Getting lost in city's beauty is as simple as taking a stroll

October 11, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

FOR THE last handful of months I've been trying to locate streets I've never explored before, generally ones in my own backyard. You might think for someone who walks a lot, there wouldn't be many places left in Baltimore within a 25-minute jaunt of St. Paul Street.

Not so. I've found corners of 21218 so hidden they barely make it on the ADC Map Book.

I guess it was after Isabel moved through town that I took off one morning to gape at the damage in the Guilford neighborhood (mighty trees here), not to be confused with Guilford Avenue, where I was born.

The damage was not as great as I expected, or maybe the superconscientious homeowners there cleaned up in a hurry. One downed copper beech along St. Paul Street is providing its owner a lot of firewood.

I must say, the folks who live in this neighborhood of marvelous housing "eye candy" run a tidy ship. I think every third house has a painters' wagon out front. I would not want to be the one who gave the prize to the best-maintained house. There are a lot of candidates for the honor roll.

The World War-I era mansions along Greenway and interlaced streets cast a certain spell on a fall evening. And, if you're inclined, visit Sherwood Gardens. It's planted in annuals now, so go before the first frost. Otherwise, wait for the tulips.

On a Guilford outing, you can't help wondering if this 12-roomer could have been the imperial residence of the first vice president of the Commonwealth Bank. Or did the comptroller of the Old Bay Line live over there, in the brick, slate and marble pile so big you might mistake it for the house on the Clue game board?

That said, and on several return trips, I began to find the tucked-away streets I'd missed before. There's an assortment of lanes and circles off Charlcote so complicated the maps I consulted are wrong, or at least a befuddlement to their cartographers.

What I discovered were enormous houses placed in a city setting, what the planners call a garden suburb built when people traveled by streetcar.

I couldn't help thinking about how silly the big new houses we build in Howard County or Sparks look, the ones called McMansions, dropped on small lots. These Guilford houses are large too, but the designers got the placement and configuration of the streets, lanes, paths and byways so precisely right.

Sometimes I have to remind myself I'm only four short blocks away from York Road and the rest of the city. It's amazing in this special world of weathered stone walls and alleys that don't look like alleys. Even the sidewalks have real character. And there's no charge for just walking through either.

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