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Homeowner finds 3rd time buying house is the charm


Trent Waite owns three homes in Baltimore. His first acquisition, where he currently lives, is a beautifully rehabbed, 2 1/2 -story, brick rowhouse on Wolfe Street in Fells Point. Two years ago, he bought a second house - on Collington Avenue in Butchers Hill. This three-story, brick rowhouse has been luxuriously renovated. And, until a few months ago, he planned to move there.

Now, however, these two properties will be going on the market because Waite's third home - a recent purchase on Pratt Street just west of Patterson Park in Butchers Hill - is what he has always been looking for. He wasted no time going after his dream.

"I bought this house on a whim," said the 42-year-old mortgage consultant. "I was walking in the neighborhood and saw it was for sale. I was here in five minutes."

Waite wrote a contract within an hour. The imposing, three-story, red-brick home, with multiple-pane bay windows, a double-door entrance and a gabled roof of slate, offered Waite the space he had always wanted. And while the house was in move-in condition, he saw an opportunity to authentically restore it to its original state.

Standing in the second-floor hallway of the circa 1884 Victorian townhouse, Waite inspected the home's pine flooring, which had been sanded and coated in polyurethane. Tarps protected it from workmen's boots and the debris of the work.

Waite paid $420,000 for the 3,000-square-foot house, which includes four large bedrooms, two bathrooms, a powder room, five fireplaces, a living room, dining room, kitchen and side hallways on all three levels. Wider than many rowhouses at 17 feet, it stretches 70 feet from front to rear. A sally port (or narrow alley) separates the rear of the house from its neighbor.

$100,000 for floors

Waite spent an additional $100,000 to refurbish the wood floors, completely redo the kitchen, reglaze the original windows, install air conditioning and add wallpaper and paint.

Work began six weeks ago, when Waite settled on the house. He estimates that he'll be able to move in within four to six weeks, even though some of the restoration will not be complete.

"You gotta visualize," he said, remembering that he said those very words to his mother years ago when she was upset about the initial condition of the Wolfe Street house.

The charm of Waite's Victorian lies in its details. Every room showcases workmanship from a period when few niches were left unadorned. The owner points out the obvious: gleaming radiators in every room, wainscoting on the walls of the servants' staircase, a free-standing claw-foot tub in the center of a spacious bathroom, and brass chandeliers with milk-glass bulbs hanging from ornate plaster medallions on 12-foot ceilings.

Not-so-obvious details are like a page from an illustrated history book. In the hallways and in several of the rooms, for example, dime-size holes three-quarters of the way up the walls expose the ends of gas pipes. The lamps they once fed are, of course, long gone. (Waite noted that it is against the law to have indoor gas lighting, but gas porch lights are legal and have added 19th-century ambience to a few front entrances in the neighborhood.)

One striking touch

One striking touch is the double-door entry vestibule. Here, gold-painted tin squares in a bas-relief floral pattern cover the walls, rising 12 feet to a mirrored ceiling from which hangs a brass light fixture.

"I've never seen anything like this," Waite said excitedly, leading the way to the second-floor master suite. There, a bay window and trim fill the entire front wall. The center section is composed of a double-hung window, each sash divided into eight panes, with curved side windows, each again divided into eight panes.

But the standout are the unusual shutters. Six-inch molding frames the entire window wall. Inside the frame, rolling mahogany panels flank each side of the window. By day they remain in place. At night, for privacy, the panels close over the window to reveal two areas of framed wall where a mural can be painted. Waite plans to have a friend paint scenes of the Patterson Park pagoda there.

Late-19th-century builders spared no expense when it came to the use of wood molding. And, luckily, most of the ceiling and baseboard treatment is in its original state. Many of the doors feature 4-inch rosette (or bulls-eye) molding, while within the rooms wider and more intricately carved pieces join walls and ceilings.

Waite's vision for his dream home includes a modern addition - a third-story deck with steps to another, rooftop deck. From these lofty heights, Waite will be able take in breathtaking views of the harbor to the south, the city's skyline to the west, and Patterson Park to the east.

"There's so much potential here," Waite said. "Expense-wise, I hope I don't go crazy on this house."

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