to:
DIRECTOR OF FINANCE, City of Baltimore
put the words POE HOUSE in memo line.

Mail donations to:
Jeff Jerome (Poe House curator)
c/o Baltimore City Department of Planning, 8th Floor
417 East Fayette Street Baltimore, MD 21202

Or drop your spare change in collection jars at:

G&A Hot Dogs at 3802 Eastern Avenue

The Laughing Pint at 3531 Gough

Pub 1919 at 1919 Fleet Street

Fireworks! Parades! Fun! Today is the Fourth!

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Roland Park Parade, 2011. Photo by Susan Dunn.

UPDATED TO REFLECT ACTIVITY 7/4/2012 ONLY

Fourth of July firework displays and parades abound today.  Take the time to get outdoors and enjoy your friends and neighbors.  (Take your mind off  the power outages and storm damage too!)

The list of firework displays below comes from the Office of the State Fire Marshal and includes the organizations that have received permits to display fireworks tonight and tomorrow night. Some of the firework displays are private — the country clubs, for sure — but if you can find a spot nearby, you can enjoy the spectacle, too.

If we have left out your neighborhood parade, please let us know at [email protected] and we will add it to the parade list.

Our team at Baltimore Fishbowl will be enjoying a relaxed work schedule tomorrow so we can spend the day with family and friends, too.

Happy 4th!

Fireworks – July 4

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor
401 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

Time: 9:30

Catonsville High School (rain date: July 7)
421 Bloomsbury Avenue, Catonsville 21228

Time: 9:15

Fullerton Park (rain date: July 5)
4304 Fullerton Avenue, Baltimore 21236

Time: 9:00

Grange Elementary School (rain date: July 6)
2000 Church Road, Dundalk 21222

Time: 9:15

Greenspring Valley Hunt Club (rain date: July 5)
30 Greenspring Valley Road, 21117

Time: 9:00

Loch Raven Tech Academy (rain date: July 5)
8101 LaSalle Road, Baltimore 21286

Time: 9:15

Oregon Ridge Park (rain date: July 5)
13401 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville 21030

Time: 9:45

 

Federal Hill Find Mixes New with Old

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HOT HOUSE: 227 Grindall Street, Baltimore, 21230

Open plan, architect-designed Federal-style townhouse in prime Federal Hill location. Two thousand square feet plus roof-top deck: $485,000

What: Three bedrooms, three baths, on three stories, over 2,000 square feet in all, with a two story atrium that sets a light and airy tone in this 2006 townhouse. Brick and stucco exterior blends surprisingly well with its older neighbors and a big bay window in front with garage doors underneath makes it distinctive, in a good way. Garage is a boon for both parking and storage.

The modern open-concept design means:

1. A sleek eating area. 2. A chef’s kitchen with stainless steel backsplash, large breakfast bar and premium appliances and 3. The atrium, with cool metal railings leading around and up the stairs. Downstairs, a large 13′ x 18′ sunken living room with fireplace opens onto a protected terrace big enough for tables and a grill. Upstairs are three bedrooms–master has a walk in closet–and access to the roof-top terrace, with stellar urban views, especially at night. Hardwood floors downstairs, carpet upstairs, all in pristine condition. 

Where: Grindall Street is two blocks south of Federal Hill Park, and intersects with Riverside Avenue.  Nearby is Digital Harbor High School, among all the other attractions of Federal Hill–the park, the harbor, etc. Your local will be Porter’s, the popular Federal Hill pub. 

Why: This is a pretty good-sized house by Federal Hill standards. The light and space of the modern interior makes a nice change from older townhouses. Roomy enough for a (smallish) family. Also, walkability rating is 98.

Why Not:  Rooftop views: awesome. Views from interior windows: not so much. Third floor also feels like a bit of a let down after the downstairs. 

Would suit:  Chic urbanites of any age.

Love Conquers Destroyed Frat House in Charles Village

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It is no coincidence that Loyola University writing professors Ron Tanner and Jill Eicher met in a consignment shop. They were both nostalgists with a penchant for collecting cast-off objects from the past (hope they go see “Midnight in Paris”). A romance bloomed and the vintage theme continued as Jill helped Ron scout out historic “fixer-uppers” in his quest for a new house. It was 1999 when the newly minted couple first spied the grand Queen Anne style townhouse in Charles Village. Jill loved it and Ron loved Jill. He now admits he bought the house hoping that it would lure Jill to move in, and they could work on the renovation together. Ron also admits he is a hopeless romantic and a rampant optimist. He is not lying.
The house, you see, had been abandoned for a year and perhaps that was a good thing: It gave it some time to air out. For 10 years it had been occupied by a fraternity whose testosterone fueled havoc had all but ruined the circa 1897 beauty. How can a group of young men do more damage in ten years than four whole families did in 100? Well, they used the front hall balusters for batting practice, clogged every toilet in the house, painted the walls with confederate flags and ingenious phrases like “duh!”, devoted whole rooms to the storage of garbage, used the doors for dart practice, nailed elevated bunks (remember them?) into the bay windows and supported a colony of rats. Check out the before photos, appropriately named “damage!” Ron paid $125,000 for the house “as-is” and he got to keep the 19 empty beer kegs.
Somehow, love conquered and Jill moved in, tools in hand. The first year of cohabitation can be challenging in the best of circumstances. Imagine doing it while living in squalor with a never-ending list of physically taxing chores to be done (I am certain that I would turn violent). Ron and Jill’s story (soon to be a book) is exactly as complicated and funny as you would think. There was his wanting to “get it done” juxtaposed with her desire to “do it right.” (Didn’t I just have that exact fight over the recycling last night?) There was the inevitable blame game. (“I have no idea where it is, I never had the hammer, damn it!”) And there were more serious complications, such as running out of money and getting lead paint poisoning. Of course, a lot of good things happened, too. When it came to outfitting the house, Ron and Jill found their love of the past quickly turned into a blissful joint obsession. The couple rigorously researched the most historically authentic tub, scoured reclamation yards for the perfect mantle, celebrated finding just the right moldings and splurged on period-perfect light fixtures. The renovation forced them to reveal themselves and the places where they were and were not compatible.
 
