Catonsville homeowners open their doors, share history

For most residents, having a few friends or family members over often sparks a floor-to-ceiling cleaning and frantic tidying throughout their home.

Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., eight Catonsville homeowners will take welcoming guests to a whole new level as they open their doors to what could be a stream of 600 people who have purchased admission to the 16th Heritage Homes Tour.

The tour, sponsored by the Catonsville Historical Society, is the first since 2006 and will allow guests to explore residences that are more than 50 years old in Catonsville.

The first tour was held in 1976 as a way to celebrate Baltimore County's bicentennial and celebrate local history. The tours have continued sporadically since then featuring a variety of homes, churches and businesses in Catonsville.

"There's a lot of historical homes in Catonsville," said Catonsville resident David Wasmund, co-chairman of the tour and a member of the historical society's board of directors.

He said that finding owners of residences who would be willing to participate in the tour is sometimes a daunting task, one that partially accounted for the seven-year hiatus since the last tour.

""In the past, it was very few of us doing it," Wasmund said. "It's a lot of work to put this thing together.

"Opening up your home to anywhere between four and six hundred people, that's a big thing," he said. "For a couple of years it was just too much."

Wasmund said the tour's biggest draw is providing a chance to see how homeowners have modernized their homes, some of which were built as early as 1875.

"A lot of the houses, it's just amazing," Wasmund said. "People like seeing this. It gives them ideas.

"Also (seeing) their interior designs, how they decorated the house," he said. "A lot of them have antiques."

Wasmund said one of the most interesting types of houses for a tour are those that had once been divided into multiple apartments. After the building has been changed back into single-family home, he said, visitors often come away with insight and tips for how they might remodel their own homes.

New look for old house

Catonsville residents John and Heather Bolster did just that.

Their sprawling three-story home on Beechwood Avenue is among the eight featured in the tour this year.

They said they are looking forward to showing off the extensive work they've done to improve their home.

John Bolster owns a construction company, New Renaissance Architects and Builders, and made all the renovations himself prior to the family's move to the area two years ago.

"It was a three-unit rental when we moved in," Heather Bolster said.

"We completely gutted it," her husband said. "Everything is brand new, except we saved the original floors and the stairs."

The couple then added a large screened-in porch and patio to the back of the house. Those additions, which, when paired with John Bolster's handmade wood furniture from his second company, Sandtown Millworks, seen throughout residence, give a peaceful, rural feel to the home.

After walking up the horseshoe driveway onto the front porch lined with cushioned chairs and hanging plants, one enters through the large wooden front door into the sprawling, completely open first floor of the house.

"We obviously took all the walls out on this (first) floor and just have columns where we need them," John Bolster said.

"I think just the openness alone is what floors people when they come in," he said. "In Catonsville, people are so used to walking these center hall places.

"It actually shocks most people," his wife said. "I think it actually shocked me when I first walked in."

The couple moved from Federal Hill with their three children — 10-year-old Beverly, 9-year-old Johnny and 7-year-old Tommy — in search of open spaces and better schools.

Though they had opened their home to a tour while living in the city, John Bolster said they were not entirely prepared for what their participation in Catonsville's Heritage Homes Tour would mean.

"We were welcoming to it because we had been part of a tour in Federal Hill and we survived that without much problem," he said.

"It was later that we found it was 600 people, so that's a little daunting," he said.

However, he said he is looking forward to an opportunity to show off his handiwork and discuss the remodeling process with visitors.

"It always makes you feel good to get positive reaction to your house, and spring's a good time because everything is blooming," he said.

Tickets for the tour can be purchased for $25 each at the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce, 924 Frederick Road, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday or by calling 410-242-8854.

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