Greg Alexander

An oasis in the City

Mason-Dixon Arrive, May 2006

Spring means the arrival of many things – flowers, baseball, warmer temperatures, our feathered friends and longer days. Another annual pastime this time of year is home tours where generous homeowners open their doors to the public so that home and garden enthusiasts can take a peak into some of the area’s most glorious homes for inspiration and ideas, while helping preserve and restore architecturally significant properties in the State of Maryland.

A tradition since the 1930s, the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage kicked off its tour last month with a series of tours throughout the state. This month, the tour continues with a stop in one of the area’s most glamorous neighborhoods. Roland Park, the first planned residential community in the Unites States, along with its Baltimore County neighbor, Woodbrook, is known for its natural landscape, as mature deciduous trees and winding roads provide an idyllic setting for homeowners. Gracious historic homes and strict preservation covenants add to the gorgeous setting.

Although the homes and gardens are the spotlight of the tour, chairperson Mary Meyer notes that historic preservation is still the focus of the tour. “People sometimes miss the fact that preservation is the real reason for the tour,” says Meyer, who also serves on the central committee for the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage that helps organizes all segments of the tour throughout the state. The Roland Park tour benefits the Homewood House Museum on the campus of Johns Hopkins University, particularly the privy located to the north of the house.

The tour includes several historic homes, the Homewood House Museum, the Woman’s Club of Roland Park, St. David’s Church and “Tyrconnell,” built in 1826 by John O’Donnell, son of Captain O’Donnell, the founder of Canton. Meyer’s home in Baltimore County, a circa 1928 two-story brick Georgian style home with a recent addition designed by Meyer’s daughter, will be on the tour, too.

Sana Brooks says that having her and her husband Andy’s home on the tour has helped serve as an inspiration to get the home and gardens ready to showcase. “That was one of the reasons that I decided to be part of the tour, as well as helping a great cause,” she says. Brooks’ stone Colonial home features a new addition that houses the gorgeous kitchen and sunroom and a tapestry of colors – a light green kitchen flows seamlessly to a Kona orange-colored dining room. However, the highlight of the Brooks’ home is their beautiful collection of family antiques. A Federal painted settee from 1825 graces the sunroom, along with a 1760 George III mahogany dining table, one of many pieces from the George III era. Meanwhile, the dining room features a stunning American Federal tall case clock from 1810 and a dining room table from the Parr estate auctioned at Mt. Royal station for MICA and bought by Sana’s parents in the 1960s.

Also in the dining room, the Brooks have Sana’s great-grandparents’ Baltimore Steiff silver service and a set of Fitzhugh orange bird and butterfly china from the early 1800s. A secretary with a bookcase from around 1800 is from the Sherwood estate, while a round mirror in the dining room is from Andy’s mother. Sana said that when she was decorating, she made a deliberate attempt to not have her house look too much like the one she grew up in. “I grew up with Oriental rugs, for example, so I didn’t want them in my house. I wanted my house to reflect my and my husband’s tastes,” she says.

Family pieces also adorn Peggy and John West’s home, which has a mixture of family and acquired antiques, Peggy West says. A native of Memphis, Tenn., West’s living room features a secretary she bought with her mother, a portrait of her mother above the fireplace and a fender from her mother-in-law, along with circa 1840s china and four Victorian side chairs. The sunny, warm, yellow-colored living room has big bay windows that overlook the garden, West’s favorite part of the home. “I’m a gardener, and I like to keep my garden simple so that it’s manageable,” she says. The backyard, complete with azaleas, perennial beds and a cutting garden behind the garage, is gorgeous in the spring and summer.

The Wests’ brick, New Orleans-style Colonial home was built in 1929, and a large tiled entrance hall contains a graceful, curving staircase. The sunroom provides the perfect place to play bridge, while the dining room’s highlight may be the Victorian card table said to have survived the 1900 hurricane in Galveston, Texas. “My grandfather was in the lumber business in Galveston because of the town’s influential port, and that’s where the table came from,” West says. “When we moved into this neighborhood 22 years ago, we were one of the youngest families; now we are one of the oldest. The great thing about our street is that there is a mix of housing styles and sizes, which brings in younger families with children.”

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