Hot House: The Lydia and Robert Hamill House, 5607 Roland Avenue, Baltimore 21210
Queen Anne-style Victorian, circa 1897, designed by George Franklin Barber. Nine bedrooms, six full, two half-baths over 4,516 sq. ft. Five fireplaces, hardwood floors throughout. Original architectural details include multiple porches, cupolas, keyhole windows, carved balustrades and wood trim. Complete high-end renovation and restoration. Elevator, gourmet kitchen with marble counters and island, custom cabinetry. Luxury master suite with balcony and marble bath with separate glass shower. Third-floor apartment has three bedrooms, two fireplaces, separate entrance and kitchen. Central a/c, two-car garage, on .56 acres: $1,295,000.
What: A spec home. This house, and seven other large, picturesque Victorians along N. Roland Avenue were designed in 1897 as model homes for a planned development called Normandy Heights. The development company — which was slightly shady and ultimately failed — hired self-taught, mail-order architect George F. Barber to design 47 homes for the Normandy Heights project. Barber’s mail-order home designs were wildly popular throughout America at the turn of the century. The developers were hoping to capitalize on the success of nearby Roland Park, where house plans from a similar mail-order firm were already in use. (Architects were in short supply in America at this time, and buying plans from a catalog was common practice).
Set back from the street on deep lots, these homes are a commanding and charming presence on N. Roland Avenue. This house is perhaps the finest of the original eight.
Its exuberant exterior decoration — the cupolas, carvings, etc. — stands in striking contrast to the open feeling of the interior, where large rooms radiate from a grand and welcoming reception hall. The scale and simplicity creates an airy, modern feeling that many Victorian homes don’t have — present only in “the grandest country and suburban houses of this time period.” You could, by opening all the pocket doors, have a virtually open floor plan.
The 2004 renovation by the current owner has been beautifully and sensitively done. It includes a nice paint job, a new roof, gutters, plumbing, electrical and a security system, as well as restored windows and historically correct, handmade hardware. The lovely wrought-iron fencing around the front yard dates from the time of the house. It was salvaged from a home in Virginia and restored by the owner. There are simply too many noteworthy details to include here, but you get the idea. A Tiffany-style, leaded-glass window on the landing is gorgeous, even if you’re not a fan of stained glass.
In 1901, after years in receivership, the house was purchased by Lydia Hamill, whose husband was the vice president of the Roland Park Company. It is likely that she purchased the house in order to keep it separate from her husband’s business interests, in case he got into financial trouble.
Where: The corner of Melrose and Roland Avenue in Poplar Hill. From here, it’s just a short trot over a tiny bridge to the Bryn Mawr School, and less than a mile to Boys Latin, Gilman, Roland Park Elementary/Middle and Roland Park Country schools. For a family with school-aged children, this house could save a lot of driving. An easy walk down Roland Avenue takes you to the shopping, library, post office and restaurants of Roland Park. There’s also access to I-83 at Northern Parkway.
Would Suit: Mother of the bride. It’s picture-perfect for a grand wedding.
Why: For architectural fanciers, this is a dream house.
Why Not: A lotta paint…
NB: As the developers of Normandy Heights descended into bankruptcy, unpaid bills for the work included one from Dr. Charles E. Goodrich, “master electrician, lately foreman with Professor Edison.” His bill for wiring all eight houses totaled $166.00.