1840s house was a hard sell

DREAM HOME

Fixer-upper: Three buyers backed out of purchasing the house before newlyweds made it theirs.

February 08, 2004|By James Gallo | James Gallo,SUN STAFF

When Kerry Onorato learned that a Fallston house just around the corner from her childhood home was being sold, her first reaction was to jump at the opportunity to buy the 1840s home.

But then she realized how much work would be required to fix it up.

Onorato first found out the house was for sale in October 2001. But she and her husband, Joseph, didn't purchase it until April 2002, after three prospective buyers backed out of deals for the home.

"At first, I was overwhelmed because of the size of it and the amount of work that we would need to put into it," Kerry Onorato said. "But I couldn't get it out of my head. I was literally having dreams about that house."

Lived in Parkville

The Onoratos, who previously lived in Parkville, said that while they loved their former home, they always wanted an old house with a lot of character. So three weeks before their wedding, they sold the Parkville home and settled in Fallston.

While the house needed a lot of renovation and a fair amount of investment, the Onoratos considered it a bargain at $140,000.

"We wanted an old house but just couldn't pay $300,000 for it," Kerry Onorato said. "Plus, we really wanted to move back to Fallston."

The house is credited to Abram Augustus Spicer, a brick maker who used some of his wares to build the house, according to research the Onoratos have done on the property. The Onoratos have deeds for the house going back to 1847. They are continuing to research the home's past.

The house is built in a Federal style, with a large wooden veranda, six bedrooms, one full bathroom and two half bathrooms. An addition in the 1920s included two of the six bedrooms and a kitchen.

The Onoratos marvel over the home's history and what they call its charm.

"One night we were in bed and all of a sudden we were woken up by this loud singing in a thick Gaelic accent," Kerry Onorato said.

While they are not sure where the singing came from, the Onoratos said they aren't too concerned about the source, noting that every house has its quirks. And they enjoy telling the story to friends and family.

The Onoratos said that when they moved into the house, much of it was in disarray. They started by fixing the roof over the front porch and began stripping and painting rooms that previously were shades of lime green and cobalt blue.

Joseph Onorato has been doing many of the renovations himself. He has had help from his family and friends.

So far, the Onoratos have spent more than $15,000 fixing the veranda, painting the rooms and turning the garage into a shop for his carpeting business. They also are in the process of applying for historic tax credits.

Needed space

Joseph Onorato has renovated the master bedroom and is in the midst of painting and decorating the other bedrooms, living room, dining room and kitchen. They turned one of the bedrooms into a closet.

"The people who used to live here had around 12 children and then adopted more, so they needed all the bedroom space," Joseph Onorato said. "We don't."

"We're going to completely gut the kitchen and expose the original brick on the one wall," Kerry Onorato said. She said they also are planning to install new doors and fix up the rear porch.

"It will look good as soon as it's done, but it takes a lot of time," said Doug Burns, one of Joseph Onorato's employees who has helped with the renovations.

There were other obstacles for the Onoratos as they pursued their dream home. According to Kerry Onorato, it was very difficult to get homeowners insurance.

"When we first moved in, almost the entire house was covered in ivy, it needs a new roof and there was a lot of work to be done," Kerry Onorato said. "No one wanted to insure us."

After cleaning out the house and making some renovations to make the house safer, the Onoratos were able to secure insurance.

For the Onoratos, their dream home ties together everything they've wanted in a home. While it will take more renovations and cleaning, the couple is happy with the location and character of their historic home.

"This was just the kind of house I couldn't forget about," Kerry Onorato said. "I think it was just meant to be."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.