1864 Gwynn House is going on auction block

CRITIC'S CORNER

Architecture

December 05, 2005|By EDWARD GUNTS | EDWARD GUNTS,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

One of Baltimore County's oldest "country estates" will go on the auction block this week, when James Keelty & Co. offers the former Henry Gwynn House at 6909 Bellona Ave. in Rodgers Forge.

The large Italianate villa occupies a prominent corner of the tract where Keelty is building Rodgers Choice, a community of luxury town houses.

It dates from 1864 and is one of 17 Towson-area properties that were added this fall to Baltimore County's preliminary landmarks list.

The Gwynn house is one of the few remaining regional examples of the "great estates" built by prosperous 19th-century merchants. The land was considered rural in the mid-1800s but is now surrounded by suburban development.

With construction of the Rodgers Choice town houses well under way, Keelty has hired Alex Cooper Auctioneers to sell the Gwynn house on the premises on Thursday at 11 a.m.

"Italian villas are becoming very rare," said county historian John McGrain. "Especially ones made of wood."

"The appeal is in the architecture," said auctioneer Paul Cooper. "It has that historic charm of a long-ago era, and it's an excellent location. We've been getting a lot of calls about it."

The 2 1/2 -story house is distinguished by a square cupola and gable roof. According to a report on file with the Maryland Historic Trust, it was constructed for William A. Mason, a baker who made ship's bread, cakes and crackers at President and Stiles streets in Baltimore.

In 1869, the house was purchased by Henry Gwynn, the owner of a cotton factory. According to a description of the property published around that time, "it is in the highest state of cultivation and well supplied with fruit trees and is a very desirable place for a country residence; the improvements consist of a two story and attic double frame dwelling with a two story back building and stable and necessary outbuildings."

The house changed hands several times and was acquired in 1947 by Francis Anton Weiskittel, a member of a family whose foundry made cast-iron pipes and fittings and gas stoves.

With the Weiskittels as stewards, the property remained isolated, even as rowhouses were constructed in nearby Rodgers Forge.

In the early 1950s, the construction of Stevenson Lane between Charles Street and York Road brought a public road close to the north side of the house and reduced the size of the tract immediately around it.

The Weiskittels sold the property several years ago to a Keelty affiliate, Rodgers Choice LLC. Zoned for residential use, the house has approximately 3,700 square feet of space, including a living room with fireplace, dining room with fireplace, kitchen, sun room, office and half bathroom on the first floor; three bedrooms and three bathrooms on the second floor, and three more bedrooms on the third floor.

House makeover

Experts in architecture, interior design and antiques will present illustrated lectures on how to make a historic house more charming and livable in a five-part series starting next month at the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion.

Interior decorator Ted Pearson of Rita St. Clair Associates will moderate the series, entitled Historic House Solutions.

The presentations are: Jan. 8: Architect David Gleason on "How an Architect Can Help"; Jan. 15: Artist Kini Collins on "Using Color and Light"; Jan. 22: Art dealer Ann Clark Priftis on "Building an Art Collection"; Jan. 29: Antiques dealer Philip Dubey on "Antique Furniture and Furnishings", Feb. 5: Architectural historian Martin Perschler on "Creating a House History."

The presentations will be followed by a question-and-answer session and casual conversation over afternoon tea. Each begins at 1:30 p.m. at the mansion, 11 W. Mt. Vernon Place. The cost is $8 per lecture or $25 for the series. Reservations can be made by calling 410-433-0354.

Job change

Architect Randal Gaskins has joined the Baltimore architectural firm of Gaudreau Inc. and is working with the firm's Corporate/Community studio. He was previously with RTKL Associates and Probst Mason and is a past president of the Neighborhood Design Center.

ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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