Monday, December 13, 2010

The House

As I mentioned in the first post of this blog, our house is a 19th century, three story, brick row house. It is the third house from the left on the east side of a long neighborhood block in an historic district in Baltimore, Maryland.

We are one of a triplet, as are many of the houses on our block. The house to our right and the house to our left shared our identical, though mirrored, original floor plan. A century and a half of changing owners and changing lifestyles has individualized each one. Their facades differ from ours only in the decorative first floor balconies, front gardens, and trim colors. Our trim was once a sort of deep sea green, but it has faded to grey blue.

We are one of the only houses on the block that has retained its original (or, original style, at least) front shutters, though we only have about 60% of them left. Our neighbors tell us the rest fell during Hurricane Floyd in '99. Those that fell seem to have been collected and stored in our garage where they have each lost their bottom few inches of wood to rot.

We have a skinny side yard which opens up to a long backyard that ends with a garage which in turn opens onto an alley.

The plot of land, and thus the row house itself, is 18 feet wide. The north wall steps in, away from the neighbor's house, twice, allowing for sunlight and fresh air to reach the center of the house. Windows in the step-in walls allow for excellent cross-ventilation. It can get down-right windy in there, if you set the windows accordingly.

Now, I've said, repeatedly, that the house is three storys tall, and it is. I didn't lie. But once you climb above the first floor, the front of the house and the back of the house, split by the main stair, are not at the same elevations.

Longitudinal Section Through Center of House

You may have noticed what appear to be doors to nowhere on the back wall of the house at the first and second floors. You are not mistaken.

The bottom door leads to the basement. The one above, to the first floor. Above that, the second.

This house once had porches. Pretty, wooden porches. Deteriorated by weather and neglect, the reportedly structurally treacherous, pretty, wooden porches were removed before T&H bought the house. We are left with their footings, their nailers, and the gaping holes their beams once anchored in. 

Back inside the house, the upper floors house the bedrooms, four of them, and each bedroom has a bathroom.

Our neighbors on the block are interesting, friendly people with many a great story to tell. A handful of these neighbors grew up in the houses they have since inherited and moved back into. One woman who lives across the street with her husband in a gorgeously preserved home, explained to Hyeseung and I how the neighborhood had changed, and not changed, over the last sixty years. One interesting point she made was that, though it may seem to some that the renting out of rooms in these houses is a sign of recent times, it's actually a trend that dates back at least half a century. She recalled not only which families in which houses had converted their homes to include an apartment, but also the tenants themselves: a nurse, a librarian, single working women in the 1950's.

Our house has one such apartment on the third floor, and it's where Toby and Hyeseung are living right now.

I hope this has provided a decent snapshot of the size and layout of the house. Now to get back to work on it! But first, sleep, and then to the Permit Office.

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