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Hot property: Historic 19th century townhome offers multigenerational housing or rental income

Address: 510 Cathedral St., Baltimore

List price: $1,375,000

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Years built: 1846-49 (original house); 1890 (upper stories)

Real estate agent: Ron Howard of RE/MAX Advantage Realty

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Last sold price/date: For $575,000 on Nov. 14, 2005

Property size: 8,250 square foot, five-story home; includes seven bedrooms, eight full bathrooms and two half-bathrooms plus a detached two-car garage.

Unique features: This late Greek revival townhome in the shadow of the Walters Art Museum was originally owned by George R. Gaither Jr., a Confederate captain and cotton merchant whose ancestors built Gaithersburg. Gaither received the house as a wedding gift from his father, according to a history posted in the home’s hallway. He was captured by Union forces during the second Battle of Bull Run, held briefly, released during a prisoner exchange and resumed fighting, according to the Library of Congress.

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After returning to Baltimore, Gaither worked as a cotton trader, and this trade is referenced in the plaster medallions in the parlor, which take the form of cotton leaves.

During the past century and a half, the house has undergone its share of renovations and has been used for everything from a rooming house in 1938 to a halfway house for the criminally disturbed in 1969.

Now, the building consists of a main owners’ unit stretching over five stories; a one-bedroom, bi-level apartment; and two studio apartments, each with a separate exterior entrance. They could be used either for rental units or as multigenerational housing conveniently located at the same address.

But many of the ornate architectural details remain, from the elaborate crown molding and multiple, mood-setting chandeliers. The home’s standout feature is its “piano nobile” or lavishly decorated, double parlor with built-in bookcases and large, historic pier mirrors.

This house features wide plank hardwood floors and 11 fireplaces, some made from decorated, carved marble.

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Not all the period details are oversized and immediately obvious. The new owners’ hands will grip fancy period doorknobs, and their feet will walk over hallway grates that served as the 19th century’s answer to central air-conditioning.

A rarity for the city, this house comes with an enclosed courtyard with a central green space and a paved brick patio large enough for al fresco dining.


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