Betty Loafmann's dream was to restore an old home - specifically, one from the antebellum period.
She loves city life; therefore, the home had to be in an urban location, one whose climate was a bit more agreeable than the cold Chicago winters she endured for many years.
When she was seriously contemplating a move to Baltimore, her friends envisioned her doing "something historic, and something involved with entertaining," she says.
During the fall of 2001, the mansion at 4 E. Madison St. in Mount Vernon went on the market. Here is where Loafmann fell upon the first half of her dream.
The second half would come after an initial purchase price of $410,000 in December 2001. Restoration would begin, and include a transformation into a bed and breakfast. Rehab started in May 2002. Betty moved in a month later.
"The house was structurally sound," she relates. "All of the important architectural details were here."
The three-story, red brick house of Federal design was built during the 1840s. Around the turn of the century, it was sold to a practice known as the 4 East Madison Clinic.
Occupied by orthopedic specialists at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the mansion was used as their offices. Additional occupants included an ad agency and a design house. Never having been divided into apartments, the interior retained its original floor plan and spacious layout.
"Renovation in the first seven months actually made it worse," remembers Loafmann, 60, who owns half of Advance Performance Technologies, a consulting firm based in Elko, Nev.
She invested another $700,000 turning the house into an inn.
"In order to operate as a B&B;, I had to install 11 new bathrooms, all new heat and plumbing, a sprinkler system, fire alarms and new wiring," she says.
The home as an inn also had to be handicapped-accessible. Necessaries included a ramp placed at street level and an outdoor elevator attached to the side porch. The interior already contained an elevator to the third floor.
At 149 feet in length, the home is a half-block long and 30 feet wide for a total of 11,000 square feet, not including the basement.
The east side features a bricked garden, including a fishpond and fountain, old magnolia trees and a newly constructed wood veranda providing access to the side entrance.
Just beyond double French doors, a large dining area showcases a long mahogany table resting upon a handmade needlepoint rug in pastel floral motif, one of six throughout the home.
Two-tone walls, separated by wide molding, are adorned in shades of berry and taupe, a nice contrast to the slate fireplace (one of five) along the west wall. A massive gilt and wood-framed mirror over its mantel reflects the light of a brass chandelier suspended from an ornate ceiling plaster medallion, one of several and original to the home.
Original as well is the oak flooring throughout, as well as floor-to-ceiling "pocket doors" separating the dining room, the rear parlor, front parlor and hallway, which runs the length of the house on the west side.
"Thanks to the pocket doors, we can entertain guests who wish to have private meetings," Loafmann explains. "The main rooms are closed off from the reception hallway."
The parlors are painted a bright cadet blue topped with white crown molding. The Regency feel to the rooms is enhanced by upholstered gold, low-backed sofas and Queen Ann armchairs in soft reds and burgundies.
Visitors who see the grand staircase and its marble-floored hallway are always impressed.
"It is one of the things we most fell in love with," Loafmann says.
The three-tiered, sweeping mahogany staircase heads back 24 feet before making its turn under a 19th-century, 6-by-9-foot leaded stained glass skylight.
Behind the staircase, toward the rear of the home, a servants hallway is hidden beyond doors with frosted glass windows. This hallway, which is replicated on the second and third floors, leads to the kitchen on the main level. The kitchen boasts a U.S. Commercial Gas Range and a steel, three-compartment sink. The cabinetry is painted bright yellow. A lighted, miniature porcelain village on a shelf along the room's north wall provides a homey touch.
Beyond the kitchen, private living quarters consist of three bedrooms and a living room.
On the second and third levels, Loafmann offers a tour of the nine guestrooms she has decorated, each in a different motif and period.
She estimates that one-third of the furnishings in the home's 19 rooms, plus 13 baths, were brought from Chicago. An additional $100,000 was spent on the rest of the pieces.
"The home is exactly as one would imagine true Mount Vernon elegance a century ago," says Rick Ferguson, a friend who attended the inn's open house recently.
Sandy Lawler is Loafmann's business partner. She lives on the premises along with her husband and daughter.
Both women said their hope is to see some return on their investment, which is now well over $1 million.