A Brighter Gothic


Light, Modernity Come With Renovation Of Dickeyville House

August 02, 2009|By Marie Gullard | Marie Gullard,Special to The Sun

Just beyond the south-side entrance to Dickeyville, a mill town established in 1772, the home of Brooks Woodward and Riess Livaudais is one of the first few you see. Its steeply pitched roof and twin gables trimmed in lacelike, wooden cut-outs commonly referred to as gingerbread, attest to its architectural style of Victorian Gothic.

Constructed of brick, fieldstone and clapboard, this three-story home is believed to have served as an officers' infirmary during the War of 1812 (as noted on a shiny brass plaque at the front door) and was moved from its original site at Fort McHenry to Dickeyville soon after the fighting.

The house had been vacant and in a long-time state of disrepair when Brooks Woodward, a dentist, purchased it in the summer of 2000 for $189,000.

"You could look through the floorboards to the rooms below," he remembered.

Every floorboard in the house would eventually be saved as part of a renovation that included the repair of the home's slate roof, installing central air conditioning and a complete kitchen makeover. Additionally, the home's two fireplaces were refurbished and both staircases expanded to create larger openings. The third floor was completely gutted, its three bedrooms torn apart to create one large master suite with an office and full bathroom.

The home's interior decorating scheme centers on the creation of more exterior light filtering into the rooms. The couple was pleasantly surprised when gutting some areas exposed previously hidden windows. The rooms belie the home's total 1,800 square feet, due in part to 9-foot ceilings, but also to the introduction of bright celery color paint on the walls and carefully chosen furniture. The dining room on the first floor, for example, showcases a long workman's bench and ladder-back chairs dating to 1830. Smaller side pieces on the room's periphery, such as a cherry wood buffet, highlight the table and chairs as centerpieces.

A stainless steel counter, as well as stainless appliances in the kitchen, reflects ample light streaming through the home's original French casement windows. Built-in bookcases in the rooms on the second level draw the eye to the high ceilings.

As important as the house is in the lives of Riess Livaudais and Brooks Woodward, so too is the feeling of neighborhood camaraderie in their tiny community - the strong sense of belonging almost as tangible to them as the serene garden beyond windows draped in Dupione silk.

"Many residents here are patients of mine," Woodward laughed.

Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it at homes@baltsun.com.

Making a dream home

Dream element:: The Victorian home of Brooks Woodward and Riess Livaudais is in historic Dickeyville, a small hamlet in northwestern Baltimore founded in 1772 as a mill town. Its 130 restored houses, a few businesses (including an Odd Fellows Hall) and a tiny church all rest in a wooded, picturesque setting, reminiscent of a vintage train garden.

Design inspiration:: The chosen decor for the home's three stories is eclectic, focusing on the contemporary but with a few choice antique pieces. Every piece of furniture takes into account the scale of the rooms in this 1,800-square-foot home.

Surprise feature:: Because the house backs directly into a hillside, the rear of the first level is underground. It is not until guests climb the first of two staircases that they discover a beautifully landscaped backyard and patio beyond a door situated at the second floor landing.

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