Tag: greenspring valley

Grand Country House of Shredded Wheat Inventor, American Dreamer, For Sale In Sparks



Hot House:  ‘Oread’ – 1623 Glencoe Road, Sparks, MD 21152

Classic stucco manor house, circa 1904, well and substantially renovated. 5 bedrooms, 5.5 baths over 4 stories, with 8 fireplaces, dramatic staircase, 40×15’ gourmet kitchen, wine cellar, central A/C. Also, swimming pool, tennis court, 5-car detached garage, on private 19+ acres: $1,598,700

 What: Estate once owned by Henry Perky, a late 19th century entrepreneur of the Gilded Age – railroad builder, lawyer, utopian educator and salesman extraordinaire – whose single great success was the invention of Shredded Wheat. Perky made and lost several fortunes over his lifetime, all the while suffering from severe diarrhea, which he treated with a diet of vegetables and boiled wheat. It was his distaste for the prescribed boiled wheat that led him to invent, with a friend, a machine that would make possible his “little whole wheat mattresses.” His plan was to sell the machine, not the cereal, but the cereal was an instant hit. Introduced in 1904, just before John Harvey Kellogg introduced his Corn Flakes — it was Henry Perky, rather than Kellogg, or Perky’s arch-rival C.W. Post, who would go down in legend as “the father of cookless breakfast food.”


His life makes a curious and fascinating study, and Baltimorean Jim Holecheck has written the full story in a book called A Success of Failures: The Life of Henry D. Perky. Perky moved to Sparks in 1904. He bought a great deal of land, including a dairy, the old Filston Farm, where he planned to found a vocational school called Oread (in Greek mythology, a nymph of woods and mountains), to implement his utopian ideals. But days before the school was to open, death intervened as he stepped into an ice cold bath after sipping a brandy, at noon on June 29, 1906. In his will,  Perky left nothing to his only child, Scott Henry, not wishing him to become “a drunk and a tramp,” (as can happen). In fact, his estate was mired in debt, and the house and much of the land was sold. During World War II the house was used as a training facility for spies.

Pastoral Views, Pedigree and Plank (as a Neighbor): Oakdene, Historic Greenspring Valley Estate, Brings It All



Hot House: Oakdene, 1021 Greenspring Valley Road, Lutherville, 21093


Historic country manor house in stone and stucco, circa 1830, in good but basic condition. 12 bedrooms, 9 bathrooms, 9’ ceilings, hardwood floors, french doors, ballroom, carved moldings, servant quarters. Nearly 10,000 sq. ft. over three stories, unfinished basement. Swimming pool, barn, stables and farm hand’s house: $2,900,000

Country Life: A Hill Top Spread in Horse Country


Hot House:  321 Chattolanee Hill Road, Owings Mills, MD 21117


american land titleNew England style country house in painted clapboard, circa 1926, well and truly modernized. 5,114 sq. ft. over three stories, 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, on 1.81 acres of private landscaped grounds. Heated salt water pool, new Vermont slate roof,  gourmet kitchen, large master suite with balcony, pool house with bath, sauna and changing room, circular drive, two car garage: $2,185,000

Hollywood Hills: Glamorous Old Estate In Greenspring Valley


HOT HOUSE: 10824 Stevenson Road, Stevenson, MD 21153

Hollywood style faux-French hunting lodge, “Villa Vista,” on 4.29 acres, with a separate buildable lot of 1.5 acres. Swimming pool, lit tennis court, stable, jacuzzi, 3+ car garage, bomb shelter and guest house. Six bedrooms, six full baths on two stories: $1,495,000  (Additional lot: $295,000)


What: Lovely old stucco mansion, with a delightful aspect and interesting history, in dire need of cosmetic intervention. Villa Vista was built by a Baltimore stockbroker in 1929 — not an optimal year, but nevertheless, no expense was spared in its construction, and for many years it was the setting for Gatsbyesque parties and minor scandals. At the top of a long sweeping drive, dramatically poised on its hilltop setting, the house overlooks acres of trees and lawn and wraps around a swimming pool that looks like a setting for a 1930’s movie, with fountains and gardens, terraces and views. Four fireplaces. Interiors are spacious and sunny, grand but not formal, all with great flow – and designed for entertaining. Now inarguably in decline, the house needs an infusion of energy and cash, half a million at a guess, to bring it back to speed. No A/C. Heat is good and roof is fine, but everything, everything, else needs work.

