Mikulski gives up rowhouse for condo Senator says goodbye to Fells Point, hello to Homewood

June 15, 1996|By Michael James and Frank Langfitt | Michael James and Frank Langfitt,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Lorraine Mirabella and John Rivera contributed to this story.

After nearly a lifetime in the East Baltimore working-class neighborhoods she has championed and epitomized, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski is moving to a stylish uptown condominium.

The 59-year-old senator, who was looking to move out of her two-story rowhouse in Fells Point even before she was mugged outside her home last year, has bought a two-bedroom unit at the luxury-priced St. James Condominiums in Homewood.

"I have purchased a condominium where one call to the manager all it takes to fix pipes that freeze in the winter or shovel an icy sidewalk," Mikulski said in a written statement. "I want a home that is maintenance-free. I have been thinking of selling my home because a rigorous Senate schedule and my leadership duties are demanding more and more of my time."

The unit that Mikulski bought was priced at $260,000 in real estate sales listings. Residents at the complex said the senator seemed to be attracted to it for the modern conveniences.

"Combined with the blizzards and floods of last winter, I am looking to simplify my home maintenance needs," Mikulski said.

St. James, a 16-story building near the Johns Hopkins University with marbled entry foyers, walk-in closets and an outdoor pool, is a far cry from the blue-collar neighborhoods along Fells Point where Mikulski built her political strength. She moved into her South Ann Street house 20 years ago, when the neighborhood was home to many lumberyards and vinegar factories.

Although the neighborhood became more of a gentrified tourist attraction over the years, Mikulski has always maintained an image of being a feisty, 4-foot-11 fighter for the working class. She said yesterday she will continue to be.

"Fells Point continues to be a part of my heart," she said in her statement. "I am changing my address, not changing my roots."

Mikulski was unavailable for comment. But several of her neighbors in Fells Point, many of whom came to know her over the years, said upkeep of the house had become a problem for the senator in recent years.

"She's a great person. However, I understand why she's leaving," said Fells Point resident James Wier. "With the passing of her mother, staying there would have stirred up a lot of feelings for her."

Mikulski often took care of her 81-year-old mother, Christine Eleanor Mikulski, who lived in nearby Highlandtown. She died March 31. Stella Rys, who lives across from Mikulski's Ann Street home, said the death seemed to have been a factor in the senator's decision.

"Now that her mother's gone, she wants to move on. I think she realized that she couldn't take care of that house by herself," Rys said. "It's not like she's moving to the county. She won't be far away."

Added Rys: "You can't fault her for wanting to better herself. It's awful dirty around here, and no one comes and cleans the streets."

Mikulski was raised in Highlandtown and began her political career in the early 1970s as a civic activist, successfully fighting the construction of a major highway that would have leveled part of Fells Point.

Last October, she was mugged outside her house by a man described as more than a foot taller, who pushed her to the ground and stole her purse. Her attacker pleaded guilty and received a five-year sentence in Baltimore Circuit Court.

But Mikulski's press secretary, Claire Hassett, has said the mugging was not the reason she decided to move. She had been looking at a Canton condominium just hours before the assault, indicating she had indeed already made up her mind to move.

Real estate agents said the senator had looked at condominiums at HarborView and Scarlett Place near the harbor. The contract at St. James was signed May 9.

The 7-year-old, 77-unit complex typically lists prices in the $225,000 to $500,000 range.

Pub Date: 6/15/96

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