Al Sanders' 'dream house' holds memories for family Late WJZ anchor left imprint on home, now up for sale

October 27, 1995|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

Once every week or so, Christopher Gay drives to the end of Ridermark Row in the Hobbit's Glen neighborhood of Columbia to look at the dream house that his late father, popular TV announcer Al Sanders, designed and built but never lived in.

"That house is a big symbol of my father, just one of the little things that went with my father," Mr. Gay, 19, says. "That house is very significant to my family."

Mr. Sanders used to say that the 7,000-square-foot house overlooking the Hobbit's Glen golf course was his wife Ruth's dream house, Mr. Gay recalls, "but he really loved it. He took pictures every week. He planned it well."

Before construction on the $750,000 house could begin, the builder went bankrupt, Mr. Gay says. The project was delayed until another builder could take over.

"We were supposed to have moved in by Christmas [1994]. But that turned into May and June," says Mr. Gay. "Just as the house was coming to completion, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer."

On the advice of his lawyers, Mr. Sanders last March decided not to go through with the deal 10 days before it was to be concluded, even though that meant forfeiting a substantial down payment -- and, more important, an end to his dream -- his son says.

The broadcaster, who anchored the evening news at WJZ-TV for 18 years, died May 5.

The house, which was finished about a month before Mr. Sanders died, is tailored to his family's tastes.

"He could have been so demand-ing, but he was so gentle, so trusting -- one of the sweetest people who ever lived," says real estate agent Marilyn Biegel as she shows off the details that Mr. Sanders sought for his house.

Ms. Biegel's firm, American Properties, has had the house on the market for the builder, Nantucket Homes, for more than four months.

The company initially was asking $769,000 but recently reduced the price by $20,000 "to appeal to a greater number of buyers," Ms. Biegel says.

In Howard, the high end of the real-estate market has been slow, but she has received "three or four offers" on the house, Ms. Biegel says.

A house designed with so many personal touches -- however well done -- is challenging to sell because it presents a buyer with "so many choices that it can be overwhelming," Ms. Biegel says. Does the buyer keep all the personal touches, a few of them or start from scratch?

There's no question that Mr. Sanders' imprint is all over the house.

Its huge basement, designed for parties, has a theater in which to show films and watch an extra-wide-screen television. It also has a large club room in which a contoured ceiling was to have followed the lines of a mahogany bar.

And there's a sound-proof music room that has double-thick walls with built-in speakers. It was there that the jazz-loving Mr. Sanders planned to listen to his favorite recordings totally without echo.

Mr. Sanders' passion for music was such that every room in the house is wired to be part of a house-wide music system, with controls in each room.

From the street, the house seems more modest than it is inside.

An oversized front door -- 3 feet 6 inches wide -- opens onto a vast foyer with blond hardwood floors that match an extra-wide hardwood staircase.

Beyond a living room, a dining room and a library, the house opens into a combination family room, kitchen and breakfast area -- overlooking the 10th hole of the Hobbit's Glen Golf Course and dominated by a fireplace with a two-story-high mantle.

Upstairs, the master bedroom has a small balcony and his-and-her walk-in closets. The master bath has a steam-shower and a whirlpool bathtub. A large etched-glass window repeats a tulip pattern found in walls of the shower.

Down the corridor from the master bedroom are bedrooms that were to be for Mr. Sanders' 18-year-old daughter, Tisha, and his sons, Brandon, 24, and Christopher.

And just past a small sitting room, there's a large dormitory room above the three-car garage -- a place where Mr. Sanders planned to set up his model trains.

"It was beautiful," son Christopher says of the dream his father and mother had for the house. "Every time I see the house, I think of the look on my father's face when he let it go. It is still a painful situation for the whole family."

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