Homes tour includes designer's last renovation Mount Misery to add color to 61-year-old, 14-stop pilgrimage

May 01, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

Even before you walk in, the Victorian house known historically as Mount Misery distinguishes itself from every other home on Ellicott City's narrow, steep Hill Street.

Once painted traditional white, the exterior is now a cheerful red, topped with a forest green roof. Inside, the rooms are richly decorated with everything from restored chandeliers to a marble fireplace to dainty blue-and-white toile de jouy, a French wallpaper.

"It's really a special house," said interior designer Michele Drury, who bought the 19th-century house in 1992 with her late husband, Leslie. "It's just a place where you come in and feel cheered up and happy."

Tomorrow, Drury's home joins a distinguished list of sites included in Howard County's portion of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage. The 61-year-old tour -- which has visited Baltimore, as well as Charles, Dorchester and Talbot counties this year -- will allow the public to view 14 sites in Howard County, many of them private homes.

Among them are Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, Oella Mill, a private home on the former estate once occupied by Martha Washington's great-granddaughter, a bed and breakfast dating to the 18th century and a restored church that houses Oella Co. headquarters.

Some of the sites have never been open to the public or have been closed for years.

"It's kind of like the best representation of what Howard County has to offer," said Sally Bright, a board member of the Friends of the Patapsco Institute, which is sponsoring the tour. "The reason people put their house on tour is because of the prestige of the tour. This is a quality tour."

Started in 1937

Begun in 1937, the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage was interrupted only when World War II forced it to skip a few years.

The pilgrimage goes to six to eight locations annually and last visited Howard County in 1991. It is the fourth visit to the county since 1975, Bright said.

To be included on the tour, homes and other places must have some outstanding feature -- architecture, history, furnishings, artwork or location, said Margaret Powell, executive director of the event.

'Something for everybody'

"We try to provide something for everybody," Powell said. "We try to have something of particular interest in each place."

Built in 1840, Mount Misery certainly fits the bill. In the polite, esoteric wording of the tour guide, the home is considered a "Maryland L" Victorian, its name representative of Ellicott City's Quaker influence.

But the home also represents a poignant period in Drury's life. She and Leslie Drury moved from Washington to the Ellicott City house after he was diagnosed with skin cancer. Renovating this three-bedroom dream house was the way he wanted to live the last 18 months of his life. He died there in 1993.

Eye-catching colors

During the renovation, the couple used eye-catching colors: French blue paint in a bedroom, warm red wallpaper in a sitting room and deep greens in a bathroom outfitted with a slipper bathtub.

Pay close attention, and a relationship between the colors emerges. For example, a yellow wall hanging incorporates the green from the bathroom. The blue of the wallpaper in one bedroom picks up the paint tone in another.

"What I wanted to do was make it a really happy, up environment," Drury said. "That's why I wanted to do the bright shades."

The "funky little farmhouse" that captured the couple's interest years ago is filled with family mementos such as wooden toys made by Drury's father and handmade dolls from her mother.

Outside, there are four patios and boulders forming a staircase leading to an arbor. Leslie Drury, also an interior designer, dug a pond, planted bushes, removed fallen trees and built stone walls while he underwent chemotherapy.

'Not a designer showcase'

"It has a warmth of a home," his widow said. "It's not a designer showcase. It's all personal, intimate surroundings."

The pilgrimage will give Drury one final opportunity to show off the place she has called home for six years. She is selling the house and is moving in July.

"It's my last hurrah," she said.

Places included on the pilgrimage:

Mt. Ida: Built in 1828, this home blends the Greek Revival and Italianate-style periods. It is the last home built by the Ellicotts in the historic district and is now the information center for the Patapsco Female Institute.

Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park: This former girls' school was built in 1837 and has been used as a resort hotel, a theater and a private home. PFI is Howard County's only historic park.

The home of Richard and Kathleen Taylor: Built in 1888, this Victorian farmhouse sits atop a hill in Ellicott City. The landscape includes mature boxwoods rumored to have come from cuttings of George Washington's Mount Vernon boxwoods.

Mount Misery: Built in 1840, this Victorian home includes an upstairs bathroom built on stilts and an outdoor shower.

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