Breaking house's date with wrecking ball Family takes on job with success

Dream Home

November 12, 1995|By Daniel H. Barkin | Daniel H. Barkin,SUN STAFF

For more than a decade, the home on Upland Road sat vacant, falling into ruin. The floors had rotted. Squirrels and raccoons were the only tenants.

It was a blight on the upscale Roland Park neighborhood, a structure seemingly destined to a rendezvous with a wrecking ball.

But the house, which dates to the early 1900s, has been saved by a builder and by a family yearning for a spacious, old city home.

"It really is a grand-looking house," said Sharon Francioli, who, with her husband and daughter, moved to Roland Park from Hunt Valley in August.

The Franciolis wanted to live closer to their jobs in Baltimore and to their daughter's Roland Park Country School.

"I got tired of driving into the city," said Mrs. Francioli, a travel agent. Her husband, Dennis, operates a family automotive paint business.

They began looking at homes in Roland Park earlier this year but couldn't find what they wanted.

"The older houses that we looked at in the area, people wanted three hundred and some thousand dollars for it, and they had 1930s kitchens, the electrical [systems] were old oil heat," Mrs. Francioli said.

For nearly the same price, the Franciolis bought a work-in-progress that was customized to their liking. But it took some vision to realize that the house across from the Roland Park fire station was the one for them.

They saw a newspaper ad for the house, went to see it and were captivated by the tall pillars that graced the front.

"The house was just a wreck, but these pillars kind of stood out," Mrs. Francioli said. "I thought 'This could be a great house.' "

When they purchased it, the house was barely a shell. The home was being rescued by restoration contractor Jonathan Herman, the mayor of the Carroll County town of Sykesville, whose Herman Construction Inc. began renovations last winter.

"It was probably the most dangerous building I've ever seen in my life," Mr. Herman said. "The second floor had fallen through the first floor and into the basement."

The house has a parapet roof that was designed to shed water through hidden gutters. Unfortunately, the gutters clogged with leaves and debris, and the roof acted more like a cistern. The water damage to the rafters and floors was enormous, Mr. Herman said.

"As we were restoring it, everyone stopped by," Mrs. Francioli said. "They used to call it the crack house. They couldn't believe we were attempting to do this."

Anyone who had seen the house in its former state would now have trouble believing what it has become. The house boasts a contemporary kitchen with Corian counters and modern appliances, a comfortable finished basement suited for parties -- such as the one her daughter had on a recent Saturday night -- as well as a sun room and decks off the bedrooms.

Their contemporary furniture from Hunt Valley didn't fit the traditional, large Roland Park dining room, so they picked out furniture from a local antique dealer. They also installed crown molding.

The dining room doors have the original doorknobs. "All this stuff was painted silver," Mrs. Francioli said. "My husband said, 'You know, I bet this is brass underneath.' And sure enough, he scrubbed it, and these were all brass."

A large foyer leads visitors up a new staircase to a landing with a built-in set of bookcases. At the top of the stairs is an area large enough for Mrs. Francioli's desk.

The Franciolis converted one of the four upstairs bedrooms into an attractive sitting room. Next is a pond out back and a garage. The foyer will get paintings and furniture. Landscaping was scheduled to begin this weekend.

"It's kind of remarkable," Mr. Herman said. "That house was very close to being bulldozed."

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