Open house at John Waters’ boyhood home draws a (socially distanced) crowd

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Guests tour Oak Grove, a 19th century residence and the boyhood home of filmmaker John Waters, during an open house. Photo by Ed Gunts.

Nearly a dozen pink flamingos lined the driveway of a stately residence in Baltimore County on Sunday, as visitors strolled past. Two pink flamingo-shaped planters framed the entrance. Inside, more pink flamingos adorned tea towels that were hanging in the kitchen with the greeting: “Let’s Flamingle.”

For anyone who couldn’t guess, this was the boyhood home of John Waters, writer and director of the 1972 film “Pink Flamingos” and other Baltimore-centric cult classic movies. Although the filmmaker hasn’t lived there since 1966, the current owners have kept his memory alive with Pink Flamingo-themed touches in and around the house. At Christmastime, they even put Santa Claus on the front lawn, with a sleigh drawn by pink flamingos.

Last week the property at 313 Morris Ave. went on the market for $936,000. On Sunday, real estate agents with Cummings & Co. Realtors held an open house so people could tour the property.

Approximately 40 people came out in 95-degree temperatures and a COVID-19 pandemic to tour the property, called Oak Grove. Besides its connection with the famous filmmaker, writer and visual artist, it has the distinction of being the oldest house in Lutherville, a designated Baltimore County landmark built in 1852.

As might be expected, the open house drew a diverse mix of participants, including neighbors of the owner, other real estate agents, preservationists, historians, architecture buffs, former residents, looky-loos, selfie-takers and even a few serious buyers.

More than a few said they were aware of the house’s connection with John Waters or that they themselves had a connection to the filmmaker. There was at least one developer who is thought to have interest in subdividing the three-acre lot. One visitor lives as far away as California. All wore face masks and politely practiced social distancing.

Susan Gelston Mink was one of the first to arrive. Now in her early 70s, Mink said her family lived there when she was a child and she just wanted to see it one more time.

“I love this house,” she said. “This was my favorite house that I’ve ever lived in.”

Mink said she and her husband just bought a condo in Florida or else she would be interested in buying. She said she lived there from 1950 to 1956, and her visit brought back fond memories.

“I just came to see it,” she said. “I know where every piece of furniture was. This room was the dining room. We had our record player here. The kitchen didn’t have a fireplace. Right here was the breezeway.”

Mink said a Sun photographer took a picture of the house in 1952, when it turned 100 years old, and the grounds have changed since then.

“There was a formal boxwood garden where the terrace is now. You could hide anywhere. There was a field with wildflowers in it. And this woods, we thought, was enormous. The college [College Manor] closed in 1952. Down there was Roger’s grocery store. My brother had people over and some girl, I don’t remember her name, came in the front door and walked her horse right on through.”

Pink flamingo planters outside John Waters’ boyhood home. Photo by Ed Gunts.

Tom Liebel, a principal with Moseley Architects and chairman of Baltimore’s preservation commission, said he and his wife, Terry Lorch, saw the listing and that prompted them to come see the property. He said they’re planning some renovations of their own house and came to see it for inspiration.

Aside from the connection to John Waters, Liebel said, the house is noteworthy from an architectural standpoint.

“It’s like [American landscape designer] Andrew Jackson Downing and the Carpenter Gothic from the 1840s, 1850s,” he said. “The renovations are tastefully done. It really is a rather remarkable house.”

According to the listing, the house was built by John G. Morris, founder of The Female Seminary, as his personal residence.

John Waters lived there with his family from the late 1950s to 1966, when he got an apartment in Baltimore City. He lived there from around age 12 to 14 to his late teens or early 20s.

During that time, his grandmother gave him his first 8mm camera and he used the property as the setting for scenes in his early movies, including “Hag in a Black Leather Jacket,” “Roman Candles,” “Multiple Maniacs,” “Eat Your Makeup” and “Desperate Living.” He called the big lawn the Dreamland Lot. While living there, he met many of the friends who went on to collaborate with him on his movies, including Harris Glenn Milstead, whom he named Divine.

Ann Schultz, from Reno, Nevada, was taking a selfie in the yard with her friend Mark Bregel, who lives nearby. She said she knew that Waters had lived in the area and was curious to see where he grew up.

“I know it’s a long way to come for an open house,” she said. “I looked up his profile one day and it had a picture of this house. It’s had only four families since 1852. It’s a lovely family home and a great party house.”

“It’s a very cool house,” Bregel agreed.

Jimmy Wood, a retired surgeon from California, said he’s in the market for a house and his daughter told him about the listing. Like many of the visitors, he said he thought it was “pretty well priced,” given its size, condition and location.

“I have a big family,” he said. “We live between California and Memphis and here… It’s a long story.”

Is he a fan of John Waters?

“Of course. I’m a Baltimorean.”

Someone who didn’t need much information about the property was Cerys Colglazier, who grew up in the house and is part of the family that’s selling it. She said she now lives in Parkville but had the same bedroom that John Waters did.

“My brothers had it before me and then I moved into it,” she said. “I treasure the fact that it was John Waters’ room. I had pink flamingos everywhere in my room as well.”

Another visitor who was already familiar with the house was Anna Waters Gavin, a niece and goddaughter of John Waters. She came with her husband Jeff and their two children.

Many family members have at least one keepsake of their years on Morris Avenue, she noted.

“Probably every person in my family has a painting of this house,” she said. “It’s a good, paintable house.”

Visitors tour the dining room in Oak Grove, John Waters’ boyhood home, during an open house. Photo by Ed Gunts.

Listing agent Frances “Corky” Hebert said the current owner decided to put the house on the market because she raised four children there, doesn’t need as much space anymore, and has found another historic property to live in. She said they priced it below $1 million in the hopes that it will sell quickly.

“It’s just such a great house… She doesn’t want it to sit,” Hebert said. “So she didn’t to want to go over $1 million. Would this house bring a million? I don’t know. I’d rather not try it and then have it sit for two months. Her favorite number is 6 so we put it on for $936,000.”

Do the pink flamingos come with the house?

“The flamingos can be included,” Hebert said. “She might keep the big planter ones by the door. But the little plastic ones? Absolutely.”



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