Cedarwood scheduled for auction


An article in Sunday's Real Estate section incorrectly reported the date of the auction of Cedarwood, a landmark, 60-room mansion in North Baltimore. The auction was scheduled for 9:42 a.m. Friday in front of the city's Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse.

The Sun regrets the error.

The Cedarwood estate, a landmark, 60-room mansion in North Baltimore -- complete with a third-floor ballroom, indoor swimming pool and black-and-white tiled "great hall" -- appears headed for a foreclosure auction Wednesday.

The imposing stone home with wrought-iron railings sits on a 3 1/2 -acre wooded hill at the end of a long driveway at 4604 N. Charles St., across from the College of Notre Dame. When he built the home in the late 1920s, Commercial Credit Corp. founder Alexander E. Duncan spared no expense on interior luxuries, finishing bathrooms in Italian marble, putting dressing rooms in 13 bedroom suites and building servants quarters above a separate, four-car garage.

As of late last week, Harvey West Auctioneers of Towson planned to auction the estate in front of the city's Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse. But an attorney for owners Geza L. Kovacs, a chemical engineer, and Ursula Kovacs said his clients hoped to stave off the sale by tomorrow. The owners intend to pay their debt and refinance a high mortgage interest rate which they blame for their financial troubles, said attorney Howard A. Rubenstein.

Fortune Bank of Clearwater, Fla., foreclosed on Cedarwood Nov. 10 after the owners stopped paying on a $475,000 second loan in May. The Kovacs, who bought the home in Mrs. Kovacs' name in 1977 and refinanced in 1988, owed $426,325 in principal and late charges, plus late interest at 10.75 percent, court documents show.

Homes in the upscale Blythewood neighborhood have been known to sell in the million-dollar-plus range, said Nancy C. Hubble, a partner with W.H.C. Wilson & Co. Realtors, which sells homes in the area. She estimated the market value of Cedarwood, adjacent to the Boumi Temple, at close to $1 million.

"It's an incredible house," she said.

Mr. Duncan built what became known as the Duncan Mansion from 1926 to 1928. Architect Lawrence Hall Fowler designed the home with a 47-by-20-foot great hall in black-and-white marble running the width of the house. The hall opened into a living room, dining room, morning room, library, music room and sun room. He designed bedroom suites on the second floor and a ballroom on the third and built 18-inch-thick walls.

In the early 1970s, after the Duncans' death, Nicholas J. and Kathleen Kohlerman bought the home, raised six children there and even held one daughter's wedding on the grounds, which has a stone gazebo and small bridge. When the Kohlermans moved in, they found 100 bottles of champagne stocked in the basement wine cellar. It looked like the Duncans had made little use of the 13 fireplaces.

The mansion drew 20,000 paying visitors during three weeks in 1977 when the Kohlermans donated the home for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's first Decorator Show house. Thirty interior designers decorated 32 rooms, and the sponsor, the BSO Women's Association, raised $70,000 for the symphony.

At the time, the Kohlermans had put the home on the market because it had become too difficult and expensive to maintain. It took four furnaces to heat a huge house that had two wings and row upon row of long windows. Dr. Kohlerman, a gynecologist and urologist at St. Joseph Hospital, recalled having to transport garbage cans to the end of the driveway -- a tenth of a mile long -- on his car.

Between property taxes and upkeep, it could cost $40,000 a year by now to maintain the mansion, Dr. Kohlerman estimated. City records show property taxes on Cedarwood came to more than $20,000 this year.

According to Dr. Kohlerman, he bought the house for $220,000 and sold it to the Kovacs for $380,000.

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