I always promised that I would never stop blogging about the trials and tribulations of renovating this house. Many of the other rowhouse blogs in the Baltimore area experienced similar droughts that I had hoped to avoid. As I sit and write this I do feel quite hypocritical, but the reality of the situation is that life gets busy…and you run out of viable projects.
I’m not going to lie, I could have posted about the wonderful new 10′ wide roll up garage door I put in this spring, but I held back for fear of well, a dreaded Stop Work Order from the City (been seeing more and more of them around here) I did most of the work behind the original carriage style door before tearing it down one weekend to reveal the new door. There is a considerable amount of activity construction and renovation wise going on in Locust Point, strong signs I’m sure of the continued improvement of one of brightest city neighborhoods.
The Star Spangled Sail-a-Bration caused Beth and I to give consideration to making the plunge on the roof deck. As evidenced by my last post from this past July, we got bids and seriously kicked the idea around. By November our wedding was upon us and there was barely time to clean the house, let alone work on it. When it came down to it, we made the decision to pass on the investment required to build the deck. The $15,000 deck wasn’t going to make it any easier for our english bulldog Huey to be able to go to the bathroom (by himself) in a yard… and it wasn’t going to buy us any more living space that a family needs to grow…
We thought long and hard about where we wanted to be in the next 5-10 years and decided that this rowhouse just wasn’t going to cut it. The market is in a weird place post crash. It seems to me that investors and flippers seem to be getting back into the game again. It also seems like the majority of the inventory of single family homes are vastly overvalued by their owners. Many of whom probably have been dying to list or re-list their home after several years of fallen values. Seeing a light at the end of the tunnel by way of rising prices, their early 90′s mcmansion, often times untouched since its original construction, is back on the market for 3/4′s of a million dollars.
Beth and I knew we weren’t interested in something newer, let alone something overpriced and unhistoric that needed basically a complete gut. Everything post 1950 seemed to lack that historical charm and significance that we were looking for. One thing the LocustPointRowhouse did for me was help me to fall in love with historic homes. The more we searched for something intriguing, the more I convinced myself I was ready for another project.
We looked briefly in Homeland, Guilford, and Mt. Washington, only to confirm our opinion that the property taxes simply weren’t worth it for an 1/8th of an acre and city issues.
One evening I stumbled upon an early 1900′s Colonial Revival in Sparks sitting on several acres. It was in disrepair and badly needed rescuing. To me it was drastically overpriced for the condition it was in, but it was massive. At almost 6,000 s.f. with 9 bedrooms and 5 bathrooms, it had the potential to be the project of a lifetime. Knowing that the house had been on the market for over a year and being hopeful the price was negotiable, I inquired with the listing agent. He sent me an inspection report from a previous offer that had fallen through. A buddy of mine at work and I went through the inspection packet and I totalled up a conservative $500k in repairs that needed to be made to make the place viable again. EVERY bathroom was bad. All of the wiring was bad…some still knob and tube with multiple shorts throughout the house. All of the windows were ORIGINAL. The slate roof was bad. All 4 chimneys were in need of some level of repair, ranging from needing a liner to a complete rebuild. Not to mention the fact that the original stone foundation leaked badly, the property needed to be regraded, and there were asbestos and lead issues. Whoa.
I got to thinking OK, maybe I had found the extreme end of the spectrum of future projects, but it was a reality check. I remembered how much extra was spent to get the LocustPointRowhouse liveable. It was a struggle and an exercise in understanding the statement “everything ends up costing twice what you thought it would.”
Undeterred, we decided the only way we were going to get the house we wanted was if we built new. I had discovered a company in Vermont who specialized in period specific replicas of historic homes. They were a modular home company, which was a route I did not want to go, however the idea of a “New-Old” home was great. We could have a home that looked historic but without all of the troubles associated with a truly historic home. A search ensued for a piece of property to design and build our dream house on.
That’ll pretty much bring us up to where we are now. At the end of this past February we purchased 2 acres of land in northern Baltimore County and are currently planning our dream house with the help of an amazing architect based in Towson. The house will be in the Greek Revival style (circa 1820-1860). It is our hope that there really won’t be anything like it around here as the style was most popular in New England and in the South.
Its been an exciting ride, but I believe the projects here (and this Blog) are reaching their end. We may still remove the formstone, but I think the majority of things are done here. I hope that along the way I have helped or inspired others working through a renovation in Baltimore City. I certainly could not be more thankful for the skills I developed while working on this house and the fun I had writing about it.
At this time I don’t know if I will blog about the construction of our new house, but if I do I will post a link to the website before I shut this blog down.
Cheers and good luck out there.