Young family likes `oldness'


Real Estate


A roomy rowhouse with `rickety floors' attracts Swinburnes to Federal Hill For Bill and Victoria Swinburne, a getaway cottage in St. Michaels profiled in June is only half their dream home story. Part II lies just south of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, in the historic neighborhood of Federal Hill.

"We paid less for two houses than most people pay for one," Bill Swinburne said.

A native of northeastern Pennsylvania, Bill Swinburne grew up in a century-old house and is drawn to "oldness." And he likes cities.

So in 1995, the sale of a three-story, brick rowhouse, circa 1887, on Riverside Avenue offered an opportunity at city life that was too good to pass up. He and his wife purchased the property for $168,000.

"I love the traditional style of the house, the rickety floors, and the way the doors don't properly close," he said. "It reminds me of visiting [members of] my family in their Philadelphia rowhouses."

The couple spent an estimated $50,000 for a second roof deck, air conditioning, a new furnace, a remodeled kitchen, custom shutters, a new bathroom and patio.

Eleven-foot ceilings on all three floors give the 14-foot-wide home a spacious feel. And stretching to 72 feet, there's room for three large rooms downstairs before the house narrows to 11 feet in the kitchen.

The maize-yellow kitchen features wainscoting, butcher block countertops and cabinets painted a soft green. Schoolhouse lamps hang from a copper-tiled ceiling while slate-like tiles cover the floor.

Elsewhere there are the original, wide-planked oak floor and exquisite carpets from India and Pakistan that Swinburne collected on his travels for the U.S. government, his employer.

Outside, reclaimed bricks have turned the 25-foot-deep space into a maintenance-free yard with a large umbrella and metal bunting chairs. Across the rear is a brick wall with a gate that opens onto a courtyard of two-story rowhouses.

Inside, a winding spindle staircase separates living room from dining room.

Fireplaces are in every room of the house, but just two are operating. The Swinburnes converted the living room hearth into a gas-burning unit.

A bright master bedroom occupies the front of the second level. Three long windows face the quiet, tree-lined street. A nursery for 1-year-old daughter Emerson is just beyond.

"I love the red room, it's my favorite in the house," Bill Swinburne said, heading to the third-floor den.

Framed in white molding, the walls are painted a deep raspberry. Built-in bookshelves on the south wall abut a fireplace with an iron stove insert original to the home.

Double doors lead to a rooftop deck over the second level. A ladder there climbs to a deck atop the third floor. It is from this vantage point that commanding, panoramic views of the skyline and harbor can be taken in.

"I always wanted to live in a big city," Bill Swinburne said. He doesn't even mind his daily, 96-mile round-trip commute to his office in Northern Virginia.

"It's been 11 years here, and I never think about leaving," he said.

Have you found your dream home?

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