Ultra-Modern Hideaway in the Greenspring Valley


HOT HOUSE: 8101 Greenspring Avenue, Pikesville, MD 21208

Uber-stylish contemporary in stone and stucco, on 5+ wooded acres in the Greenspring Valley. Geothermal heating and cooling, heated infinity pool, sophisticated security, lighting music and electrical systems. Five bedrooms, 5 and a half baths, 7,200 sq. ft.. 2-car attached garage, 2-4 car detached garage, fire pit, multilevel outdoor entertaining areas, rain curtain, and extensive rare plantings: $3.35 million

Real Estate Gossip: Cliffeholme Sells, Stemmer House’s New Owners, Tony Foreman’s New Restaurant’s Opening Date


We learned over the weekend that Cliffeholme, the historic mansion in the Greenspring Valley that we wrote about in August, sold last Friday. Still no word on the identity of the new owners. But we did finally find out the identity of the new owners of Stemmer House, the 27-acre, three-building, two-pond, six-garden estate, also in the Greenspring Valley, that we wrote about in May. It sold to the CEO of Lion Brothers, an old Baltimore embroidery company. Our source tells us that the family has established a close relationship with former owner Barbara Holdridge, who lived in the house for over 35 years, and is working closely with her to make sure every change is done with the utmost care. Sounds like they are up to the task of caring for and preserving this lovely, cherished Baltimore County property.

Lastly, Tony Foreman’s new restaurant in Roland Park, originally slated to open at the end of the year, will not open until mid-March, we are told.  Residents’ concerns — although not from the RP homeowners’ association — have delayed the project, but it is still on track to open, just a little later than anticipated.

Eight Acres and a Story in the Greenspring Valley


HOT HOUSE: 1718 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD 21093

Sprawling 1900 colonial with a strange past, on eight acres in the Greenspring Valley. Recent site of the Mensana Pain Clinic, it has seven fireplaces, six bedrooms, fourteen bathrooms: $1,400,000 (minimum bid)

What: Built in 1900 by Edward Burke, an original member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, this house was once a high-end man cave. Animal heads on the wall, zebra skins on the floor, dark beams, big fireplaces — and commanding views over the valley. A hundred years later, it was operating as a low-end man cave, owned and run by Dr. Nelson Hendler as the Mensana Pain Clinic.  Here, Dr. Hendler — a nationally renowned, Hopkins trained psychiatrist — was alleged to have sexually abused at least six of his female patients, in addition to trading drugs for sex, handing out painkillers without a prescription, keeping unlicensed guns on the premises and failing to keep his office clean and sanitary (really). His medical license was revoked, and he narrowly avoided jail time. (See The Baltimore Sun and WBALTV stories for the amazing details.) Interestingly, Dr. Hendler then started a website, selling pain diagnoses to plaintiffs lawyers…Knowing the back story, the house has an undeniably creepy feeling. Dead trees in the front meadow probably don’t help. All the rooms are on a grand scale and full of interesting touches – but the house is dark and the furniture looks like it’s waiting for ghostly patients to sit down. The kitchen is like the Titanic. Realistically, it needs at least a million dollars worth of work.  Still, it’s coming up for auction in a few weeks, date not yet announced, and for a certain buyer, looking for a real estate  adventure, this might be just (you guessed it) what the doctor ordered…Call Woodward’s Auction House in Hampden (410) 662-1875 to check the auction date. 

Where: Driving west out Greenspring Valley Road from Greenspring Station, number 1718  is  about 100 yards past Stevenson University,  across the road, on the right.  Sign on the driveway reads 1716. The driveway forks, and the house to the left  is 1718. It’s a very good location, less than two miles from 83, the beltway, Tark’s Grille….

Why:  Because you believe in second chances, even for houses.  Because the outcast persona of this house strikes a chord in you. Or, just because $2.5 million all-in (best guess) doesn’t strike you as that much for eight acres and a house with a great story in the fabled Greenspring Valley.

Would Suit: Jack Torrance in The Shining

NB: Basement is beyond scary, but the roof doesn’t leak and the heat works.  



What’s Your Make-Me-Move Price?


There’s a story going around, confirmed by real estate people in-the-know, that an executive with Pandora Jewelry, which makes charms and bracelets, rings and necklaces and other tchotkes, has paid twice the value for a house in Baltimore County’s Greenspring Valley. The house, lovely inside and out with pastoral views and lots of lush, green horse-y acreage, was owned and loved for decades by an old Baltimore family who had no intention of moving but faced an offer it could not refuse. 

