With the restoration of so many of Baltimore's once grand homes, many are becoming gracious again.
Among them: Marianne Githens' magnificent Greek Revival style home in Mount Vernon.
She and her now deceased husband, Stanley Z. Mazer, purchased the circa 1840 freestanding home of Maryland stone and brick nearly 14 years ago. The attraction for the couple was immediate. It featured a large front garden enclosed by an original G. Krug & Son wrought-iron fence with the original finials. Beyond the gate, a cast-iron rose arbor welcomed them.
The main entrance boasts a southern exposure with a balcony and balustrade off the second floor. A three-story carriage house sits on the rear of the property, at the foot of a brick walled garden, where the original well had been converted to a fountain and fish pond.
The home's interior, however, left a bit more to be desired.
"It was derelict and in terrible shape," said Githens, a professor of political science at Goucher College.
What had originally been the home of Gov. George Howard, son of Revolutionary War hero John Eager Howard, had been broken up into doctors' offices.
Nevertheless, the property held enough charm, interest and historical significance for the couple to justify its then impressive $150,000 price tag. They settled in October 1994.
"After we signed on it, I called an architect," said Githens. "He said, 'Sell the contract as fast as you can!'"
The couple did not sell. Rather, they invested an estimated $400,000 to restore the property. The work included knocking out the walls that turned the home into offices, putting in a new heating system and kitchen, updating pipes and renovating the carriage house, now used as a garage and apartment.
The 6,000-square-foot home contains a vestibule, entrance foyer, drawing room, dining room, butler's pantry and large kitchen. A winding mahogany staircase ascends to the second and third floors, which have three bedrooms, two full baths and a library. Large arched openings visually connect the rooms.
Mahogany double front doors, hugged by side windows and crowned with a six-paned overhead transom, signal the elegance that lies within.
In the foyer, with its marble floor and walls painted a deep shade of terra cotta, are modern sculptures, the work of Githens' late husband. Her love of fabric and textiles is on display in the form of an 11-foot-high by 4-foot-wide Iranian tapestry on the wall opposite the front doors.
Another set of solid mahogany double doors opens into the home's center, which is dominated by the sweeping curves of the winding staircase. Immediately to the left is the drawing room, where a breathtaking pair of stained glass windows was added in 1868 "when the house was modernized," Githens said.
Mahogany wainscoting covers the lower walls, with the upper section painted terra cotta. Githens' many antiques, including an oak cabinet that was a wedding gift to her grandmother, rest on Georgia pine flooring.
Center stage in the large dining room is a 10-foot-long table of mixed woods. Other pieces include a circa 1890 carved oak sideboard and an 8-foot-high burled walnut armoire constructed in 1870.
Making the house a gathering place for friends, family and her students, Githens has embellished the walls with her husband's oil paintings and watercolors, while his sculptures are placed alongside furniture pieces and floor plants.
Githens loves the cheeriness of a kitchen remodeled with cherry cabinets and granite countertops.
An enclosed servants' hall runs along the entire west side of the first level. Today, it is used as a picture gallery, predominantly of family portraits.
In contrast to the terra-cotta shades of the first floor, the second and third levels are painted buttercup yellow.
Githens enjoys the satisfaction of having both home and carriage house listed on the National Register of Historic Houses. Additionally, she is a participant of Mount Vernon's annual Holly Tour of decorated homes.
"My home is large, but there are not many rooms," she said. "For me, it's very intimate."
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