A sumptuous corner house in Bolton Hill


Dream Home


John Hale's pride in his Bolton Hill corner residence glows during the Christmas season, when the home sparkles from the inside out.

Candles gleam from many of the 50 windows along the three-story home's 150-foot length on Lafayette Street and its narrow 14-foot-wide front on Park Avenue.

A large Palladian window crowns the Georgian-style main entrance, which opens onto a 9-foot-tall Christmas tree in the front hall. Holiday songs and carols are piped into every room, while highly polished mahogany tabletops reflect candlelight and accent lamps.

Despite the sense of stepping into a Dickens novel, Hale, 62, co-owner of Hale & Rexroad Interior Design, insists the house is not a pure Victorian.

In a comfortable second-floor lounge called the Red Room, Hale outlined the house's mixed parentage.

The Park Avenue portion, built in 1867, was decidedly Victorian in style. In 1919, the McGill family (of Baltimore grain elevator fame) purchased the home and enlarged it.

They preferred Georgian architecture and altered the home's design to reflect that style. Beside the entrance, the Georgian influence is reflected in four bay windows and the cantilevered spiral staircase that rises to the third floor.

Falling on hard times, the McGills sold the home to new owners. It was divided into five apartments in 1943, and passed through three owners in the 1970s as it fell into disrepair.

In 1980, it was back on the market when John Hale came along. The front entrance sold him immediately, and he tacked on $200 to the $110,000 asking price to make sure he would win the 5,300-square-foot residence.

While the house was structurally sound, it was still broken into apartments, and outdoor fire escapes made for a visual eyesore. Hale spent over $100,000 on renovations that included new wiring and plumbing, central air conditioning and demolition, including the removal of five kitchens.

The work took 13 months. In May 1981, Hale moved into his 11-room, Georgian home, with its four full baths, two half baths, two staircases, and three working fireplaces.

Furnishings for the home have been collected over the years, many from private sales. A good many pieces and accessories are family heirlooms.

"Each room is used for a different occasion," Hale said. "The Red Room is the winter room."

Here, in this cozy room painted a deep red, the decor includes Oriental motifs, Chippendale pieces and rich fabrics. A camel-back sofa of red damask sits under a large paneled painting of delicate flowers. On either side are two occasional chairs in red and cream satin striping.

Two claret-colored, tufted leather wing chairs and a mahogany table occupy the cozy nook created by the silk-draped bay window on the bright south side. A fireplace features an Adams-style mantel, with fluted columns and dentil molding. A Meshed oriental carpet graces the wood floor.

Down a hallway dressed in bright, custom printed Scalamandre wall covering, is the Music Room, decorated in pastel shades. A Baldwin baby grand piano rests on a room-size Kerman antique carpet. Its rose and blue floral print on an ivory background coordinates with blush-colored walls, a Chippendale sofa in dark pink fabric, and a pair of Hepplewhite occasional chairs with needlepoint cushions. There is access to an outdoor deck, with brick walls for privacy, and beyond that, a loggia.

Hale's third-floor master bedroom boasts an 8 1/2 -foot-long, carved mahogany four poster bed. The bed linens are a Scalamandre floral print in gold and beige, with a canopy of tassels and swags in beige silk. The master bathroom showcases custom cherry cabinets, green marble flooring and granite countertops.

On the first level, preparations were under way for a Christmas party. In the dining room, a large seasonal floral arrangement adorned the double pedestal, banquet-size mahogany table. Polished silver pieces gleam atop a carved mahogany Georgian buffet. In the adjoining breakfast room, a carved walnut sideboard was laden with china and crystal.

In the living room, Hale pointed out Louis XV treasures.

"The French pieces are all from the estate of Henry Barton Jacobs," he said. "We know the home today as the Engineers Club" on Mount Vernon Place.

Pieces include occasional chairs in red and cream striped silk with gilt frames. A crystal chandelier hangs from the 11-foot ceiling. Two front windows, each 10 1/2 feet high, are dressed in shutters under draperies of green moirM-i silk with a contrasting soft red swag. Miniature trees decorated with white lights twinkle in the windows.

As he prepared for his guests, Hale said his house is used and enjoyed.

"I don't want to think about leaving," he said. "It just might be from here to the nursing home."

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