Dating back to the 1760s, Fell’s Point is one of Baltimore City’s most historic neighborhoods. Home at one point to a myriad of immigrants from Poland, Russian, Germany, Ireland and most recently to those from Latin and South America, the waterfront neighborhood today is known for its funky atmosphere and its bars, restaurants, antique stores, boutiques and municipal markets.
Less well known are the many historic homes that have been restored over the course of the past 50 or so years by those seeking to return to the city. And one of the best-kept secrets is that for the past 40-plus years visitors have the opportunity—only one day a year–to go behind the scenes and have a bird’s-eye view of many of these dwellings, courtesy of Preservation Society’s sponsorship of the Fell’s Point Historic Harbor House Tour.
While houses on the tour change from year to year, there are a few “perennials.” One of those is the Garden and Palace on Dallas (410-418 S. Dallas St.), home to John Waters cohorts in mischief, Vincent Peranio and Dolores Deluxe. Over the course of the years, the couple purchased several adjacent buildings and created a single-walled garden that boasts flowering trees, vines, plants and statuary that might remind one of Tuscany. Inside visitors can see the original 1830s interior with the home’s original fireplace—used for cooking—and other restored rooms.
Another of the perennials is the Thomas Lamdin House (802 S. Anne St.). Lamdin was the owner of a local shipyard best known for its production of clipper ships. In the mid-1970s the home was purchased by current owners Laura and Tony Norris—additionally the proprietors of the popular Fell’s Point restaurant Bertha’s—who have spent years restoring the building, converting several chopped-up apartments into a private residence with a music room where concerts are given for the enjoyment of friends and neighbors. To say the two have created an elegant home would be an understatement. It is a stop not to be missed.
(Little-known trivia about the building: It was once home to U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, the longest serving woman in the U.S. Congress.)
While not one of the perennials, other notable homes have included that of Donna and Jacques Vieyra (719 S. Ann St.) and Myrna Poirier (717 S. Ann St.) While the houses boast cypress boards and a two-story atrium with skylight, among other details, it is the back yard that captivates one. The two homeowners combined both yards into one, each with its distinctive style that nonetheless compliment each other: A centerpiece is a grapevine that has been thriving for more than 75 years. A perfect place for cocktails with friends on a warm night.
At 1613 Shakespeare St., Tim and Mara Duke’s 1850’s home began a serious renovation in 1980s. At the time a vacant home, the couple purchased it in an auction when the city originally had planned an I-95 extension through the neighborhood (an extension that was sent to an early grave by the determined efforts of preservationists, including Barbara Mikulski, determined not to see the neighborhood decimated). The family—including their three children—has created an enchanting abode that includes materials such as entry doors from nearby Johns Hopkins Hospital and original Victorian moldings. The state-of-the-art-kitchen’s brick floors have been salvaged from other city houses.
For those who need to take a break from this self-guided walking tour, a few watering holes and eateries to consider include Kooper’s Tavern (1702 Thames St.), the Black Olive Restaurant (814-816 Bond St.), Jimmy’s Restaurant and Carry Out (801 S. Broadway) a one-of-a-kind experience if ever there was one, or one of the many stalls at the Broadway Markets. But that hardly begins to cover the many, many options to sit down and refuel before continuing to explore the neighborhood and the other homes on the tour.
For more information about future tours, contact the Preservation Society and Fell’s Point Visitors Center (www.preservationsociety.com)