By By Marie Marciano Gullard and For The Baltimore Sun
May 30, 2014 | 4:36 PM
A funny thing happened to Joe and Morgan Horvath on their way to a community art show in Reservoir Hill a few years ago.
They fell in love at first sight with this Baltimore neighborhood of rehabbed rowhomes — many in the Italianate architectural style of the late 19th century. Adding to that feeling were the inhabitants, who to this day, the couple feel, are some of the best things about the neighborhood.
"We were welcomed by everyone, from the young folks who rent a house across the street to the neighborhood veterans who bought their homes 30 years ago," said Morgan Horvath, a 31-year old preschool behavioral specialist with Project ACT (All Children Together).
At the time, the Horvaths were renting a carriage house in nearby Bolton Hill.
"[We] spent evenings walking around the [Reservoir Hill] neighborhood, marveling over all the beautiful historic homes," Morgan Horvath said. "When we found this house, it was almost too good to be true."
The Horvaths moved into their circa 1880 red brick townhouse in September 2013. They paid $237,000 for the property, which once housed six apartments and was converted back to a single-family dwelling by previous owners in 2003-2004.
The 22-by-75-foot home has nearly 5,000 square feet of living space on three levels (not including a partially above-ground basement with a full bathroom). On the first floor, the ceilings soar 14 feet, with windows measuring 10 feet high in the front of the house and 9 feet in the back.
In lieu of an enclosed hallway from the front door to the stairway three arches are supported by Doric-style columns, allowing open access to the living room. Recessed ceiling lights create a soft glow on living room walls, covered in medium gray, faux-suede paint.
Also on the first level is a formal dining room just beyond the living room and a kitchen at the rear of the house, whose three stories include metal porches and fire escapes.
The couple's favorite room is the dining room, with walls painted a deep shade of red. The room evokes their earliest memories of the home, of sitting around the table with family and friends days after moving in. Pointing out the lighting over the table, Morgan Horvath said, "We happened upon these beautiful brass Egyptian orbs at an antiques shop, and I couldn't pass them up. One of the first things I did when we moved into the house was to turn them into lights and hang them in lieu of chandeliers."
The sheer size of the living and dining rooms allows for ample space for furniture and plenty of wall space for artwork, which the Horvaths are keen on collecting.
Two especially meaningful framed abstract works were painted by Morgan Horvath's late father, John L. Durand.
"He suffered from frontal lobe dementia and passed away almost three years ago," she said. "He had never been much of an artist, but created the paintings during a year of creative energy that produced dozens of beautiful pieces of art that are now in the homes of family and friends."
Other artwork has been painted by a friend of the Horvaths, Amanda Engels. The large, Impressionist-style landscapes include pieces titled "Blue Chesapeake," "Foggy Field" and "Under the Blue," a haunting rendering of a mountain ridge.
"[Amanda] recently lost her studio space and is working out of her small apartment," said John Horvath, 31, who works for the Maryland State Labor Relations Board. "We are fortunate to be able to store some of her larger works on our walls."
The couple have acquired an eclectic mix of furniture, mostly from antiques shops, flea markets, garage sales, old buildings and even friends.
"Friends from Butchers Hill gave us a pink Oriental rug that spent several years in WTMD's studio during the late 1990s," Morgan Horvath said. "It goes a long way to break up the large living room space."
Other favorite pieces include a 140-year-old chestnut pew from a former church in Bolton Hill that Morgan Horvath describes as having "ornate conical medallions and a smooth fluid profile," adding, "We like unique pieces like this that have a long history and add a funky touch to a fairly formal space."
The home's gorgeous staircase with its mahogany banister leads to two more stories, with long hallways and 9-foot ceilings. The upstairs rooms include a master bedroom and black marble bathroom, a den and three guest bedrooms.
Like most old houses that have been brought back to life through careful renovation, the projects never seem to end. The Horvaths are planning several practical jobs in the near future, such as replacing gutters, fire escape repairs, refinishing the floors on the top two levels and installing a laundry room adjacent to their master bedroom.
Despite this long list, the Horvaths have a strong commitment to the neighborhood and an equally strong desire to share their Reservoir Hill home with others. They will be opening their home to the public June 7-8 for the Historic Reservoir Hill Garden & Home Tour 2014, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
"We love the architecture and are beyond proud to own a part of Baltimore history," Morgan Horvath said.