Singer opts for a house on the hill


Home again: Ray Davidson retired from a life on the road to a house in Morrell Park, where he lived as a boy.

December 28, 2003|By Rebecca Boreczky | Rebecca Boreczky,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Ray Davidson left his life on the road and a country-singing career to retire in Baltimore last year, the city he always called home.

After about a month of searching, Davidson found a two-story Craftsman home in Morrell Park.

His 79-year-old home sits on top of a hill overlooking Baltimore. Morrell Park is a neighborhood that was developed by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad during the 1920s to provide homes for workers. The neighborhood is a blend of rowhouses and single-family homes, many on dead-end streets.

Davidson's family lived in Morrell Park on the southwest side of Baltimore. Eighteen years ago, Davidson left his home to become a country music singer. That career took him to Texas and Tennessee, where he performed in bars and clubs.

In January 2002, he wanted to retire back to his roots. Davidson, 45, purchased the Morrell Park home within a month of moving back to Baltimore. He paid $72,500 for the home and has spent another $24,000 and two years of renovations improving it.

The 3,625-square-foot house is decorated with a mix of 18th- and 19th-century antiques and 1930s reupholstered furniture. The 1948 Youngstown metal kitchen is the setting every Sunday for 12 of Davidson's friends and family. It is there they gather to talk. They retire to the dining room for dinner.

"I have a dozen or so of my extended family over and we all sit around the table together," Davidson said. "This home is great for entertaining. Last Christmas, I had 75 people over and there was plenty of room."

The 10-by-26-foot sunroom attached to the back of the house is used for large family get-togethers.

"My family is widely scattered around the country," Davidson said. "I wanted them to have a place to come home and be close to where they grew up."

The two-story cream and chocolate wood siding and wood shingle home is highlighted with stained-glass windows and a large wood front door. The stained glass was manufactured by the Maryland Glass Co. during the 1920s. There is an enclosed porch on the front of the house and an attached one-car garage in the rear.

The home was built for the original owner as a wedding gift. She died in 2000 at the age of 95.

Every room has a unique feature, which gives the home a distinctive look.

From the monkey-tail hand-carved banister in the entryway to the hardwood floors throughout, the home offers plenty of character. Each downstairs room has a different style of chandelier - a 1924 crystal chandelier brightens overhead when visitors walk in the front door.

The living room has bold navy blue walls, and gold and silver trim highlight a Perma stone fireplace. Clamped to the wall, the fireplace weighs 1,200 pounds and was built in Baltimore during the 1940s and '50s.

The living room opens through an 8-foot-high arch to the dining room. The 14-by- 19- foot dining area has red Schu- macher wallpaper, a designer paper from the 1920s. The room showcases a family heirloom - a 1740 breakfront china cabinet that sits against the wall.

A downstairs library with walls covered with bookcases is used as a family room. Behind the library are the kitchen and bath. Both rooms were added in 1948 when the home was repaired after a second-floor fire.

The kitchen and bath are decorated in pink and black - popular colors of those times. The bath has the original pink plastic wall covering and the kitchen floor sports a black-and-white diamond pattern.

Davidson has worked hard to preserve this area of the house to showcase that era. The stove is from 1961; Davidson has kept that intact as well.

"I won't get a dishwasher because I want to keep it all original," he said.

The second-floor master bedroom is 13 by 13 feet and houses furniture purchased at the former Union Brothers on Hanover Street in South Baltimore. Davidson owned the set when he lived in Baltimore the first time.

There are two more bedrooms and a second-floor laundry upstairs. The second-floor full bath has a toilet tank with a manufacturer's date of 1938.

"The house has been more of undoing than redoing," Davidson said. "My father and grandfather were carpenters, so I am just following in their footsteps working on this house."

Davidson stripped three layers of siding from the outside of the house, replaced crown molding inside and painted.

During Davidson's research of the house, he discovered from original neighbors that the former owners were avid card players who belonged to two 12-couple card clubs. In 1960, the owners had the living and dining rooms expanded to accommodate the clubs when they visited the home for games.

The original B&O Railroad switching yard can be viewed from the back yard of Davidson's house. In that yard is a vegetable garden that has been replanted annually for 50 years.

Friends said they enjoy visiting.

"I helped Ray move in and came back for dinner two weeks later," friend and photographer Kim Bradshaw said. "I couldn't believe he had turned this house into a home, and what a great home it is."

Davidson said he loves his neighborhood.

"You can never really leave a great old neighborhood," he said. "It's not uncommon to find fourth generations of families living here. Neighbors look out for each other, children play ball and families go to church. It's a perfect place to live."

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