Retro-Modern American Foursquare in Medfield: With Historic Civil War Detour

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Hot House: 4316 Grand View Avenue, Medfield, Baltimore, 21211

American Foursquare, wood frame, circa 1925, on .25 acre lot. 1,308 sq. ft.,  with 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths over two and a half floors. Fully fenced yard and full, unfinished basement. Front porch with stone steps, original pine floors throughout, original pine finishes, renovated kitchen, garden shed, stone patio, two-car parking, central A/C: $325,000

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What: An All-American. Influenced by the Prairie architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright and sometimes referred to as the Prairie Box, this architectural style swept small towns of America in the post-Victorian era, roughly 1900 to 1930.  The simple, boxy shape made it easy to assemble from mail-order house kits popular at the time, sold by Sears and other companies. Foursquares could be dressed up with gingerbread or bay windows, and executed in stucco or brick, as well as wood –  but all have the distinguishing low roof angles, overhanging eves,  front porch and a simple floor plan designed to provide roomy interiors on smaller city lots. Which this one does, nicely. Downstairs, a simple-but-spacious living room/dining room/kitchen configuration — the kitchen has granite countertops. There are three bedrooms upstairs — again, roomy, but there’s no master bath. Lovely, unpainted woodwork and Craftsman touches lift things up, style-wise. It’s been painted and decorated in a manner at once retro and hip, a great choice that puts the house in its best light.

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gv:living2gv:kitchenWhere: Medfield is north of Hampden, south of Roland Park and west of Falls Road, largely developed in the 1920s. (Begin Historical Detour…) Much of it was built on the grounds of the former Medfield Academy, an elite Baltimore prep school started in 1841 by the Rev. John Prentiss, a son of one of Boston’s renowned intellectual families, and named for his hometown of Medfield, Massachusetts. Two of Prentiss’s sons grew up to fight on opposite sides of the Civil War, a story stirringly told in a novel written in 2008 by David Jones entitled, Two Brothers: One North, One South.  In 1865, both boys were wounded in the Battle of Petersburg where, unbeknownst to them, they had been fighting just yards apart, firing at each other.  They were brought to the same medical facility outside Washington, D.C. just days before the war ended.  The youngest, William, was tended to lovingly for weeks by the poet Walt Whitman, who had been volunteering at the hospital. Whitman talked to the boy at length about his decision to fight for the Confederacy. He was present at his deathbed, spoke movingly at his funeral and later wrote about him. The second brother, Clifton, a major in the Union Army of the Potomac, died of his wounds a few weeks later. They are buried side by side in a graveyard in Brooklyn, NY where an elder bother, John Prentiss, was living. (End Detour.)

Medfield today is a solid, middle-class neighborhood, and Grand View Avenue is its nicest street, a pleasant, tree-lined jumble of smaller Victorians, bungalows and Cape Cods. Many of these homes are being renovated and it feels like it’s on the way up.  There is a small town vibe here, although you are just a few blocks from the busy intersection of Falls Road and Cold Spring Lane. The Rotunda redevelopment should bring a wealth of new shopping and entertainment possibilities to the area. The public school, Medfield Elementary, is just around the corner, and in addition to a high academic ranking, it offers an expanse of playing fields.

Why: Practical and roomy, with a nice look and a big, sunny backyard.  Kids can walk to Medfield Elementary.

Why Not: Grand View is a two-way street, and it’s narrow, with cars parked on both sides. There’ll be times when you’ll just have to back up, and give way to other drivers.

Would Suit: Urban farmers. Backyard fully-fenced  for children, dogs, chickens, crops.

 NB: Depending on how important The Avenue is to your life, it’s a bit far to walk to it from here.

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3 COMMENTS

    • Yes it’s true, thanks Baltimore Gal. But I never picked up that I was driving down it the wrong way! Guess that’s why that guy was shaking his head at me…

  1. Grandview is not a two-way street, it is one-way leading into the neighborhood from Cold Spring. Also, I would argue that Clydesdale is equally nice – if not more so – than Grandview. Great neighborhood though, Medfield Heights Elementary out-performs most suburban public schools!

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