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At the base of Federal Hill, from her sun deck, our clients boasts of one of the best views that the city of Baltimore has to offer. Ms. Donahue’s newly renovated historic town house earned Thomson Remodeling an Award of Merit in the 2000 Maryland Remodeler of the Year Awards.

Enough original fabric of the home was saved to qualify the project for Maryland’s Heritage Preservation Tax Credit for the Rehabilitation of Historic Property. Twenty-five percent of the qualified capital costs qualify as a direct credit to Maryland state income tax and can be carried forward for ten years. Furthermore, city taxes on the project will be frozen for ten years.

The historic home was wired for the future by Gramophone. A central wiring system was installed on each level in the home. Wiring includes cat5 network, cable TV, telephone, speakers and Satellite hook-up. The project is a marriage of old and new that “didn’t create a dichotomy, they blended very well,”explained Ms. Donahue.

Built in the 1873, the home had undergone a modest restoration in the 1970's and needed a lot of structural help as well. Ms. Wests’ original vision was conceived as an addition to the basement level of the home that would contain a spa room above which would be a modest kitchen extension allowing for a new eating area. Central air and heat would be modernized and relocated and a first floor powder room would be created from the resulting space. The second floor (third level) would have new doors and a balcony added both to enhance the view from that level and to correct poorly installed windows from the previous remodel. The third floor was to under go some cosmetic changes to enhance storage capacity as well as the renovation of a deteriorated deck. David Knowlton of Knowlton-Nes conceived of the idea of a central utility shaft to enable the house plumbing, electric, and HVAC to be consolidated and isolated.

As negotiations proceeded it was discovered that the rear addition of the home, built at the turn of the twentieth century did not contain footers, explaining some of the severe settlement taking place. Simultaneously, a prospective new owner of the home next door proposed an expansion of that property that would have had serious disadvantages for our client. The plans for the home were then revised and it was decided to essentially scrap and remove the original addition and enlarge the rear of the home to match the project next door, building out to the property line. This would involve a larger kitchen on level two, a larger family room on level three and added later was a large private balcony on the top level with a breathtaking view of the Inner Harbor.

Another important concern of the home owner was to eliminate the unsightly collection of electric, phone and cable lines spoiling the view from the rear of the home. Relocating these utilities was a big problem and the ultimate solution has avoided us. A special “nook” was created on grade to house the electric meter and phone lines. Complicating the project was the need to keep an in home office in use through out the project. This resulted in temporary phone, electric and cable service for several homes on the street. Inaccessible narrow alleys and small passages between homes added to the difficulty of the job requiring special narrow scaffolding and even narrow mortar pans! As seen in some of the photos the area was “tight”. The neighbors were great and very understanding through out.

Job one was to build a thirty-seven foot high free standing masonry wall to anchor our extended floor rafters. Clyde wanted to conserve the original brick pockets in the remaining wall and maximize the interior space avoiding building new bearing walls. Preserving historic fabric was important so the original rafters were saved in place. Charles Kennedy of Kennedy Porter Engineering helped in this area. Naturally, once the rear addition was demolished a hard freeze set in making life and office work even more difficult. The sale of the adjacent property then fell through leaving our client out on a financial limb since we only needed one side of our 37 foot wall. The next surprise was that the heating duct work that had been installed previously was not hooked up, no wonder the house had been unusually chilly! The correction of this deficiency enabled us to remove vast areas of low ceiling in the ground level and a new wide bedroom now was free of duct interference.

With all the surprises finally uncovered, the project went rather smoothly from that point on. Everyone involved was very happy when the rear walls were completed and the space was closed in again. The doors and windows designed into the plan reveal dramatic views of the harbor from all but the basement level, and the patio as pictured is big enough for a block party but at the same time shielded in part for some privacy and quiet reading.

The Glass railings were Thomson’s idea, having discarded the wooden railings proposed as both obstructive and prone to maintenance. The original wooden deck proposed for the third floor became the “DuraDek” roof of the second floor.

A galvanized spiral staircase adds to the industrial feel of the original neighborhood and is complimented with some additional color matched glass rail containing the egress area of the first floor balcony.

While under way Ms. West added transoms to the second and third floor when more ceiling height resulted than expected. The most notable and unusual aspect of the job was the recreation in wood and stucco of the original masonry chimney attached to the home. The neighbor was concerned by the chimney’s demise as it also served as the anchor for her balcony railing. We killed two birds with one stone!

With the widening of the building, we were able to add an island and bar sink in the kitchen and have greater clearances around all the fixtures. The old heart pine flooring in the kitchen and second floor was salvaged and reinstalled in the new space created on the third floor and it also was installed as a border in the second floor with carpet inlaid within the border of pine.

A new second floor bath was added as well as a new closet to hold a stackable washer and dryer. A trap door in the bathroom allows the laundry to be placed in the laundry room. There is also an ironing center installed on the third floor so one can iron watching the sun rise over Baltimore!

Custom windows from Weathershield Mfg. Co. were installed on the upper floors in the front of the home, including arched top windows with muntons of different sizes and TDL units that no other manufacturer would make which were approvable by CHAPS. The original casings were salvaged, restored and painted and new casings where needed were created with multiple pieces of molding and dowels to replicate the originals.

The project added approximately 358 square feet over three levels. The balconies added an additional 310 square feet of usable exterior space. An evaluation of the home in its remodeled state would indicate that our client could sell the home today and turn a profit of approximately double or triple her capitalized cost!

David Knowlton of Knowlton-Nes Architects was responsible for the original plans. The masonry and stucco work were admirably done by Circon General Contractors, Bill Rothman and Steve Helowitz. The electric was Bill Doyle and the Casper Sippel Electric Co. Paul Binder owner of Binder Plumbing did the extensive plumbing and Atlantic Air under the direction of Art Darnell did heat and AC. Pella doors were used on each floor and Pella windows were installed in the kitchen. The front windows were supplied by Weathershield. The cabinets in the kitchen were from Bloch Industries In Rochester, New York. Washington Marble of Ijamsville, MD did the granite counter tops. Heart pine flooring was supplied by Baltimore Floor Supply in Timonium, MD, and Duradek Midatalantic supplied the PVC material for the balcony floors and the powder coated aluminum railing system. Photography was by Kevin Weber. Great vision of what the past and future could become were graciously provided by Fran West.

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Remodeling Services

Thomson Remodeling performs the following services: kitchen remodeling, bath remodeling, bathroom remodeling, kitchen design, slate roofing repair, gutters, additions, porch restoration, window replacement, roof repair, roof replacement, door replacement, flooring, counter-tops, skylight and flashing repairs. 

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Thomson Remodeling Company, Inc, 505 W Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21210,

Phone  (410) 889-7391

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