Jeanne St. Martin, with her American Eskimo dog, Cosmo, in her… (Baltimore Sun photo by Amy…)
Four years ago, a neglected mansion sat high on a hill in Oella and was known throughout the neighborhood as the eyesore at the end of the Trolley Tour. But when the house went on the market, Jeanne and Sean St. Martin, who lived right down the street from the wreck, were determined to buy it, restore it and live there for life.
In 2006, the couple paid $585,000 for the three-story, historic house that had served in the 1920s as a hotel and retreat for the wealthy called Rock Springs.
The property features a house within a house — the granite "heart" of the structure dates to 1800, while a stucco addition to all sides, along with a wrap-around porch, was completed in 1910.
The St. Martins, who had been living in a 175-year-old home that they restored, decided to gut the entire interior, top to bottom, as well as the porch. The work created a clean-up job the couple's son Lucas, 22, and nephew Ian St. Martin, 22, would never forget.
They contracted with Mauck Construction & Renovations to do the interior and the porch based on an architectural plan by Robert Kaplan. Owner Ken Mauck's team put two years into the meticulous renovation of the Baltimore County house.
"Ken had to replace everything," Jeanne St. Martin said, estimating the cost at around $800,000. "But the design is very traditional; I didn't have to buy any furnishings."
The massive, wrap-around front porch speaks to the gracious Southern Colonial-style exterior of the 1910 addition. Huge lantern fixtures hang from extended chains fixed into a 10-foot high beadboard ceiling, and flooring is of treated mahogany. Floor- to-ceiling windows open onto the porch from the living and dining rooms, suggesting the breezy veranda-style of long-ago estates.
Beyond a pair of oak-framed multi-glass doors adorned with a pair of wreaths, an interior center hall is formed by 10-foot floor-to-ceiling columns offering a subtle separation between a spacious living room and the elegant dining room.
Seated at the great mahogany dining room table, it is impossible to overlook the paneling from floor to chair rail. Painted white, like the wide ceiling molding, against cream painted walls, the look is gracefully stylish, and one that is repeated throughout the home.
"With the cream color, it takes just one can of paint to touch it up," said Jeanne St. Martin, 54, and director of the accounting program at UMBC. Her husband, Sean, is a 51-year old government contractor.
The living room shows whimsically traditional furnishings, with an upholstered sofa and chair that feature wavy hump backs — like camel-back furniture gone south. The look is tempered by a barrel chair and a bentwood rocker set against windows with 18-inch sills. A carved oak curio cabinet with glass doors and shelves holds an extensive collection of dolls from all over the world, gifts from Jeanne's traveling father.
The 200-year-old first-level "heart" of the home has been turned into an expansive kitchen that Jeanne St. Martin calls "my dream come true." The room has 42-inch glazed maple cabinets and center island, black granite counter tops, ceramic tile and painted backsplashes and state-of-the-art professional appliances.
Jeanne St Martin's Italian upbringing is reflected in her love of entertaining and cooking for guests in a space larger than the entire first floor of many Baltimore rowhouses. Once again, her sense of humor and whimsy are displayed in a wall plaque that reads: "Mangia e statti zitto." She provides the translation: "Shut up and eat." A corner cabinet filled with colorful Polish stoneware adds Provencal charm to the bright room.
Next to the kitchen are a powder room and mud room, its stone wall exposed, indicating where the original home existed. Windows of this original structure now serve as shelving for a large collection of American Indian artwork.
While the kitchen is Jeanne St. Martin's pride and joy, the restored 1910 sunroom addition to the back of the house is her favorite room, a retreat with five arched windows, ceramic tiling with diamond shaped inlay, and a knotted pine, beadboard ceiling. Softened with rocking chair, plants and overstuffed furniture, this haven is a treasured reading spot.
Two staircases lead to the second floor, one off the hall between the original house and mud room, the other an open, curved masterpiece of oak at the end of the kitchen. The hallway on the second level is filled with heavy oak doors with glass knobs. Pocket doors of oak and glass open onto a family room filled with comfortable leather and upholstered furniture.
Oil paintings by son Lucas are found throughout the home but are especially predominant on this level. An animation illustrator, Lucas St. Martin showed his love for his mother by presenting her favorite subjects in oil — flowers.