So the story begs the question: How much would it take to make you move? We all grow emotionally attached to our houses, of course, but everyone has a “make me move” price. Real estate website Zillow, which lists and values properties, encourages home owners to list their “Make Me Move” price, calling it a “free and easy way to let others know what you’d sell your home for.”

In this economy, not many of us will be lucky enough to get that magic number. Even in a good economy, most of us wouldn’t be lucky enough to get that magic number, so it’s no wonder that when it does happen, it has neighbors’ tongues wagging.

Pandora Jewelry is a multi-million-dollar company headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark. It employs over 5,000 people worldwide. Before its initial public offering last October, the BBJ reported the company hired Baltimore marketing company GVK to develop branding and communication strategies. Maybe the IPO windfall afforded the executive a giddy I-can-buy-whatever-I-want moment?

Tell us your Make-Me-Move price in the comments — maybe you’ll find a buyer. (We fully expect a commission, of course.)

Baltimore County Estate With A Grand Past Languishes in Foreclosure


I am often approached by friends with ideas for “Houstory” subjects. While I appreciate the enthusiasm (truly, I do), there have been some suggestions that have been off. For example, a friend told me about a house in her neighborhood where a murder had taken place in the ‘50s. Today, the same house is subject to late night police intervention to settle frequent domestic disputes. The angle for the story, she breezily explained, would be a prediction that history would repeat itself in this same, apparently cursed, home. Um, thanks anyway.

So you can understand my hesitation when, in the spring, my most eccentric friend suggested a story on a house he had discovered on one of his “drunk dog-walks.” (Don’t ask. I certainly didn’t.) “It’s old, romantic and oozing history,” he said, “one of the most beautiful houses I have ever seen…we can go look at it now.” My friend knows extraordinary homes (some might tie his eccentricities to a life of dysfunctional privilege), so my curiosity was piqued. When he revealed the house had been put up for auction and no one had bid, I knew I had to see it. I had an hour to kill before carpool, he seemed relatively sober; off we went.

We drove slowly up the very discreet and lovely Stewart Road in Stevenson, noting all the pretty houses as we passed, and there are plenty. (Some of them are still inhabited by the descendants of the early owners of the house we were headed to spy.) At the end of the road we came to a newish-looking security gate, half covered in overgrown grass with a brass plate that read “Cliffeholme.” The locked gate forced us to officially trespass, hopping over it and continuing on foot–nervously. We agreed, if caught, we’d say, “We’re interested in the house.” Only when I got a full view of the place did I (in Gap yoga pants and a dirty T) realize just how lame that excuse would seem.

Cliffeholme is simply breathtaking. It is a tudor-style masterpiece on 9-acres that, to my eye, makes the country aesthetic of the typical Baltimore County mansion seem crude and even a little Podunk. Maybe it was because I was in the throes of an affair with the BBC series Downtown Abbey, or maybe because The Secret Garden was the first book I really fell for, or because I had just seen the beautiful new film adaptation of Jane Eyre, but I was mesmerized. I could see past the sad signs of decline (the home has been uninhabited for three years) and pictured Cliffeholme in its heyday: little girls with huge bows in their curls playing on the lawn, a father returning from the hunt dressed in natty riding gear, ample-bosomed servants scurrying to fix supper as an aristocratic matriarch looks on. Turns out, I was right on the money.


The house that eventually became Cliffeholme was built in 1848 by James Howard, son of Revolutionary War hero John Eager Howard. As president of the Baltimore and Susquehanna railroad, Mr. Howard was responsible for building the “Green Spring Branch” of the local train route–he built his house adjacent to the newly erected “Eccleston Station.” Sadly, he sold the house a mere six years later, when his wife, Catherine, died. One can assume that the house held too many memories. Adding to the romantic tragedy is a deed dated nine months after her death that listed the widower as “James Howard, Lunatic.”

Better days lay ahead for Cliffeholme when it was purchased in 1872 by Charles Morton Stewart from Robert North Elder. Stewart bought Cliffeholme as a summer house. At the time, it was “a square, deeply walled old house, rather plain in appearance inside and out,” according to Dawn F. Thomas who wrote The Greenspring Valley: Its History and Heritage. Mr. Stewart was a shipping magnate who made his fortune bringing Brazilian coffee to the United States. With oodles of money, 18 kids and loads of fancy friends, the Stewarts were ready to splash out on their new summer pad. Two large parlors were constructed along with a study, picture gallery, library and “dancing room,” while the basement was outfitted to house the kitchen, laundry, servants’ quarters and a “lock-up” storeroom. Now party-ready, Cliffeholme served as a backdrop for all types of elite social fun. The Stewarts held a variety of fox hunting events and timber races on the grounds as well as a literary and artistic salon which counted Charles Dickens among its guests. Eleanor Stewart Heiser, a daughter of Charles Morton Stewart, recalled the family’s grand travel style in her book, Days Gone By.

