The white Beaux-Arts-style building in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood, known simply as 700 Washington Place, is considered by many as one of the city's most elegant addresses.
Julie Canard, a Washington native, was smitten by what she describes as "the richness and beauty of Mount Vernon's architecture and European influence" every time she passed the apartment house on her way to visit her daughter in Guilford.
According to the nonprofit Baltimore Heritage, 700 Washington Place was built in 1835. William Cochran, a wealthy Baltimore resident, bought the vacant mansion at the northwest corner of the Washington Monument in 1905, a year after the Great Baltimore Fire, for the then-somewhat extravagant sum of $160,000.
In 1906, Cochran turned the mansion into 28 elegant apartments with an additional 29 rooms for servants. To prevent "skyscrapers" encroaching upon the monument area, the city instituted a 70-foot height limit within a block of the structure. The Washington Apartments came in at 69 feet, 8 inches.
"I knew one day I would live here," Canard said. "I feel there is nothing like it in the United States."
Canard and her husband of seven years, Jerry Murphy, would probably know, as they are real estate agents with Long & Foster and are well-traveled. In fact, Canard acted as her own agent when she bought the apartment in 2004 for $400,000. A co-op building since 1930, each of the now 35 apartments features spacious layouts and fine interior Beaux-Arts architecture seldom seen in today's homes.
"Our apartment is magnificent," she said. "And I knew this was the place for us. ... [Twelve-foot] ceilings, unbelievably detailed moldings and doors, inlaid hardwood flooring throughout, fireplace surrounds, original bathrooms and lots of windows. I love historic properties, and this fit the bill."
A hand-operated elevator, one of the few remaining in Baltimore, stops at the couple's floor, where their apartment is just steps away. The three-bedroom, two-bathroom unit is one of the largest in the building.
The entrance hall is aglow with soft light from a crystal chandelier and ginger jar lamps on either side of an antique, burled wood credenza. A long hall leads to the west-facing wing, off of which sit the kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms. Framed prints adorn the hallway.
"The kitchen is vintage, and our intent is to renovate it at some point," Murphy said. "But I must say it is comfortably large and is a gathering spot with our neighbors and friends."
The white cabinets and appliances, together with the black-and-white linoleum floor, date the room. But there is an urban ambience reminiscent of 18th- and 19th-century Europe, with flower pots on the window sill and a screen door opening to a porch and fire escape.
The bathrooms all have white tiling, ceramic borders in a deep green, leaf-like design and 1-inch ceramic tile flooring — all original to the building.
The master bedroom is classic and tasteful, with a mahogany four-poster bed covered in Victorian-style white linens as the focal point. Ginger jar ceramic lamps on wood end tables cast a soft light onto the three-bay window and cream draperies. A second bedroom/office features a bright chintz bedspread and matching draperies.
The third bedroom showcases a burled wood chest and built-in bookcases painted cream against dark taupe walls, and the bed is covered in a lace spread. Window frames are crafted with layers of molding, creating an impression of pleated draperies.
The two most classically beautiful rooms in the home are the living and dining rooms, which are accessed from the hall and foyer by three sets of glass French doors with ornate wood tracery. Combined with the inlaid wood flooring, Oriental carpets and silk-lined draperies, the rooms seem almost palatial.
It is in the living room, with its combination of traditional and mahogany Neo-Classical furniture, that the couple's love of antiques and art is most evident.
"Over the years and through my travels in the United States, the islands and abroad, I have accumulated pieces of wonderful art, silver and china that have remembrances of wonderful experiences," Canard said. "Antique shops have also provided me with Tiffany silver, English, French and Imperial stone china, vintage chandeliers, silk Persian antique rugs and fine linens."
All of her silver, china and artwork is displayed and used every day.
The round burled walnut table in the dining room is reflected in a gilt-framed 5-by-7-foot wall mirror. The large dining room window, with exterior concrete balusters and iron railings, provides an exquisite view of the historic Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church and the north end of Monument Square. Canard enjoys that view each morning with her coffee and newspaper — "a great way to start my busy day," she said.
And if the day is particularly hectic, she retreats to her guest room/office, where she delights in the artwork and photographs of her children and grandchildren. "I just look around and immediately feel warmth and contentment," she said.
The couple's friends and neighbors in the building and neighborhood make for what they feel is a close community. They share a determination to protect and maintain Mount Vernon's parks, historic homes and buildings.
"Not to mention one of the first historic monuments to George Washington," Canard said.
Have you found your dream home? Tell us about it. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.