Home is her life's work


Classic Revival house near Patapsco park is a labor of love

June 20, 2008|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

When Lucy McKean calls her home a lifelong labor of love, she speaks quite literally.

"I grew up here," said McKean, 68, referring to the imposing Classic Revival house situated on a 3 1/2 -acre wooded tract near the Avalon Area of Patapsco Valley State Park in southwest Baltimore County.

"My grandfather had this house built in 1905 [and] my father was an only son. I was the youngest child, with two older brothers, but the only one who wanted it," she said.

For all but four years of her life - when she married in 1961 and moved away, to her return upon the death of her father in 1965 - "home" has been the 3,400-square-foot, cedar-shingled house with 13 large columns supporting a wraparound porch.

"This house has formed my personality in a lot of ways," she said. "I remember in grade school science class, I made a balsa-wood replica of this house, with matchsticks for the porch columns."

No huff-and-puff-away construction on the real deal, however. This house was built to last for generations and, through a lot of hard work over the years, as well as roughly $200,000 in repairs and improvements, it has earned Heritage Landmark status from the Catonsville Historical Society. McKean and her now-deceased first husband tackled some of the jobs themselves, such as putting in new wiring and plumbing.

Last year, together with her husband of eight years, Paul McKean, she worked on what she called a "centennial maintenance program" that included chimney and foundation repairs, painting exterior trim, a new roof and re-shingling.

The home's impressive fa?ade faces southwest. On each of its two levels, rooms flow circularly around center halls. Eight fireplaces - four on the main level and four on the second level - were constructed for beauty and functionality.

Lucy McKean notes that the home was the summer residence of her grandfather, Baltimore attorney Bernard Carter, whose huge portrait hangs in the family dining room.

The entrance hall with fireplace was called, she said, the "living hall." Here a warm welcome has been created with Empire period furniture original to the home. A mahogany settee covered in chintz rests in front of a fireplace with a hand-carved wood mantel. The pine flooring there, and throughout the rooms, is original to the house, while a Bokhara rug has been perfectly aligned to the floorboards. A winding oak staircase at the rear of the hall leads to the second floor.

The elegant dining room is McKean's favorite. A solid mahogany table seats 16 under a crystal chandelier that once hung in the living room of Towson's historic Hampton Mansion. Pocket doors and bull's-eye molding add grace and sophistication to the room's high ceilings, floral wallpaper and formal draperies.

On the opposite side of the hallway, the formal living room showcases Empire furniture with a sofa covered in Jacobean print upholstery. Several pieces of McKean's needlework grace the walls here, while doors on the room's east side lead to the columned porch filled with Adirondack chairs looking out over a rose garden.

Beyond the living room, the McKeans' library is decorated with mounted heads of animals - hunting trophies of Paul McKean. A fireplace, bookcases and antique walnut secretary add a den-like touch.

The library, like the other rooms, opens to the central hall and the kitchen at the rear of the home. Recently remodeled, the kitchen boasts walnut cabinets and new vinyl flooring.

On the second floor, five bedrooms circle the center hallway. Doors connect each room.

"As children we used to run around up here," Lucy McKean remembered. "We didn't have the doorways blocked off as we do now, and we would just run around and around."

An office, two guest rooms, the master bedroom and a smaller bedroom with connecting sewing room are on this level.

Lucy McKean has taken special care to maintain each room's identity with the furniture original to the home. The master bedroom, for example, contains a four-poster, black walnut bed dressed in a spread of handmade stitching.

"It's fun," McKean says, standing amid the roses in her garden, "to show off your life's work."

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