By Claudia Decarlo
My daughter and I had been working with a real estate agent for several months. We must have looked at two or three dozen homes, liking some, not liking others. But as soon as we turned the corner onto the 1600 block of Bolton Street for the first time, we started to feel a connection. First, to the neighborhood.
We came very early, because I figured we’d never find parking. But we found a spot right away. I commute to DC, and I was surprised to find this picturesque tree-lined street, quiet and peaceful, within walking distance to Penn Station.
Are there really neighborhoods like this in Baltimore?
We climbed the steps up to the tall front doors, a bit faded, a bit weathered. We turned the knob, a little loose from age or overuse or both. Exchanging nervous but excited glances with each other, we crossed the threshold, and never looked back.
Walking through the house was like reading a book you’ve never even heard of before and being unable to put it down. Every room offered something new, a different storyline, a curious surprise, a plot twist. In fact, if this home was a book, we had to read it twice, since we literally had to walk through it a second time to take it all in.
The vintage drinking glasses on the piano bar, the dark wood trim throughout. The dining room took my breath away. The crooked stairs going up to the second level. My head said, Note to self: Ask the seller’s agent about this. My heart said, I wonder how many children have run up and down these stairs over the past hundred years?
Upstairs we instantly knew exactly where things would go. We are both avid readers, so you can imagine how excited we were about having room to build a library. Back downstairs, we got temporarily lost trying to find the kitchen. When we learned the kitchen was in the basement, we looked at each other, speechless.
Really? Can we deal with the kitchen in the basement?
We climbed downstairs and walked around, excitement continuing to build. My daughter said to me, “We’re keeping the kitchen in the basement.”
We’re keeping this house.
“But this house needs so much work,” I protested. She responded, “No Mom. It needs so much love.” She’s an old soul. She was right.
People say, “Wow, great house! You must be really handy!” I am not. Or, “Wow, you must have a big family!” I do not. It probably makes no sense that I bought this house, but I really want to go on a journey with this house—perhaps since I am on my own journey after what has been a particularly challenging year for me, personally. I see the renovation process as a great responsibility. I want to make this house our home, but in such a way that respects its past and builds upon it without trying to re-write it, just like I am doing in my own life.
Sometimes it takes something old to build something new.