Two sleuths call mystery their home

Dream home

Question: Catonsville residents search for answers to how structure was used when it was part of St. Timothys School for Girls.

February 20, 2000|By Martin Schneider | Martin Schneider,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Jim Weidman wasnt looking for a mystery when he moved into his Catonsville home in 1994. But six years later, Weidman and his wife, Kate Dolan, are still on the case.

We know our house was part of the St. Timothys School for Girls, Dolan said. But no historical records have revealed what the house was used for or even if it was definitely part of the school. We have guesses but nobody really knows.

But its not for lack of trying. Dolan, a member of the Catonsville Historical Society board, has spent years researching town records pertaining to the school. Weidman has labored over stacks of ancient newspapers at the public library in hopes of coming across a mention of the school or the house.

As near as the couple can figure from historical documents, the home was last used as a girls dormitory but also may have been a faculty house and infirmary.

From what we understand, the house was in use until the school moved out of Catonsville. The folks at the school felt Catonsville was getting too urban, Weidman said.

The best information about the house came from the previous owner who moved into the home when the school left Catonsville in the early 1950s.

The folks who lived here before us said many women who said they had lived in the home when it was a dormitory stopped by the home over the years, Dolan said. But we have no way of knowing for sure.

But Weidman and Dolan admit it has been fun learning about the history of their house and wouldnt live anywhere else.

It is sort of frustrating, but I guess thats part of the attraction of the house, Weidman said. We like researching it. We like the history and the mystery of it all. But we still wish we could know more definite facts about the house.

The couples neighbors were a little more fortunate. Although St. Timothys main building has long since been removed, the schools carriage house, barn and a faculty house are still intact and have been turned into private residences. School records mention all three buildings frequently.

All of us who live in the old school buildings have sort of a bond, Weidman said. Each of the remaining buildings has been turned into a beautiful private residence. You just feel like a part of the past.

Weidman said the unique look of the neighborhood was one of the first things that attracted the couple to the house, which they purchased for $150,000.

With the other St. Timothys buildings still around, it has a real campuslike feeling, he said. I was really attracted to the fact that we were buying into a neighborhood with some history.

And Weidman says the history of the house is definitely evident in its design and decoration.

Its very, very plain obviously because it was used as a dormitory. But there is beauty in that simplicity, Weidman said. Its a very utilitarian design. They wanted it to be a pleasant place but not ornate.

The three-bedroom home features high ceilings and hardwood floors as well as six coal-burning fireplaces.

But the most unique features of the home, Dolan says, are the rounded corners and ceilings of every room in the upstairs. We didnt notice it when we moved in, but the curved corners became apparent when we purchased a corner cabinet and just couldnt get it to fit right.

Built into the side of a hill, the homes main entrance opens into the upstairs family room with the three bedrooms and main hallway just a few steps away. The large windows on the upper level reach nearly from floor to ceiling and provide a view of the open meadow where the rest of the St. Timothys campus once stood.

The lower level features a small living room as well as the kitchen, dining room and office.

Dolan says its an asset to have most of the living space in what amounts to the basement. With the house built into the side of the hill, it helps keep the lower level cool in the summer and warm in the winter, Dolan said.

Since moving in, Dolan and Weidman have remodeled the upstairs bathroom, replaced portions of the plumbing system and rebuilt one of the chimneys so that at least one of the fireplaces could be used.

It really annoyed me to have six chimneys and not to be able to use any of them. So we remodeled the one in the dining room, she said.

The next step will be a new roof, but with a house as old as theirs, Weidman says there are always things that need to be done.

Old houses need work, we knew that going in, Weidman said. But its worth it to have a house with some meaning -- some history. We dont just have a house, we have a mystery and it keeps us interested.

Pub Date: 2/20/00

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