Most visitors walking along the streets in Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood cannot resist peeping into the windows of its restored homes and marveling at the variety of interiors lying behind the rows and rows of brick facades.
"All of these houses are so different, really," said Pauline Hildebrandt, a 60-year-old retired real estate agent who has lived with her husband in their three-story Charles Street home since moving from Fairfax County, Va., in 2010. "We didn't have to renovate; everything was here. We just packed our bags and moved in."
More than two years later, the couple is preparing to welcome others in, too. Their home is part of the inaugural Inside Federal Hill House Tour, set for Oct. 20.
That their home was move-in-ready is a bit of exaggeration, but only slightly. The oak floors, dentil molding and ceiling medallions as well as the exterior red brick, belie the fact that this particular home, rather than a restoration, was newly built in 1999 on an empty lot. The couple purchased the home from Philip Goldstein, the son of the former Maryland state comptroller, Louis "God bless y'all real good" Goldstein.
The Hildebrandts paid $450,000 for the home. They also purchased a great deal of Goldstein's furniture, including all of the pieces on the first floor and every fabric-covered cornice with linen blinds. Barry Hildebrandt, a 69-year-old federal employee who works in Washington, estimates an additional $6,500 was spent on the furnishings.
The house, like the majority in Federal Hill, is long and narrow, at 14 feet wide by 60 feet deep. Included in the dimensions is a two-car garage off the alley – the width of which would be fine if the owners had tiny smart cars. Instead, the best they can do is shelter one car.
Completely open on the first level, the traditionally decorated interior features a neutral decor in shades of brown and tan against walls painted lemon yellow with the lower half done in white painted wainscoting. A pair of dark beige, microfiber easy chairs with matching ottomans flank a bumped-out fireplace trimmed in marble. A crystal chandelier hangs from a medallion in the center of the ceiling. Trim molding along the periphery of the ceiling forms a shelf lit softly from behind, providing warm, ambient light in the room.
Two Oriental carpets, woven predominantly in shades of deep red and blue, define the home's individual areas. A mahogany, Chippendale-style suite of table, chairs and glass-front cabinet sit below a second crystal chandelier, its multiple "candles" gleaming on the polished floors.
The rear of the first level consists of an open kitchen with maple cabinets, built-in wine racks and corner shelving. Stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops provide ample space for cooking and prep work. The lemon yellow walls unite all three rooms and a tiny half-bath under the steps and completes the first level which, because of its openness, appears much larger and wider than its actual interior dimensions.
"These rooms multitask for us," explained Pauline Hildebrandt, climbing the staircase to the second level and pointing out what the couple calls a "combo media room/guest room."
Decorated in a beach house theme, the room's blue and white striped sofa bed and matching ottoman accommodates overnight guests. Here, visitors can step out to the first of 31/2 outdoor decks. Above it, off of the third level, a spiral staircase leads to the two-tiered rooftop deck where an awning flaps in the wind and an outdoor living room set of wicker and cotton upholstered furniture enlivens the space. From the second floor looking up, one gets the feeling of being on a cruise ship, neck craned to see all the various levels. Bright, Adirondack-style chairs and colorful flowers in a variety of different sized pots provide a second level secluded spot for morning coffee.
A combination office and bedroom sits at the front of the second level. The third floor houses the master suite and a marble bathroom with twin shower heads.
At the rear of the third level, the "party room" is equipped with a bar, full-size refrigerator and a raised cafe table with cushion-backed chairs. The access from this room to the upper decks allows for easy entertaining on each of the levels. The breeze picks up at the very top portion of the deck, where there is a 360-degree view of the neighborhood rooftops, city skyline and M&T Bank Stadium.
"This is the place to see fireworks," said Barry Hildebrandt. "And any night of the week, we can walk to eat out. Our cars don't move."
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Making the dream
Dream realized: "We have always dreamed of living in the city [and] the experience has been terrific," said Pauline Hildebrandt. "We love being able to walk to so many things, love all the activities available for us and our kids and grandkids, and we love the wonderful friends we now have in Baltimore." She also says her favorite place at home "is the rooftop deck with the fantastic view of the city. We love to go up there in the evening and watch the sunset and the lights of the city come on."
Personal touches: "We have several paintings by my late father, Joe Snyder. They are treasures because they are beautiful pictures that I see every day and remember my dad," said Pauline Hildebrandt. These paintings include a landscape of a river under a bridge where her dad used to fish as a boy and a portrait of the face of a pensive Jesus, done in multiple shades of sepia paint.
Federal Hill House Tour
The inaugural Inside Federal Hill House Tour is sponsored by Federal Hill Main Street, a nonprofit organization focused on community revitalization efforts. The tour is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 20, from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets are $25 each or two for $40. For more information, visit historicfederalhill.org or call 410-727-4500.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun