Purple House: It's been praised and panned, but never ignored Owner of novel paint job in Anne Arundel town declines to explain it

April 14, 1997|By Consella A. Lee | Consella A. Lee,SUN STAFF

All the Foslers know about the house across the street is it wasn't purple when they fell asleep one night three years ago. But it was when they woke up. How it happened is still a mystery.

Like a hyacinth, The Purple House seemed to spring up overnight out of nowhere. A showy blossom, the 1 1/2 -story bungalow with white awnings stands out in the 300 block of Orchard Road in Ferndale among the traditionally colored sky-blue, gray and white houses.

"It was just an ordinary color when we went to bed, and then to wake up and see this purple house," Edith Fosler, 82, exclaimed, as her husband, Frederick, 80, watched the evening news on the living room television set. "We never saw it until it was completely painted."

"Maybe they spray painted it," she mused. "I couldn't believe anybody would paint their house purple."

Other neighbors expressed surprise, too. Some hate it, find it garish and wish it would go away. Others say it doesn't bother them. But all speak about The Purple House as if it were written with capital letters. And all agree the vivid house makes a great landmark for lost pizza and pharmacy delivery workers searching for their street, which is divided by light rail tracks.

Mary D. Perrey flat out doesn't give a whit what other people think about her house. She snapped as much to a reporter who asked to interview her about her choice of color and about the source of its inspiration. Perhaps Charles Village, the Baltimore neighborhood noted for its houses of bubble-gum pink, lavender, orange and salmon? Perrey refused to talk.

That's Perrey, 82, neighbors said, blunt and gutsy. You have to have guts to paint your house purple.

"At first, I was a little shocked, with her being an elderly lady," Valerie Albright, 27, said. "But after you've looked at it for a while, it grows on you. It's not something I'd want to do. But everybody notices The Purple House. It's a focal point. It's not something you can drive by and miss it being there."

Albright said she has never considered living in a house "darker than mint green."

"She's got a lot of spunk not to care about what anybody thinks," Albright said. "But she's a very sweet woman. She always has been."

Dorothy O'Neill, 82, knows Perrey as "the cookie lady," who brought her bags of oatmeal, peanut and sugar cookies. Perrey has also brought her tomatoes.

Clad in a long blue robe and slippers, O'Neill relaxed in a reclining chair as images flickered on her television. Her walking cane was propped nearby against a wall. Her prescription bag sat on the floor.

The brightly colored house helped the drugstore delivery person find her home.

"I said, 'Follow the railroad tracks down, and I'm two houses down from The Purple House,' " said O'Neill, who thinks the house is actually a kind of bluish-purple. "They took it in stride. But they laughed at me."

The Purple House isn't as purple as it once was, said Edith Fosler, who should know after looking at it daily for three years.

"It has faded now some," she said. "When the sun would shine or you looked out there at a certain time of the day, it just lit up the neighborhood."

Barbara Samuel, 36, is not fond of The Purple House. But she uses it as a landmark anyway.

"I tell people, 'The ugly purple house,' " Samuel said.

Carlis DeWese, 48, thinks "it's a pretty color. It's not a sloppy paint job. It doesn't bother me one way or the other."

Perrey can be short and bark at people sometimes, neighbors said. But don't be fooled. A gentle spirit belies that rugged exterior.

DeWese vouches for that.

When his son Mark was about 13, he spied The Purple House lady mowing her lawn and went to volunteer for the job.

" 'What! You think I'm too old to cut my own grass?' " DeWese said Perrey told his son.

DeWese said that when his son returned home, he told him, " 'Dad, I think she's mad at me.' "

They came to realize that was just Perrey's way.

"The next day," DeWese said, "she saw him, and she gave him an apple."

Pub Date: 4/14/97

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