Over seven years the couple toiled to get the house into magazine-worthy shape (This Old House did a story on them) and the results are beautiful in more ways than one.
In 2003, the Tanners triumphantly married in their their lovely home. Today the couple continues to beautify and upgrade. They say they will never be “done” and have a website where they showcase their latest projects. Recently there have been improvements to the yard and the library and, while beautifully executed, you get the feeling that it is all just fun tinkering now. Much like Ron & Jill’s union, the hard work is already done.

Elegant Victorian on Large, Secluded Lot in Mt. Washington

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HOT HOUSE: 5603 Roxbury Place, Mt. Washington, 21209

1880 Victorian with eight bedrooms on 2.83 secluded acres in Mt. Washington, with unusually fine period interiors: $749,000

What: A fixer-upper, for sure. But the location is unique, and the house has both character and elegance. A three story, shingle-style Victorian in wood and stone, with a covered, full-length open porch along the back of the house. Porch overlooks a large private backyard that slopes down to the woods, and is supported underneath by grand stone arches and stone walkway. Inside, a huge entrance hall with hardwood floors and fireplace sets the stage (there are seven fireplaces in the house). A wide sweeping staircase rises to the second floor. Ten foot ceilings, carved moldings and amazing woodwork in the large first floor rooms — living room, library and dining room, which is papered in chinoiserie wallpaper. Kitchen has been updated with wood cabinetry and modern appliances. Central air and gas, radiator heat. Upstairs, a double-wide landing and six further bedrooms are airy and full of light. Third floor has two additional bedrooms, house has three and a half bathrooms. Definitely, a lot of house for the price.      

Where: Roxbury Place is a magical-feeling street tucked away in a wooded glen, but an easy walk to Mt. Washington village shops, restaurants, schools, etc.  The village light rail station means easy access to downtown, stadiums, trains, airports. Mt. Washington is a mile or so north of Northern Parkway on Falls Road. Turn left to go over the Kelly Avenue Bridge, bear left onto South Avenue. Roxbury Place is on the left.

Why: Because you love old houses, and you both lost your heart to the place when you walked in the door. Life here will be like living in a 19th century English rectory. 

Why Not: Roxbury Place is a peaceful, wooded lane that badly needs repaving – looks like it might not be a priority for Baltimore City snow removal either.

Would suit: Decorator manqué, someone with an eye for furniture. House can accommodate an almost infinite number of gilt chairs, linen presses, velvet sofas…with great interior vistas and architectural details too.

Get Some Culture (in Belvedere Square)

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FroYo fans, rejoice. A new TCBY opened in Belvedere Square in April, one of only three in the area—the others, in Timonium and Columbia, were such a hike that I often opted for heavy premium ice cream. It’s actually not my first choice, for flavor or nutrition.

I grew up in the 80s eating frozen yogurt fanatically, during its first waffle-cone-bearing swirl of popularity (H.P. Hood originally introduced the stuff in England in the 1970s, tagging his concoction Frogurt). And have been frustrated in recent years by the lack of abundant yogurt options around Baltimore. Thank goodness, tart/minimal yogurt chains like Pinkberry, Red Mango, and Blush have driven “FroYo’s” demand, and beckoned numerous competitors. (Tart yogurt is a throwback to Hood’s original recipe; the flavor might take a minute to grow on you, but trust one dedicated yogurt aficionado: Yum.)

Anyway, if you dig frozen yogurt, there’s much to love about this new TCBY. The décor is space-age-retro adorable and the cups serve-yourself—rare for TBCY—which means you can dish a tiny or tremendous bowl of good-for-you dessert, any day of the week.

Best of all, TCBY, too, has caught this less sweet, fat-free “tart yogurt” fad creaming the country, and now offers its own similarly clean, minimal flavor they’ve labeled Classic Tart. TCBY’s stab at the recipe is a total success, I’m pleased to report. And at 90 calories per four ounces, the stuff is a smart snack, though still pretty sugary (17 grams), and it tastes as terrific as Pinkberry, if not a bit more silky + ice-cream-esque.

