18th-century ambience, with sauna $1.5 million house has 6 marble baths

DREAM HOME

November 14, 1993|By Maryalice Yakutchik | Maryalice Yakutchik,Contributing Writer

Yes, the house has six bedrooms, six full marble bathrooms and two half-baths. There is a wine storage room and sauna, along with geyser pools and trickling waterfalls. And, with a price tag of $1.5 million, you can expect plenty of house.

But what you might not expect from the house -- on Western Run Drive in northern Baltimore County -- is the aroma. Outside, the heady fragrance from masses of boxwoods and showy clusters of wisteria take you back to the 18th century, as do the 11 well-used hearths inside.

In a former life, the main part of this rebuilt and relocated structure was a home and makeshift hospital on the northern bank of the Potomac in Bladensburg. Dr. David Ross, a surgeon in George Washington's army, owned the house and is said to have treated British and American soldiers there in the War of 1812.

The house, now known as Preservation Hill, is actually a series of structures. All were pieced together in the early 1960s by the late Leonard C. Crewe Jr. under the guidance of architect Bryden B. Hyde.

When the original Ross House was threatened by demolition, builder Thomas J. Ashe Jr. carefully photographed, dismantled and stored everything from shutters and blown-glass windows to hardware and random-width pine flooring.

Mr. Crewe bought the materials and brought them home to a 9.5-acre hilltop. Using 22,000 of the original bricks and a mortar replete with oyster shells (thus the mansion's description as authentic Tidewater), Mr. Hyde began redesigning the Ross House which, Mr. Crewe stipulated, should be a comfortable home, not a museum.

In the course of the three-year project, Mr. Crewe became an avid student of restoration, according to Mr. Hyde. In fact, Mr. Crewe served as president of the Maryland Historical Society and helped start its antiques show.

"Whenever possible, they used original material," said Brandon F. Gaines, the listing agent with W.H.C. Wilson & Co. "When they couldn't, they appropriated from other 18th-century buildings. When they couldn't do that, they milled and sandblasted to give it the look of 200-plus years."

As a result of this attention to detail, the heart of the current house is a faithful reproduction of the original Ross House -- right down to the brick oven in the wall of the family room (originally the kitchen), and the "wig room" off the parlor, a tiny enclave where gentlemen can powder their hair in private.

The home -- with two new wings, one a self-sufficient apartment -- tries hard to hide its modern-day amenities: a satellite dish behind the boxwoods; a wine-storage area and a sauna tucked behind wooden doors on the lower level, convenient to an outdoor patio, geyser pools and trickling waterfalls; and appliances such as a dishwasher and subzero refrigerator covered by cabinet doors that match the heavy beams in the kitchen ceiling.

To entertain international business clients, Mr. Crewe built a guest house with two bedrooms -- each with a fireplace -- and 1 1/2 baths.

Mr. Crewe's widow, Betty M. Crewe, resides in the main house. The estate of Leonard C. Crewe Jr., represented by the First National Bank of Maryland and L. Carter Crewe III, is selling the property through W.H.C. Wilson & Co.

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