Thursday, October 29, 2020

5502 N. Charles Street: A Disaster in Real Time

My friend, the brilliant artist and architect, Jerome Gray, has a series of sketches he calls "dead building walking." And that's exactly what this formerly charming, Moderne house is currently experiencing.

This house is located on the corner of Charles Street and Northern Parkway. It's been on and off the market for ages. It seems to have recently been sold and there's some unfortunate work going on with the house. 

The listing says that the house was built in 1947, which would make it very late on the Palmer and Lamdin timeline. But there were enough elements in the house to make it an elegant little place. 

Let's start at the front. There was an elegant copper canopy over the front door.

Very graceful. Fits beautifully with the style of the house, doesn't it?

Recently, we noticed that there was some activity going on with the house. 

It was looking ominous. Sadly, this house sits just outside two neighborhoods with fairly strict covenants, so there are no design standards which are imposed on home owners.

As I was driving by the other day, I could see that more work had been done, but at the risk of crashing, I couldn't see what. Then a friend posted this:

As a reminder, we're in Maryland, not on the ranges of Montana. This is so inappropriate to the house. What was someone thinking??? What next, a split-rail fence?

Here's the other crime. Originally, there were steel corner windows which fit with the Moderne theme of the house. 

At some point, seemingly around 2015, they were changed to vinyl sash windows. Borderline criminal.

There are still ghosts of the original interior, including the staircase and arched doorways. 

But honestly, we're waiting with great trepidation as to what comes next. Transformation into a log cabin?


  1. Wow, this breaks my heart. We lived in this home for ten years from 2000 to 2010, when we relocated to Atlanta, in the midst of the economic recession. It was a beautiful yet frigid home in the winter, as the aluminum windows were awful! We got bids to replace them, but never had the heart to ruin the aesthetic. I found a silver 1947 quarter in the back yard, while digging to make a garden for my children. It was a sunny, warm and unique home -even to this day, I will meet Baltimoreans who know it. So sad to see.... If you continue to Bellona and North Charles, you will see a sister house on the soutwest corner, in the very same style.

  2. As a note, when we first bought the house, it had pale green Cape Cod shutters tacked to either side of some windows, totally out of scale and architecturally inappropriate. I pulled into the driveway one day, and looked at them as if I had noticed them for the first time. We removed them soon after that, had the house patched and painted bright white. Good times.

  3. My husband and I have low key stalked this house for years. We were in it before the 2015 renovation. At that time it had been sitting empty for several years and was owned by the bank. There was significant water damage and the upstairs bathroom had partially collapsed into the lower. The water damage also led to extensive black mold under the kitchen. Basically the bank still wanted so much for it and it needed so much work that we knew it wouldn't be a feasible project for us. We were heartbroken when those windows were pulled out and I almost wrecked my car when I saw that HIDEOUS new front.

  4. Seeing this immediately reminded me of 311 Southway, another 1947 home suffering a similar fate.