Longtime Rouse home is up for sale

James and Patricia Rouse moved into waterfront Wilde Lake home in 1974

  • Exterior of the home once owned by Columbia founder James Rouse and his wife, Patricia. The yellow doors were selected by Rouse.
Exterior of the home once owned by Columbia founder James Rouse… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
November 04, 2012|By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun

The longtime home of James and Patricia Rouse on the banks of Wilde Lake in Columbia, where the world-known affordable housing advocates danced together to tunes from a stereo next to their living room fireplace, is up for sale.

It is the home's first time on the market since the newlyweds purchased it for $95,000 more than 38 years ago.

"They would put music on in here and dance. They had this incredible record collection," said Maria Gamper, Patricia Rouse's daughter, as she showed off the modern living area that her mother and stepfather shared for more than two decades. "This was their retreat."

There was brief talk of turning the home into a museum dedicated to the Rouses, Gamper said. But a museum is not what Jim and Patty, as they were known to friends and colleagues, would have wanted, she said.

The down-to-earth couple did not maintain a perfectly manicured home ready for elegant cocktail soirees. The Rouses covered the walls of their house on Waterfowl Terrace walls with pictures, filling the rooms with the scent of James Rouse's terrapin soup and stacking piles of paperwork on desks in the kitchen.

"They collected everything. It was just full of so much of Columbia," said Gamper, who is administering her mother's estate. James Rouse died in 1996 and Patricia Rouse died in March. Many of their treasures have since been cleared out of the home and placed in Columbia's archives.

James Rouse was the urban development visionary who produced a diverse array of projects, including Harborplace, Boston's Faneuil Hall and the villages of Columbia, including the Village of Wilde Lake. He bought this home about 11 years after announcing his plan to "build a comprehensively planned city" and the purchase of 14,000 acres in Howard County, according to the archives.

Patricia Rouse, the first woman to head the Norfolk, Va., Redevelopment and Housing Authority, later co-founded with her husband the Enterprise Foundation, which has grown over three decades into a family of companies under the Enterprise umbrella that is focused on financing and promoting affordable housing.

"They would just want somebody who appreciates it" to buy the home, Gamper said. "They would just want someone who enjoyed the serenity."

The light-filled home offers much to appreciate, including clerestory windows at the peak of the living room's angled ceiling and giant windows in the kitchen that fully open to let the outdoors in.

Wilde Lake is visible from nearly every room, thanks to an abundance of glass. Though neighbors are close on either side, their presence is minimized by the home's orientation. The eye is directed toward the tree-lined lake from the time the front door threshold has been crossed.

"To know that you're so close to Baltimore and D.C. and have this environment: It's just so peaceful," Gamper said.

The home was built in the late 1960s by Howard County homebuilder John N. Bowers for the family of Malcolm "Mal" Sherman, an executive of the Rouse Co. — the development firm James Rouse started.

"The house was designed for our needs," said Miriam "Mimi" Sherman in a Sun Magazine piece about the home that was published in December 1969. "And planned so that my husband and I can live on the upper floor when the children no longer live here."

The Shermans moved out within several years, but the Rouses, who both had older children from previous marriages, used the home in the way the Shermans intended, Gamper said. They spent most of their time on the main level, in the kitchen in particular, she said. It was the heart of their household, where they worked and ate. "He cooked all the meals," Gamper said.

The master bedroom is on the main level, just off of a 21-by-16-foot living room and on the opposite side of the house from the open kitchen-dining area. All of the main floor rooms offer access to a deck that stretches across the back of the home.

The lower level has three smaller bedrooms, a master suite and a large living area with walk-out access to the backyard, which slopes down to the lake's edge. There's also plenty of walk-in closet space.

The Rouses purchased the land — about a third of an acre — and the 4,000-square-foot home for less than $100,000, but they put nearly $200,000 into expanding and renovating the property in the '70s and '80s. They really made it their own, Gamper said, with big changes including the addition of a breakfast nook and small touches such as installing handmade clay tiles on the kitchen counters and around the wood-burning hearth.

The house could use updating, said Mike Gary, of the realty firm Mohler & Gary, which listed the home for $795,000 a week and a half ago.

"Enterprise was much more important to her than updating her house," said Gamper of her mother, who lived in the home until 2009. In March of that year, Patricia Rouse moved to Vantage House, a senior community on the other side of Wilde Lake from the Rouses' home.

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