“Two wagons transported steamer trunks to the estate, while the older children and servants traveled by steam train to Eccleston. Finally, Mrs. Stewart and her coachmen, dressed in the Stewart livery, green broadcloth piped in red with a gold lace band around the black silk hat, headed out with the little ones in the family carriage.”

Today they would definitely be in the private plane set.

“There were 13 master bedrooms. A large veranda encircled the house, which Mother had measured to know how many times ‘up and down’ made a mile, and on rainy days many constitutionals were taken there.” The Stewarts occupied Cliffeholme for nearly 60 idyllic years. Halcyon days, indeed.

The next chapter in Cliffeholme’s story belongs to Charles Alexander, founder of Alexander & Alexander, the Baltimore insurance brokerage. He purchased the home at the height of the Jazz Age (another delicious image) and initiated a renovation that is responsible for many of the home’s distinguishing characteristics. He covered its facade in cream-colored stucco and changed windows to casements with mullions and leaded glass. He added a great window set over the entrance, enfusing a Masterpiece Theater flare. Other architectural highlights include the marble fireplaces and mantels (13 in all), finely detailed crown and dental moldings and mahogany paneling. He also renovated the bathrooms with I920s fixtures like elegant porcelain pedestal sinks and tubs large enough to hold visiting President William Howard Taft, who was a hefty 300-plus pounds. Charles Alexander died in 1958 and an auction of his books, paintings and antiques was held a Cliffeholme. (Can you imagine the treasures?)

A year later, Cliffeholme was sold to Reuben and Beatrice Fedderman. The Feddermans owned an East Baltimore furniture store and spent their time raising two kids and tending to their business. The days of the large glamourous parties and illustrious guests were over. Decades later, when the house became too expensive to heat, Mr. and Mrs. Fedderman took up residence in the basement, leaving the upper floors to the vagaries of benign neglect.

When the couple finally decided to sell the house in 1998, it was in need of major renovation and languished on the market for years. Laureate Education Chairman and C.E.O. and Sylvan Learning founder Doug Becker bought it with plans to renovate it with his new bride. The newlyweds ultimately abandoned the plan and soon the house was on the market again.

Unfortunately, Becker had done little to the place (he never moved in), so it faced the same obstacles that kept it on the market before: tons of expensive renovations, unlivable quarters due to disrepair, and a massive house too big for family life in the new century.

One of the many obstacles to purchase were the contingencies. Every potential buyer ordered a house inspection and the results–termites, an oil tank buried beneath the yard, major roof repair, replacement of all systems–soured the deal.

In 2002, just when Becker had verbally closed the deal with a local family, Larry Cohoon, a Texas businessman who found the property for sale in the Wall Street Journal, swooped in with a $1.1 million cash offer, no contingencies.


An out-of-towner in one of Baltimore’s most storied houses? The new owner made neighbors uneasy. But at least he had the money to fix up the place–or ruin it depending on your taste.

The discovery of a website devoted to the house, with shots of the “parking lot,” increased suspicion about the Texan’s motives. Was he planning to use it for some other purpose? Weddings? Bar Mitzvahs? These possibilities never came to pass thanks to a move by neighbors to put the property in the Maryland Historical Trust.

One year and $2 million later, the house was transformed, and in 2004, Melinda and Steve Geppi, head of Diamond Comics and Baltimore Magazine publisher, bought the mansion for $4.8 million. 

Geppi’s financial woes are well known so we won’t go into details here, but after he placed the property on the market in 2009 for $7.7 million, the house went into foreclosure and eventually to auction in 2010. Bidding opened at $3.7 million, but no one bought it.

Bank of America owns Cliffeholme now. It still maintains its old world luster but with the added vulgarity of modern times: custom audio and lighting, a wine room, a home theater, a gourmet kitchen with granite up one side and down the other, and, of course, a gym.

Where are Cliffeholme’s next house-passionate, extravagant party-throwing owners, and mightn’t they like to open the gate and have me over for a casual design consultation? Wait, first let me change from yoga clothes to cocktail.