Hot House: 1708 Kurtz Avenue, Historic Lutherville, MD 21093
Octagonal house, circa 1856, in gravel cement block and stucco, well maintained and updated. Terrace, stone patio, Juliette balcony and back porch. Four bedrooms, 2.5 baths over 2,880 sq. ft. Two stories, with attic and partially finished, windowed basement. Central spiral staircase, 12’ ceilings, original wide-plank Georgia pine floors, interior shutters, long windows and French doors to porch, recent kitchen, en suite master bedroom, central a/c. Circular driveway, covered parking, rear guest house/studio, 1.5 acres with mature plantings: $849,000
What: More than a house, a philosophy. This house is a remarkable example of one of a small handful of octagonal houses built in Maryland during the 19th century. It was inspired by the writing of O.S. Fowler, the 1846 author of “A Home For All, The Octagon Mode of Building”. Fowler had strong opinions on a variety of topics besides architecture, including phrenology, sex and child-rearing, and was a respected thought leader of his day. In “A Home for All” he argues for the “greater beauty, compactness and utility of octagon houses.” Anyone with an interest in the sidebars of American history and architecture will love the Wiki entries on Fowler himself and the Octagon house in general. As a home, this particular Octagon house has immense appeal, especially for a buyer who appreciates its quirks. And while the charm factor is high, so, surprisingly, is the comfort level. The long windows on all sides seem to attract the light, and make other houses feel dark by comparison. The circular flow of the rooms is a socializing mechanism, while still allowing for privacy. On the second floor, several bedrooms have doors leading into the next, which takes some getting used to. It would be an easy fix, and you might not find it necessary. The downstairs rooms are elegant, with their high ceilings, but not intimidating. All have views to the lovely garden. The kitchen is roomy and comfortable. This is very much a family house.
Where: Despite the rural feeling of Kurtz Avenue, it actually lies just south of the Ridgely Road shopping center on York Road. A wooded tract and a railroad screen the neighborhood, and road noise is minimal. Wide streets and old trees help, too. Its pretty old homes were built in the mid 1800s as a summer resort from Baltimore City, and it was designated a National Historic District in 1972. It’s a close and friendly community, with good public schools and easy access to 83 and 695. Easy access too, to Yamato Sushi in the nearby REI strip mall, the best sushi in Baltimore County.
Why: Historical and aesthetically fascinating.
Why Not: Admiring drivers-by. Obligation to appear on historic house tours.
NB: The guest house/studio building behind the house is not as attractive as the house, although the recently added porte-cochiere (carport) works well.