Urban colors coming alive in Charles Village Diversity in homes and the people

Neighborhood Profile

July 21, 1996|By Rosalia Scalia | Rosalia Scalia,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Charles Village is a neighborhood that accepts purple houses. It also accepts salmon-colored homes, bubble-gum pink, lavender and orange ones.

"We were the first ones on our block to have an orange house," said Elizabeth "Betty" Hill, a resident for 20 years. "At first, people give you the hairy eyeball, but then it starts looking cool."

Similarly, Steven Rivelis and his wife, Linda, who moved from Federal Hill into the community in 1989, painted their front door and backyard wall bubble-gum pink and created a New Orleans-style courtyard -- with an open roof and windowed-walls that can be closed off -- in their back yard.

"Some people have told us it looks like Good 'n' Plenty pink, but it matches the color of the 1950s-style diner counter top in our kitchen," said Mr. Rivelis, a native New Yorker whose first floor resembles a diner so much so that it is not unusual for people to "knock on the door and ask if they can eat here although they hadn't made reservations."

Committed to urban living, the Rivelis bought their stately three-story Victorian townhouse with the intention of creating an unusual space that combined the elements of the house's graceful historic appointments, such as its "beautiful cupid Newell posts," with their creative self-expression.

"Now every room in the house is decorated in a way that demonstrates some connection to either my wife, who was born in Texas, or me," he said. "It's nice to start a trend. After we painted our front door bubble gum-pink, our neighbor found the courage to paint his lavender."

Andrea Vanarsdale, president of the Charles Village Civic Association, lives in one of the community's purple houses. "I love purple," said Vanarsdale, another native New Yorker who found her house on New Year's Day in 1988 when she decided she had to change her life.

"This is the first house I saw and I fell in love with it," said Vanarsdale, who had lived in a nearby apartment before becoming a homeowner. "I thought I would never be able to afford to buy a house in this neighborhood as a single woman. But I was thrilled when I learned I could afford to buy. I loved the spaciousness of this house. I liked the elevated gardens and the porch in front," she said. "Plus, I met my husband through my next-door neighbors."

Ed Hargadon, a neighbor, founder of the community's children's sports program and a resident since 1980, said he doesn't mind living next door to a purple house. "I love the colorfulness of it," he said.

Hargadon first moved into the community as a college student, stayed through law school and eventually put down roots. "I was attracted to the neighborhood because of its diversity. People of all nationalities live here. It is a little United Nations. There is a great mix of people here. The community has an artsy and academic flavor."

Housing styles

The community's diversity also extends to its housing stock. Although Victorian in architecture, there are a handful of single-family dwellings, stately three-story townhouses, two-story townhouses, condominiums and full-service apartments.

Bounded by 25th Street on the south and University Parkway on the north, the community once known as Peabody Heights sprawls roughly from Maryland Avenue on the west to Abell Avenue and Barclay Street on the east. Construction of its first houses began 100 years ago this summer. The houses tend to be spacious with 12- to 15-foot ceilings, spiraling staircases, pocket doors, inlaid floors and stained-glass windows. Some have as many as six bedrooms and several fireplaces.

"You can get gigantic townhouses with Victorian details such as cathedral ceilings and hardwood floors for a great price," said John Grupenhoff, a Realtor with Long and Foster. "One house currently listed four fireplaces, and many of them have garages," he added.

All of the houses sit back, away from the streets. Most have front- yard gardens with wrought iron fences in addition to back yards. "The gardens and the greenery give the neighborhood a very pastoral feel," Vanarsdale said.

While many of the houses are townhouses, there are a handful of elegant, large, detached single-family dwellings. The alleys in the community are wide enough to bear names such as Hargrove and Lovegrove; some residents park their cars in them and others, depending on the personality of the individual blocks, gather in them for summertime alley parties.

According to Judy Morris, a Realtor with O'Conor, Piper and Flynn, currently there are 65 single-family houses for sale. The overall average price for a house in Charles Village is $73,459 and the average days on the market is 110, with the larger, four- or five-bedroom homes selling for $100,000 plus. Last year, 17 three-bedroom houses sold in an average of 80 days for an average of $82,585.

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