House with long history filled with sadness and support after death in the family

Hudson's Corner

November 11, 2011

The house across the street is missing one of its owners. Bob Green, age 61, died of a heart attack Oct. 28. After his memorial service, my husband and I joined others at the house, where he and his wife have raised their three children.

Standing in the living room as people poured in, I thought of previous incarnations of the house and of owners I have known since my family moved across the street in 1959.

A 1913 photograph shows this substantial stucco house with Cold Spring Lane a narrow road and trolley tracks in the Roland Avenue median. One of the first houses in Plat 2, the house is shown as the first on our street, built prior to the house that now bears the first number.

When we arrived in 1959, a widow lived in the house across the street. She wore white powder, which my grandmother called rice powder, and crimson lipstick. She never went out the back door but always descended the long front steps, usually in a hat and gloves. Her liveried chauffeur would open the back door of a Cadillac, and in she would go. If we were outside, she often called,  "I'm off with the girls."  My sister and I thought it hilarious that some her age referred to contemporaries as "girls."

Only once do I remember being inside her house. A front and back parlor opened to the right of the hall. Every figurine had a lace doily under it. "Victorian," my mother explained of the doilies also on the high-back chairs and velvet sofa.

The next owners replaced the large, ornamental pond in back with a swimming pool and did not stay long. Soon a friendly couple with four children took up long residence. Like the current owners, the father was an attorney, also a federal judge.

A lot of life happened in the house during their stay. Life on our street was vibrant too, as houses, populated by senior citizens when my sister and I moved in, filled up with children, often four per house. Many went to school together; all knew each other and socialized. We were in college or just out, yet some called to see if we wanted a gerbil or could help with homework.

In the '70s, the house had a fire, one son fell from a third floor window, and the mother was abducted. She was released, but federal marshals sat in cars out front for almost a year and accompanied the girls to school. While I lived elsewhere, all four grew up. Their parents moved to the Eastern Shore soon after I returned home.

The next owners remarried in that house. They had married years before, parented three boys, then divorced. He was a renowned historian, she a writer. They remarried in what, at some point, had merged from two parlors into one big living room. Central air conditioning and heavy insulation came to the house with them.

The following owners remodeled the bathrooms, knocked out upstairs walls to create a dressing room and a larger bedroom, incorporated the back porch into the kitchen and part of the butler's pantry into a laundry room, and brought cooling and heating to the sun porch. The house was on the Roland Park Centennial house tour before they moved to Philadelphia, and the Greens moved in with two, soon three, children.

The oldest two now attend Georgetown University, where their mother is associate dean of the Law Center. Lifelong friends, judges, her colleagues and her husband's colleagues all attended Bob's service, as did many people from Washington, D.C., including a former mayor. Afterwards, the house overflowed with sadness and support.

Never have I seen so many at the house across the street.

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