Just a few months before her marriage, Molly Connolly walked into a summer cottage for sale on the Severn River. Built about 1930, the clapboard house was long and narrow. There was no dock at the water's edge, no water or plumbing, and no driveway.
Interior bedrooms were partitioned, dormitory style, along one side of the house. There were no closets, no real kitchen to speak of, and the once beautiful pine flooring was painted black.
"It was a dump," Molly Connolly said emphatically. "I told [my fiance] and the Realtor I'd never set foot in this house again!"
But she was persuaded to relent by her husband-to-be, who had spent childhood vacations on the Severn and dreamed of living on the water, and the real estate agent, a friend, who "planted the remodeling seed" in her head.
Now, 27 years and two renovations later, the dump is a faded memory. And for Tim and Molly Connolly, it's been the only home they've known.
The couple bought the Anne Arundel County cottage in 1980 for $123,500. It sat on a 50-foot-wide waterfront lot that stretches back from the river 400 feet.
"On the Realtor's [mapped-out] plot, our lot looks like a pencil," said Molly Connolly, a 55-year-old executive with the Anne Arundel County Board of Education.
Tim Connolly, his father and his brothers immediately tackled the first renovation, demolishing interior walls to open the interior space and install a workable kitchen. The couple spent about $65,000.
It wasn't until 1997, however, that the couple, now with two sons, was able to undertake a major re-do.
"I took my [$100,000] inheritance from my parents and we transformed this house into what it is today," Molly Connolly said.
Changes the second time around included all new electricity, plumbing, a pier, an 8-foot rear addition to the back and another kitchen remodeling.
A paved walk from the driveway leads to the cottage's side entrance. Tan vinyl siding, a gabled second story and burgundy shutters over three windows - one a three-paned bay - create a New England feel.
The home's 85-foot length is accentuated by its open design. The kitchen sits in the center, with a counter jutting almost halfway across its 30-foot width.
"This is where it all happens," Molly Connolly said, seated comfortably on one side of the counter.
The kitchen offers the cozy comfort of oak cabinets and an oak table and chairs. An 8-foot-long oak table and matching Windsor-backed chairs dominate the adjoining dining room. The home's pine flooring, no longer painted black, gleams beneath oriental rugs.
The living room's five floor-to-ceiling windows face the river, giving way to a deck designed to suggest the prow of a ship. Beyond that, a yard lush with old pine trees leads to the high banks that drop down to the Severn.
A space designed for comfort and relaxation, the living room features a welcoming fireplace and tufted blue leather sofa. Occasional tables and a library table, all in mahogany, hold treasured books and pieces of art.
Three bedrooms and two baths occupy the second level. The master suite, simply decorated, boasts a multipaned window that frames a river view.
Molly Connolly calls her cottage on the river the "forever home."
"Almost 30 years here, and I still pinch myself every day," she said.
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