In 2000, Jill and I took over a large, Baltimore Victorian town house that was a trashed fraternity. A few years later, after lead poisoning and other mishaps, we married in the house. In 2008 our rehabbing efforts were featured in THIS OLD HOUSE magazine. We're still working on it at http://houselove.org.
My girlfriend Jill and I first saw the big brick Victorian row house in December 1999. It was in an old Baltimore neighborhood and had sat abandoned for nearly a year. It was such a wreck that most prospective buyers walked in, took one look, then promptly walked out. The place had been owned by a notorious fraternity for one riotous decade. We didn’t know this at the time. You couldn’t tell from the outside how bad the inside was. Three stories tall, made of pumpkin-colored brick, with three bays on every floor and a witch’s-cap tower at its foremost corner, the house was the jewel of the block—or had been. It seemed the kind of place that might have grand rooms, secret passageways, ghosts. more here:
Cleo and I love Savannah, GA, which we just visited as part of our “From Animal House to Our House” book tour. Although it’s often paired with Charleston — they are of similar age and size — it’s quite different. The first difference is Savannah’s elegant, grassy squares, shaded by moss-draped live oaks. The second thing you’ll notice is the city’s seedy edges and artistic funk. Savannah is a city of artists, thanks to the predominance of SCAD — the Savannah College of Art and Design. The college produces architects, graphic designers, painters, sculptors, art historians, city planners, product designers, and all kinds cultural visionaries who are making their mark on Savannah in subtle ways, from the look of shop windows to the curriculum in local schools... read more at Houselove Posted 23 hours 56 min ago.
Cleo and I have just spent three days in Charleston, S.C., an amazing city if you like old architecture. It’s as old here as anywhere in the U.S.A. What’s amazing about the architecture is that in the 1700s, well-to-do Charlestonians were living in as high a style as their counterparts in London. In other words, their buildings were neither crude nor modest. As one historian explained to me: “Charleston was New York before there was a New York to speak of.” Early on, there was surprising diversity in Charleston, due to its port traffic, its proxmitiy to the Carribean, and its religious tolerance. It became known as the “City of Steeples” and remains distinctive for its numerous grand (mostly protestant) churches... read more at Houselove Posted 1 week 17 hours ago.
I’ve got a problem: I can’t stop eating barbecued pork as I book tour the South with Cleo in my custom camper van — to promote the paperback of From Animal House to Our House. Whenever anybody wants to take me out to dinner, I ask, “Do you know a good barbecue joint?” And they always do — because those joints are everywhere in the South. And, if I drive by one myself, I’ve got to stop. Just tonight I had my menu set: I was going to make a big salad. Heart healthy. I was feeling righteous. I was on the mend from my BBQ binging. But then, just as I was about to reach my destination for the night (a Walmart parking lot) I passed Harry’s, a quirky roadside diner that promised jaw-droppin’ pork BBQ... read more at Houselove Posted 2 weeks 1 day ago.
Most people call a camper van a “home on wheels,” and this is true but not wholly accurate: a camper van is more like a boat on wheels. Driving off in a camper van is like launching a boat — because, unlike a house, you are untethered in a camper van and as adrift as you can be on dry land.
Cleo and I are once again adrift on the American highways as I tour the nation to promote the paperback edition of From Animal House to Our House. The difference between this year’s trip and last year’s is that I’ve added a lot of refinements to my little custom camper van. For starters, I’ve strapped more things down... read more at Houselove Posted 3 weeks 1 day ago.
After a spate of heavy rain, the skies cleared, the temperature dropped to a crisp high of 50, and all of Baltimore came out to enjoy a brilliant sunny Saturday. Jill and I joined the crowd to do some major shopping. “Major” for us means driving from from one end of town to the other, looking for bargains. We started at Second Chance, a downtown architectural warehouse, where I got a big piece of vintage plywood for $5. Yes, that’s the kind of excitement we seek: material for our house and its many projects.
As we drove east, cutting through heavy traffic, I pointed out a guy crossing the street. I happen to know him. He’s an odd duck, I explained to Jill, but a super friendly guy, probably with a couple of screws loose... read more at Houselove Posted 4 weeks 3 days ago.
The other day, the college students I teach informed me that they had never heard of beatniks. If you’re as old as I, you may find this surprising, even confounding. I assume, as you probably assume, that — immersed as they are in the high-tide of internet information — these kids know most elements of pop culture. What could be more fundamentally pop-cultural than the beatniks?
Granted, the beats were a long time ago, actually even before my time, but they were so integral to our stock of stereotypes for so long, it’s hard to believe they have disappeared finally as a point of reference. To give my students a clear snapshot of the beatnik, I played a clip of Maynard G... read more at Houselove Posted 6 weeks 1 day ago.
Last week, Jill and I visited the Shaw mansion in western Maryland. Jill found it on the internet when she was trawling for old houses, as she often does because we’re crazy about old houses. I was scheduled to do a reading at the very cool Gordon-Roberts House in Cumberland. The Shaw mansion is about forty minutes away, tucked into the hills — in Barton, Maryland.
The Shaw mansion is significant enough to be on the National Register of Historic Places “as an unusually large and well-preserved example of the style [Italianate] for its area, with stone trim, detailed brick bonding, cast-iron mantels and much of the original interior woodwork.” You should know that being listed on the National Register does not protect a house from being torn down... read more at Houselove Posted 7 weeks 2 days ago.
We took Mason, our American Bulldog, to obedience training this morning. Although he’s eager to please, he has his challenges. The thing about dogs is that they need a lot of structure. In the absence of stucture (discipline), dogs get anxious and try to take charge. They’ll take charge of you, if you let them. You’ve seen dog owners who let this happen: those who believe their dogs can do no wrong and have no idea how to control their out-of-control beast. Their dogs may leap upon you, eat your lunch, and pee on your shoe — all while the owner, thirty yards away, calls sweetly: “Now, now, Fido, be a good boy.”
Dog experts tell know that your dog will be most relaxed — and in control — when you show him that you’re the boss. Dogs are followers: they want to be part of the pack... read more at Houselove Posted 9 weeks 4 days ago.
Today was Baltimore’s first truly springlike day of the season — right on time, because when we in the mid-Atlantic get to March, winter is done with us. It removes itself to the far north and our spring unfurls fairly quickly. That said, we know not to rush it. February in Baltimore can be bitter cold. And yet, just last week, during a day when the temperature did not rise above 32, I saw a young man walking across campus wearing a t-shirt, thin corduroys, and sneakers. Clearly he was making a statement. No, it wasn’t about wishful thinking; it was about his determination to look impervious to the cold.
This bad-weather bravado seems common among teenagers. I see more than a few kids wearing flip-flops on a winter day. Or wearing pajama bottonms in a blizzard... read more at Houselove Posted 12 weeks 1 day ago.
Last week I went to the post office and mailed a package. The next day, that same package turned up on my doorstep — delivered by the United States Postal Service. It seemed like a joke but I knew what had happened, because this had happened before: apparently, the mail sorter had looked only at the return address — the tiny label on the back of the parcel — and assumed this was the destination.
So he gave it to the carrier and the carrier a) did not notice that he was delivering a package using the tiny label on the back of the parcel, b) did not notice that the postage was on the other side of the parcel, and c) did not notice the LARGE address with the postage on the other side of the parcel... read more at Houselove Posted 14 weeks 12 hours ago.