Thursday, July 4, 2013

Row, Row, Row Your House

I didn't grow up in Baltimore, but my father did, and so it has always been part of the fabric of my life.

Summers meant piling into the car for a road trip to Charm City. Early on, that road trip was a quick three hours from New Jersey. Later, it was a marathon twelve hours from Atlanta. When we arrived, we ate treats from the ice cream trucks on the front steps of our uncle and grandmother's semi-detached row house. We played hop scotch in the side alley and begged our parents for quarters to buy candy at the corner store. We made bets and dared each other to go into the dark, scary, unfinished basement, a place that was better described by the word cellar.

All day, the screen door of that house flapped against its frame and produced cousins and aunts and uncles well into the night. Dinner was a rotating cast of family at the dining room table. And we went visiting to see other family members in other row homes, with marble front steps and stained glass windows and signs for lake trout sandwiches in the windows of nearby mom and pop restaurants.

Baltimore is known for its row houses, which were originally created as spec homes for immigrants, a way for the city to brag to the world that its immigrant and poor families lived in three bedroom homes and not tenements. The row house grew from housing for the new and/or underprivileged into true mixed housing for both the very rich and the very poor. Today, the Baltimore row house is a  unique symbol of both the city's past and its future - and the gorgeous and remarkable architecture is almost a state secret.

People tend to dismiss Baltimore and gravitate toward the throbbing power of Washington, DC or the international flash and flare of New York City. Meanwhile, in a sprawling city that hugs the Chesapeake, there's all this:




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What can I say? That's gorgeous, hon.

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