In July, Joe Zuccaro will celebrate one year of living in a condo in a historic Fells Point tobacco warehouse that he refers to as "a Renaissance bachelor's pad with a million-dollar view."
"I have always wanted to live in Baltimore," said the Montgomery County native. "I wanted to be somewhere neat and right on the water."
The renovated warehouse, like several in and around Baltimore's harbor, is in many ways a monument to Baltimore's great industrial past. Located on Henderson's Wharf, the brick building was constructed well over a century ago by the Baltimore &Ohio Railroad for storage of tobacco bound for Europe.
Zuccarro's one-bedroom condo is on the fifth floor of the building. The views beyond the windows set in 18-inch-thick brick walls are of boats moored at piers below and church steeples rising above the rooftops of Federal Hill across the harbor.
In the1,080-square-foot condo, Zuccaro has created a tasteful and comfortable shrine to Baltimore's industrial and maritime past, as well as to his Italian heritage. He has achieved that balance through his love for, and collection of, antique furnishings and memorabilia.
The first noticeable feature beyond his front door is a trio of curtainless windows, like three brick-framed waterscape paintings. The only movement in this postcard-perfect scene is a tugboat chugging across the water and a few gulls keeping company overhead.
The open layout includes kitchen, dining area and living room. The walls are painted a soft shade of taupe, with mahogany and tiger oak furniture resting on Brazilian cherry flooring.
"These are all of my things, and they are all part of me," said Zuccaro, a 51-year-old marketing executive. "This is my sanctum."
His "things" are eclectic pieces of Victorian and Edwardian furniture embellished with myriad curiosities and collectibles. The collecting was as much fun as finding the right place for his treasures.
"I was on a roll last summer — like a drunken sailor," he said jokingly.
To honor the Henderson's Wharf factory, Zuccaro has dried tobacco leaves hanging from a rod on a pulley. He has also hung a huge tobacco basket that he purchased in Frederick on the rear brick wall; next to that is an antique plaque featuring the B&O logo.
Other pieces he has collected in keeping with the warehouse and industrial theme are an antique tobacco cutter with its blade sheath marked "Chew Stag Tobacco" and a variety of old tools such as a hod for carrying bricks and some rusty gears.
Zuccaro's Italian heritage is important to him and his pride is reflected in a variety of curiosities, such as a copper water carrier from Rome and terra cotta angels, along with some bronze decorative items.
Ninety percent of the furniture in the condo is antique, spanning the late Victorian, Edwardian and art nouveau eras, and including a warm oak reproduction of a Chippendale dining room table with chairs and an oak barrister's bookcase with a patent date of November 1902, its name ("The Lawson") and its place of manufacture ("Forest City Fur. Co., Rockford, Ill.").
Zuccaro was pleased that the previous owner installed the cherry wood flooring and was also happy with "the perfect kitchen" with its granite countertops, off-white laminated cabinets and stainless-steel appliances. He has devoted one long countertop to a collection of vintage champagne bottles.
In addition to a queen-size, solid pecan bed with mahogany insets, the bedroom is highlighted by a large window lined with brushed satin drapes hanging from a rod of 1½-inch copper piping. Brass pressure gauges are the finials on either side of the rod.
"The window treatment is called steam punk," Zuccaro said. "It's mixing old and new technology."
The period Baltimore memorabilia, Italian pieces and modern amenities merge artfully in this bachelor pad.
"I love Baltimore and I love this place," Zuccaro said. "It's all coming together very well."
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Making the dream
Dream realized: In addition to the maritime heritage that attracted him to Baltimore, Joe Zuccaro loves the idea of living in, what he calls "a recycled building." "My friends can't believe it," he said. "Their first comment when they come in is 'The view!'"
Dream touches: Zuccaro's personal collections celebrating his Italian heritage are found throughout the condo. A delightful example is a hanging collection of plates from restaurants where he dined throughout Italy. Colorful and whimsical, they include a cartoon chicken from the Ristorante Cucciani Frascati's "Polloalla Romana" and a drawing of St. Peter, where written across the plate's rim are the words "Filetta di San Pietro" from the Trattoria Favorita Lido di Venezia.