Rare peek at Butchers Hill

Tour: The annual showcase puts homes' decorating and rehab triumphs on display.

October 15, 2001|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

Richard and Kathy Hackett walked up the townhouse stairs guarded by toy action figures and past the room decorated with the blow-up Hello Kitty chair.

They had spent more than an hour touring townhomes in Butchers Hill yesterday, peering through doors usually closed to them, marveling at the spectacular views from the rooftop decks and at occupants' decorating styles.

But William White's self-described "house of fun" - with its burlap rugs, purple doors and pantry full of Japanese candy toys - was something else.

"Look at all this crazy weird stuff he collects," said Richard Hackett, 36, a touch of awe in his voice. "This is phenomenal."

The Hacketts and neighbors Hugh and Janet Lenzer were among more than 300 people who strolled through the East Baltimore community yesterday as a dozen Butchers Hill residents opened their doors to the public, showing off their design skills to residents and visitors.

Some, like the Hacketts and Lenzers, who live a few blocks south of the community, came in search of decorating tips for their homes. Others, like Chris Bositis of Mount Washington and Amy Cate of Hampden, were shopping for a new place to live. Still others, like neighbors Linda Sauter and Ellen Goodman of Roland Park, were using the tour as their museum of rehabbed homes.

"I think it's amazing that people let strangers traipse through their house and then put out cider and food for them," said Sauter, a 49-year-old vascular technologist.

Butchers Hill residents showcased their community for the 22nd time, holding a tour of rowhouses, many dating to the 1800s. Unlike the early days, when community leaders used the event to persuade people to try city living, the tour serves more as a house and garden-style pageant of rehab efforts and design triumphs, said Rick Gilmour, Butchers Hill Association marketing chairman.

"To me, the essence is, you can see behind the facade," he said.

Styles ranged from White's toy-filled domain on South Chester Street to the ultra-modern look of Charlene Jacobs' and Robin Power's rowhouse on South Washington Street and the urban eclectic style of Liz and Jim Elliott's East Pratt Street home.

In some of the homes, the Lenzers, who've lived on South Chester Street for a year, checked out paint schemes similar to the ones they envisioned for their walls.

In Jacobs' and Power's house, Janet Lenzer, a graphics designer and art director, admired the women's decision to have the wider-than-normal window sills - a feature her townhouse has as well - painted a different color to set them off from the walls. "I love to show this house. I love to talk about the possibilities," Power said, sitting in a bedroom decorated with a bed and bathtub.

Some real estate agents, anticipating a steady stream of visitors from the tour, used the day to hold open houses at for-sale properties, as did Marion Malcolm of O'Conor, Piper and Flynn in Roland Park.

"It's an awfully good opportunity for sales," said Malcolm, who was showing a home in the 2100 block of E. Lombard St. "Everyone here is interested in this neighborhood or they wouldn't be here, spending a Sunday afternoon."

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