`Camp Cornell' kept growing


A summer place: What began as a mail-order cottage now is a year-round home of 3,000 square feet on the South River.

February 06, 2005|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On a winding road on the outskirts of downtown Annapolis, iron gates open onto a long drive lined with tall cypress trees, sweet gums, tupelos and catalpa. The trees eventually give way to a clearing where a small, two-story bungalow bears a plaque announcing "The Cottage at Camp Cornell."

A tennis court sits just south of the cottage as the drive winds toward the main house of off-white cedar and gray trim. Across a vast expanse of front lawn, a pier and boathouse pierce the partly frozen South River.

This impressive compound is not a summer camp for schoolchildren, but rather the dream home of Tom and Kathleen Cornell. In their 50s and with no children, they love to entertain a large circle of friends and their families. The compound, especially in summer, is rarely empty.

After purchasing the compound in 1993 as a summer residence, the couple soon gave up their Florida residence to make the compound their year-round home. The Cornells paid $500,000 for the 5-acre property, home and outbuildings, and spent $100,000 to renovate the main house and cottage and install a pool and hot tub.

"We were tired, in our 40s, smelled the roses and the fish, and are now back to business," said Kathleen Cornell, who uses her skills as a master gardener to landscape her property.

The business she referred to is an information systems consulting firm her husband runs out of the cottage's ground floor. The cottage's second level is an apartment for visitors.

The one-level Cornell house, a study in expansion, contains about 3,000 square feet. The main portion was a Sears mail-order cottage dating to the late 1920s. Facing south to the river, a screened porch opens to a large, cozy living room with white bead and board paneled walls capped with 6-inch molding in light taupe.

A brick fireplace, also painted white, dominates the east wall, its mantel laden with a collection of David Winter miniature cottages. Hand-painted tiles on the hearth depict a calm scene of the bay, boats and waterfowl.

"This is where we live in the winter," says Kathleen Cornell, noting that she chose the room's Mission-style furniture to complement the period and cottage feel.

A three-section oak armoire tucked into a corner serves as entertainment center and display shelving for Tom Cornell's collection of Royal Doulton character mugs. The broad faces on each mug include Henry VIII, W.C. Fields and each of the Beatles.

Two small bedrooms, part of the original cottage, serve as guest rooms. One is called the "kids' room" and is decorated in a whimsical, Bahamian style with plush sea animals hanging from the ceiling. A tiny oak crib in the room, belonging to Kathleen Cornell's father, houses a doll collection.

"This is my favorite room in the house," says 21-year-old Lindsay Posner, a family friend and frequent visitor. "There are a lot of my toys in it."

The second guest room is laughingly referred to as the "dead relatives' room." It is decorated with a cherry furniture suite, and the walls are covered with photographs and portraits of family members from the late 19th century to the 1940s.

The master bedroom includes a canopied brass bed, a favorite resting place for the couple's dog, Kaluha.

A later addition to the original cottage forms its own wing, with kitchen, bathroom and a dining room that has a new picture window overlooking the pool, gardens, boathouse and river.

The kitchen features cupboards of thin hickory planking and countertops of dark blue ceramic tile. Beyond sliding glass doors is a second screened porch that becomes the couple's main living area in the summer. They call it the "entertainment porch," and Kathleen Cornell calls it "the only area [of the house] my husband is allowed to decorate." Tom Cornell's collection of humorous metal signs graces this summer haven.

A 50-foot-by-11-foot addition serves as a combination bar and game room. The couple ordered pine paneling for the room that was milled to match that of the original house. Four bay windows provide light and storage in three generous window seats.

Six chrome stools with padded seats of alternating black and red leather hug a long wet bar. There's also a pool table, a pinball machine, a few slot machines and a 1946 Wurlitzer jukebox.

"We have a lot of people here visiting. Tom's brother sleeps in the window seat," says Kathleen Cornell, who appreciates having roots in Annapolis.

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