Other TCBY-traditional flavors, like White Chocolate Mousse and chocolate-and-vanilla-swirled, are always on handle, plus certain sugar-free and dairy-free options.

TCBY products contain at least seven types of live and active cultures, which can aid digestion and bolster one’s immune system. While I like the wholesome idea, I care less about the bacterial benefits than the cool deliciousness of the lightweight cream, and the fact that I can eat a great big cup for fewer calories and way less fat than ice cream.

Oh, if you’ve caught Classic Tart fever, be sure to try the fantastic frozen yogurt at Evergreen on Cold Spring, and at Mr. Yogato in Fells Point. It’ll nearly make you pucker—which means I highly recommend.

Gibson Island Stunner To Get Away from it All

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HOT HOUSE: 712 Stillwater Road, Gibson Island, MD 21056

A 1928 English country home on Gibson Island, with a private dock and frontage on freshwater, spring-fed Otter Pond: $3,295,000

What: A five bedroom, three and a half bath house on two stories, with superb views out the back. Beautifully situated, with panoramic views of both the Chesapeake Bay and Otter Pond, this house appeared recently in American Luxury Estates magazine. A screened-in porch and upstairs open porch have wonderful breezes in addition to the water views, and the house has a nice flow – great for entertaining but also for cozy family living. Inside, are the original edgegrain Georgia pine and cherry floors, plus radiant underfloor heat in  kitchen , breakfast room, bathrooms and office. The dining room has gorgeous floor to ceiling palladian windows and living room has a cathedral ceiling. Upstairs landing overlooks living room, and in addition to bedrooms, there is a large professional office with sweeping water views – could be either distracting or inspiring. Also,  skylights, fireplace, picture windows, electric awning, state-of-the-art heat and air conditioning. Separate oversized garage with workroom. The lot is .68 acres –not large, but with the time and money saved on lawn care, you can fish, swim or boat from your private dock. Otter Pond, all 42 acres of it, is your real backyard.  Or, join the Gibson Island Club, (not included with home ownership) and take advantage of world class yachting, pool, golf, tennis (on clay courts) and a popular summer camp for kids.  

Where: Not too close, not too far, Gibson Island is an easy commute-–about an hour from Washington, half-an-hour from BWI airport and Annapolis–but about 55% of the residents are full-time. There is a small elementary school just off the island. 

Why: If security is important to you, Gibson Island is the place. There’s a 24-hour, 365 day-a-year security guard on duty, and no one gets on to the island unless invited. Also, there’s a nice, slow pace here, without actually being “rural.” Feels like stepping back in time. 

Why Not: House is not as pretty from the street as it is from the back.

Would Suit: Tweeting congressman “getting help.” Foreign diplomat under a death threat.  Weekend commuters, or families who want a break from the action.


Execs to Hop in the Harbor!

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We double-dog dare you to dive off the pier at Fells Point, and not in a drunken stupor either, in the name of clean water and good faith. But, wait, don’t do it yet. Wait till 2020, when it’s safe.

Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore aims to make the Inner Harbor swimmable and fishable by ’20, if not sooner. Mike Hankin, president/CEO of Brown Advisory, has even promised to take a swim himself, as part of the first harbor-held triathlon.

“Some people think I’ve gone out on a limb here, but this is very doable,” Hankin says. “This harbor deserves to be cleaned up! Come now, this is our city–let’s act like it!”

Hankin serves as chairman of the organization’s board–exec director Laurie Schwartz, also an avid swimmer, provides key leadership.

She, too, looks forward to a clean, competitive swim by nontoxic deadline.

“I’m in! I’m a regular swimmer–at Meadowbrook and Harbor East MAC–and would much prefer to swim in the open waters of the Harbor. I dream about swimming from the foot of Broadway to Tidepoint!” Schwartz says.

Participating harbor-area businesses include H&S Bakeries, Cordish Company, General Growth, Merritt Properties, and Brown Advisory, plus nonprofits the Maryland Science Center and the Aquarium.

Since raising two million dollars to gather momentum, industrious WPB collective has organized to pick up trash on the south side of the harbor, maintained over twenty green urban spaces, and much more. City council fully backs their optimistic efforts.

Are there doubters among you, readers? We’ve all seen tons of nasty trash floating in the harbor, every time we visit the place. The trouble feels chronic, okay. So, how will the organization actually achieve their dreamy fish-and-human-friendly goals?

Well, practical plans (not the least bit watery) underway to ensure clean, swimmable water include a regular “State of the Harbor” report card, a detailed action plan produced by the Center for Watershed Protection and Biohabitats, addressing each major source of harbor pollution, and active neighborhood participation, with grants provided to neighborhood leaders who can spearhead health plan creation, cleanup and awareness efforts. (Problems like litter, sediment run-off and clogged streams will be addressed.)

Sponsors include: Constellation Energy, Legg Mason, Rauch Foundation, Abell Foundation, Cleaner Greener Baltimore and Duane Morris.

Will you support efforts to clean up our harbor? Whether or not you pitch in, will you ultimately take a dip? Go on, we dare you, and we’ll see you in there!

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