Beyond heavy wrought-iron gates, a wavy brick path leads to the side steps of a gray stone, Gothic Revival parish house, once belonging to Christ Episcopal Church. Building and gardens are snuggly tucked behind the grand townhouses of Mount Vernon's Chase Street.
David Egan opens the building's double doors with an invitation to cross the threshold. The scent of old wood and beeswax wafts through the entrance area, conjuring memories of services, celebrations and quiet reflection. The fragrance lingers in the recessed, arched, diamond-leaded glass windows and in the intricately carved woodwork soaring to 15-foot ceilings.
"I've lived in many places, but this space called out to me," he said of the 10,000-square-foot chapel-like hall he purchased in 2002.
This is the home Egan always wanted, an adaptive re-use space where he could live, work and play. He calls the 1879 building Chase Court. It is a large structure, as parish houses go -- 50 feet wide by 30 feet deep, with a pitched roof, and nearly the height of a three-story house.
Egan, who maintains he got "in before the real estate boom" in Mount Vernon, paid $600,000 for the property, which was in good shape. He spent about $20,000 to update the electrical system, do plaster work and refinish the oak flooring.
Like an old-fashioned shopkeeper who lives above the store, Egan, an event planner, rents out the first floor, which includes a 1,600-square-foot ballroom, for weddings and other functions.
Home begins on the second level, beyond another set of double doors off the landing of a wide staircase. A previous owner undertook the renovation. It retains the 50-by-30-foot dimensions of the first floor, with a cathedral ceiling soaring 30 feet. Except for an office and a dressing suite for clients, the space is open, its living areas defined by furniture groupings.
The east and west sides of this "great room" are lined with arched, lead glass windows. A birch plywood wall forms the north end of the room. Behind it, a staircase climbs to a large loft that Egan uses as a guest room. It is from the loft that the enormity of the entire living area below can be taken in. And it is from this vantage point that a second choir loft can be seen across the room.
In the center of the gymnasium-sized oak floor, a free-standing kitchen is enclosed on two sides by 8-foot high birch cabinets with a sink unit. Red, ceramic tile countertops form the third side. The overall "U" shape contains oven, stove and two refrigerators, one a commercial size.
"I always wanted to live in a loft," Egan said. "And this is superlative."
Along the walls under the windows, built-in benches topped with sleek cushions offer plenty of seating. A large, birch dining table and chairs sit in the room's center.
An enclosed area under the north loft houses Egan's bedroom, bathroom and laundry. The top part of the bedroom walls are white; gray wainscoting covers the lower part. White sheers form a cozy enclosure of a bed dressed in white linens. Interestingly enough, this area is the only "modern" part of an interior completely true to its original 19th-century design.
"This building is part of the fabric of Baltimore, the spirituality to it is very clear," Egan said. "I feel I'm honoring the space."
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