Light beckons to a chance traveler Larchmont 'beacon' marks a new life


November 07, 1993|By Adriane B. Miller | Adriane B. Miller,Contributing Writer

Carolyn Bowman Brown remembers the first time she saw the little stone front and lighted picture window.

She had been driving around the city one night in early 1992, trying to erase the picture of her mother lying ill in a hospital, the memory of her 25-year marriage that had just soured, and the knowledge that the house she would go home to that night was dark and empty.

"I've lived in Baltimore all my life and I'd never gone down this little street," Ms. Brown says of Cedar Drive, which strays unnoticeably from Gwynn Oak Avenue in Woodlawn and ends quietly about a half-mile later.

"The minute I saw it, I knew. This was my house," she said.

When she walked through the first time and saw the wood floors, the wide, curving stairway, the cozy rooms and arched entries, Ms. Brown was hooked.

The house was built during the 1950s, she estimates, and sits among a tiny collection of homes known as Larchmont. Perched on a hill, Ms. Brown's home is surrounded by old trees: a tulip poplar in the back, a park of trees across Cedar Avenue in front, and a forest bordering the whole area.

Her two-level house features a sloping blue slate roof, stone foundation and weathered gray wood siding. Black shutters flank the large window in front, where an antique lamp is visible from the street.

At night, she says, the light shines "like a beacon on the hill."

"I've always liked old things but they had never fit in with my lifestyle," says Ms. Brown, who works as a manager at the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn. "I was this modern woman, a modern mother with the tract house, church, Sunday school and kids. But that was another life.

"After I found myself divorced, a few days shy of my 25th wedding anniversary, I realized: I can do some of the things I've always wanted to do. There's nothing stopping me now."

Her two daughters were grown and attending college, living near campus. She had given her attention-hungry dog to a friend who was thrilled to adopt it. And the house she had lived in with her ex-husband was up for sale.

Her new house, which cost $102,000, has features she has always wanted -- "wonderful lines in all the rooms, wonderful views. And it seemed to have a friendly, sheltering feel about it, a personality."

Ms. Brown moved in during the summer of 1992.

The lower level of the home features a wide foyer, living and formal dining rooms with arched entries and a small kitchen that glows with late afternoon sun filtered by the tulip tree in back. An old garage adjacent to the kitchen was converted into a den by former owners.

The solid hardwood doors all have original hardware: polished brass knobs and skeleton keyhole plates.

A screened-in porch offers a view of the park in front of the house, the carefully landscaped yard of her neighbor and the forest in back of the house.

A wide stairway leads to the second floor. There are three bedrooms, lots of deep closets and one small bath. Ms. Brown says a house with just one bath doesn't bother her.

"I've had parties here, and it just hasn't been a problem," she shrugs. "I grew up in a house with one bathroom. You just wait your turn."

Outside, nestled between the tall privacy fence and the autumn remains of her vegetable and herb garden, is what Ms. Brown calls the Tea Garden. She frequently entertains here or comes alone to read or listen to birds.

But her favorite part of the house is her bedroom. It features alcoves where she can read, write, or listen to music. Its sloping ceiling curves down to meet the walls, and the room has practically no right angles.

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