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America's past inside Baltimore's history

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For Pat Stout, what started as a return on an investment with urban housing developers became an in-town address to enjoy on the weekends before finally morphing into her sole residence as well as the breathtaking repository for her vast collection of American Indian artifacts.

Stout, a 70-year-old divorcee and owner of Baltimore Window Factory in Essex, enjoys a 3,000-square-foot unit in the Canal Street Malt House, a downtown reuse project built on the bones of the 1866 warehouse of the same name in Little Italy.

"I had no intention of living here full-time [but] this was so different," she said of the unit, which was not even finished by the developer when she took occupancy. "I sold my house in Baltimore County to a young family. This place was perfect for me and my collection."

Indeed, the walls rising to the great room's 20-foot ceiling look like a fine museum dedicated to the colorful and masterful works of North American Indian tribes, while the center space is filled with a collection of antique furniture. Since Stout's window company also deals in cabinets and counters, her galley kitchen displays fine hickory cabinets and granite countertops.

For the furniture pieces that are not antiques, Stout called upon Laura Riley of Elegant Interiors in Edgewood to provide groupings of traditional styling with microfiber upholstery. Shades of brown with aqua detailing prevail.

The colors not only pick up the rich hues of her oak, rosewood and cherry early American pieces, but also provide a neutral backdrop to the real stars displayed throughout the home — the artifacts. American Indian snowshoes are hung on one wall like two giant tree leaves. Brightly colored Indian blankets and rugs, all woven of wool fibers, hang under the concrete ceiling and exposed duct work of the industrial interior architecture.

Stout's textiles are the priceless works of tribes that include Apache, Navajo and Hopi. Inside a rosewood hutch dating to the early 1800s, tribal baskets, eyeglass cases and rattle baskets sit on shelves next to Hopi pottery so smooth it is like touching honed stone.

"These pieces are 150 years old," she said, holding a small basket gently in both hands. "It's pretty significant that they have all survived."

It is also understandable, seeing the meticulous ways in which they are displayed. Pieces sit on Plexiglas shelves, blankets are affixed to cedar molding before being hung, and artwork such as paintings and prints are all behind glass.

"When I was a kid, we went to Skyline Drive, [and] I spent all the money I had on a turquoise ring," Stout said, recalling the genesis of her vast collection. "I'm still buying with all the money I have!"

Beautiful examples of antique collections include English copper pieces, chests and boxes displayed on desks and tables with polished brass fixtures. A TV room, adjacent to the great room, boasts leather furniture. The most colorful of Navajo rugs hang here, dating to 1820 and once on exhibit in Philadelphia.

Stout's second level — she does not count rooms, but rather says she has a first level and a second level — is an open layout with bedroom, bathroom with large soaking tub, living area and a deck on either side.

The raised steel decking off the roof that makes up the larger of the two balconies bears a lovely urban garden with its own watering system and a downtown view that keeps Stout up there as often as she's able.

"I'm very comfortable here — either with 75 friends or all by myself," she said.

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Making the dream

Dream element: Pat Stout chose her two-level condominium at the Canal Street Malt House in part for its spectacular view. From the second-level balconies, she has views of the city skyline, the rooftops of Little Italy and the interior courtyard. The Inner Harbor is nearby and convenient for visitors like Stout's 16-year-old niece, who lives in Mount Airy and recently came with friends. "The girls had a pajama party here and went bowling to the Mustang Alleys [Bowling and Bistro]," Stout said.

Dream design: The building features red-brick walls and monolithic windows of multi-paned glass, a reflection of Baltimore's industrial past. The original building, where Stout lives, is one of 13 residences, with 25 more in the adjoining addition. An interior courtyard connects the two buildings with a network of walkways, bridges and a glass-enclosed elevator.

Dream interior: In keeping with the Malt House building's historic flavor, interior architectural aspects include exposed concrete columns in a predominantly open space and high ceilings. In Stout's 3,000-square-foot unit, the giant wheel-turning mechanism for the elevator of the Malt House occupies a place of honor in the corner of her great room.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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