Bolton Hill rolled out the red carpet but wisely covered it with a waterproof plastic runner as it rained on Saturday's Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage through the streets, homes, alleys and gardens of this city neighborhood.
For weeks in advance, the community that sits just north of Mount Royal Station and the Fifth Regiment Armory had painted, cleaned and scrubbed in preparation for the 425 visitors who came for an in-depth look at one of Baltimore's most celebrated historic preservation districts.
"We finished this house at 10 minutes to 10," said Collin Clarke, one of the owners of Mr. Mole, a new bed-and-breakfast inn housed in the former Instructive Visiting Nurses Association building in the 1600 block of Bolton St. "We began renovation work in October."
"I think it's great the neighborhood opened the doors. We're one of the undiscovered places in Baltimore but nobody
knows we're here. . . . I can't say enough for the city sanitation workers. The men came and cleaned the streets and alleys within an inch of their life," Clarke said.
The visitors, who came from such locales as Chestertown on the Eastern Shore and Hagerstown in Western Maryland, walked along Lanvale, Rutter, John and Bolton streets and Lafayette and Park avenues, where 18 private homes and four churches were open for authorized snooping.
high noon Saturday, the bronze bells atop Corpus Christi Catholic Church, at Mount Royal and Lafayette avenues, were rung to signal the traditional Angelus prayer. A handful of visitors trooped inside the soaring Victorian Gothic church, whose interior was recently painted and its stained glass and mosaics cleaned.
Several Bolton Hill denizens helped make the pilgrimage a success. As she greeted visitors, Mary Paulding-Martin, a resident of the 1400 block of Park Ave. and chairwoman of the event, wore one of her trademark hats. This one was medium blue in the Princess Eugenie style.
"At the start, we had some nice lines, but we were hampered by the drizzle. . . . Can you imagine? People actually brought hardware store paint color charts to get ideas from our homes," ** Paulding-Martin said.
Bolton Hill looks especially attractive in the spring. A block of brick cottages on Lafayette Avenue had old-fashioned gardens filled with blooming bleeding hearts, tulips, dame's rockets, irises, forget-me-nots and primroses. A climbing wisteria broke out in lavender buds for the occasion. Ornamental cherry and crab apple trees were explosions of pink.
At each home on the tour, owners collected umbrellas and placed plastic runners over wool carpets. Owners and guests seemed to take the foul weather and chilly temperatures in stride.
At one point in the tour, a woman went up to the second floor of a Park Avenue home and spotted an antique four-poster bed. She inquired aloud whether its mattress was held by wood slats or ropes.
She couldn't get a satisfactory answer, so she got down on the floor and crawled under the bed. There, she discovered the owner's rifle. She immediately got out from under the bed and continued the tour elsewhere.