Five years ago Mike McCarthy and his partner, Michael Polizzi, bought a piece of Baltimore's grand architectural past - a home in the 1000 block of N. Calvert St.
As part of a symmetrical row of 1880 red-brick townhouses on the east side of the street, the grouping's steep sloping roofs, Dutch gables and elaborate iron balconies are a fine example of Queen Anne-style architecture in the United States.
Baltimore architects John Appleton Wilson and William T. Wilson, along with builders George and Charles Blake, built the original home as part of "Belvidere Terrace" on the former site of John Eager Howard's Belvidere Estate.
McCarthy's and Polizzi's home bears the mark of this ancestry in the form of a terra-cotta plaque affixed to the third-floor exterior of their five-story home.
Built to address the growing population of Baltimore's up-and-coming middle class, these houses had coal fireplaces with simple wood mantels, random-width Georgia pine floors, and less ornate crown molding than the more elaborate homes of Mount Vernon Place.
Still, they boast Victorian touches such as the delicate stained-glass panels above the door and front windows, along with a grand center staircase of carved fruitwood.
No strangers to restoration (McCarthy recently restored a Depression-era bungalow in Annapolis), the men had no illusions about the work they would be taking on when they spent $262,000 for the house, which had ben reconverted into a home in the 1980s after being used as physicians' offices.
"Structurally the house was in good shape," McCarthy said. "We were fortunate in that the house was never converted into apartments."
And so the two set a goal, McCarthy said, "to take away the 1980s footprint and restore to the 1880s footprint."
The two men spent another $250,000 to make over the kitchen, update the plumbing, electrical, heating and cooling systems. The renovation also included tearing down makeshift walls, painting and plaster restoration.
As in its original design, the kitchen today is in the rear of the above-ground basement, which enjoys an eastern exposure.
Here, in 400 square feet of space, they have created the feel of a European country kitchen with 42-inch-tall cherry cabinets, siltstone countertops and a commercial stove with a backsplash of Italian marble with copper inlay tiles. Large copper bowls and pans rest on the floor in front of the room's original hearth. Walls here are of Venetian plaster painted a muted apple green.
Across the center hall, at the front of the basement, the couple's family room features built-in birch bookcases flanking the fireplace.
The home's next three levels - technically the first, second and third floors - follow the same layout with two 20-foot-square rooms separated by a center reception area.
The home's front entrance opens onto an anteroom that leads to a side hallway where pocket doors introduce a formal front parlor painted a deep merlot. An 1890 Knabe upright piano of rosewood and ornately carved sofa and chair upholstered in blue tone-on-tone damask set a period tone.
Fourteen-foot ceilings contribute to the home's 19th- century elegance, especially apparent in the formal dining room. Here, a mahogany dining table, neo-Classical in style, seats 10 on matching, tapestry upholstered chairs.
The second floor contains a master suite, library and bath. A frequently used room, the library boasts wicker furniture, handmade English bookcases, a walnut writing desk with inlaid leather, and framed travel posters hanging on walls painted terra cotta.
Overnight visitors have a choice between two guest rooms on third floor. Both are equally warm and inviting with carved oak suites and beds dressed in off-white chenille spreads.
The garret-like fourth floor features two small rooms that were most likely used as a nanny's or maid's quarters. With the ambience of dormer windows dominating the rooms, Mike McCarthy has chosen this floor for an office, joking that he usually phones or e-mails his partner who is often 72 steps below working in the kitchen.
McCarthy and Polizzi plan a lifetime in their restored Queen Anne home. "It turned out pretty much exactly as we envisioned it," Polizzi said.
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