For sale: 4 BRs, 2 1/2 BAs

The governor's Northeast Baltimore home officially goes on the market

April 12, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

"What a special home!" the real estate ad proclaims, though it doesn't explain the reason: Until three months ago, the four-bedroom house on Walther Avenue was the home of Gov. Martin O'Malley and his family.

The first family's former home in Northeast Baltimore has officially been put up for sale, completing the O'Malleys' transition from a cozy Tudor in Baltimore's Beverly Hills neighborhood to the grand Georgian mansion in Annapolis where the governor resides. Though the O'Malleys insist they remain Baltimoreans at heart, it appears that their home base, for at least the next three years and nine months, will be in Annapolis.

"It's a beautiful house," the governor said yesterday. "Frankly, I'd rather not sell it. Maybe it won't sell, and we'll be able to hold onto it. I'd like to drop back and rent it. It's a great house. I love that house. I'd rather not sell the house, but my wife's in charge of these things, not me."

The governor confirmed in March that the family - or, rather, his wife, Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley - was thinking about selling. (The governor's powers, it turns out, don't extend to domestic matters.) Yesterday, a "For sale" sign was posted in the yard, and a real estate agent was showing the former digs of the new governor to prospective buyers, as well as the merely curious.

The home - with a deck, finished basement and attic, two-car garage, updated kitchen and alcove breakfast nook - is listed for $350,000, more than other homes have fetched in the area. State real estate data show that of the dozens of homes that have been sold in the area in the last year, only a handful have sold for more than $300,000 and none more than $318,000.

The governor and his wife bought the house for $119,000 in 1995, though the governor noted they have since updated the kitchen and the 2 1/2 baths. According to state records, the 1930 house is valued for tax purposes at $238,650.

Arthur C. Dietzel, who lives a few houses up the street, said the neighbors all noticed the "For sale" sign. He said the O'Malleys, who have two girls, two boys and three dogs, will be missed.

"I miss Katie," Dietzel said. "She was always coming down and swiping stuff out of my garden. Katie would come down and help herself. She's a good gal."

Ida Manna, who has lived across the street from the O'Malleys' house for 45 years, said that the neighborhood is mostly populated by older people now but that it was a good place to raise kids - quiet and safe, certainly by city standards.

While O'Malley lived there as Baltimore mayor, Walther Avenue residents had a bonus: A city police detail kept watch on the house.

"We aren't that lucky anymore," Manna said. "But they couldn't come help us anyway."

The O'Malleys moved to Annapolis in January, when Martin O'Malley was sworn in as governor. The Maryland Constitution says that the governor must reside at the seat of government, but not all of his predecessors have observed the requirement.

Government House, the official name of the mansion across the street from the State House, boasts 52 rooms and a staff of servants, cooks, gardeners and state troopers.

Since the family moved to Annapolis, Katie O'Malley has commuted to the District Court in Baltimore, and she will continue to do so, the governor said.

District Court judgeships also come with residency requirements, but Maryland law tends to consider residency loosely. Former Gov. Theodore McKeldin, for example, was allowed to run for mayor of Baltimore when his two terms were up despite the fact that he was living in Annapolis at the time.

When the O'Malleys moved, legal experts, including the chief judge of the Court of Special Appeals, said Katie O'Malley would not run afoul of the residency requirement even if the family sold its Baltimore home.

"Maryland law is pretty settled," O'Malley said. "We intend to remain citizens of the city of Baltimore; we intend to return to the city of Baltimore once we're finished in four or eight years with the very generous temporary housing that the people of Maryland have provided to us."

City Councilman Robert A. Curran, Katie O'Malley's uncle, said he's sure that when the first family finishes their time in Annapolis, they'll move right back to Northeast Baltimore.

"People move to Northeast Baltimore from other parts of Baltimore when they want to make their last move, because the area really is the garden spot of the city," Curran said. "When they become empty-nesters, I look forward to them moving back."

Sun reporter Jennifer Skalka contributed to this article.

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