KNOCKING ON WOOD:
FELL’S POINTERS WIN PRESTIGIOUS WHITE HOUSE AWARD FOR PRESERVING HISTORIC HOME.
It was quite a gamble: deciding to try and fix up a condemned house, one of the few remaining historic wooden ones of its kind in Baltimore. Empty for 25 years, the house could just as easily have been left to the wrecking ball.
Now that gamble has paid off in winning a select award for preservation signed by Michelle Obama: The Preserve America Steward Award. Since these awards began in 2009, only an average of seven have been given out nationwide each year. And now a Fell’s Point organization will get one on April X, in a ceremony at the little wooden house at 1627 Aliceanna Street.
“It’s a wonderful recognition of the restoration work we do with Fell’s Point houses,” said Ellen von Karajan, director of the Fell’s Point Preservation Society. “For many of these old places, we are their last resort. And it’s a pity we can’t save more. These houses are so full of our rich, local history.”
The Preservation Society currently has six historic houses in various states of repair. they range from the 1765 Robert Long house, oldest residence in Baltimore and the organization’s current headquarters, to a small 1732 wooden house on Wolfe Street whose roof is slowly caving in.
“We’re pretty much knocking on wood that the money comes along to fix that one up”, said von Karajan.
Also on the Preservation Society list, and next to the fixed up Aliceanna house, is one called The Captain’s Hotel that von Karajan says at one time housed “one of Fell’s Point’s most notorious houses of ill-repute.”
“In the front was a bar where gents would pause for a drink and to pay for their ‘entertainment’. They would proceed to an inner bar to meet the ladies who worked there and to pick one. Then they would go upstairs.”
Over three years the team that fixed up the 1627 Aliceanna Street wooden house included the Preservation Society, as well as volunteers and researchers and archeologists from UMBC. Some of the latter painstakingly sifted through the layers of soil beneath the house, finding and cataloging historic artifacts. On April X they will collectively receive the Preserve America Steward Award in a ceremony inside the renovated wooden house on Aliceanna.
Called The Academy, the house was built in 1797 by Nicholas Leeke a noted Fell’s Point school master who instructed his pupils there. By the time of the War of 1812 it was owned by a ship’s captain and was also owned by a physician who fought the yellow fever in Fell’s Point and treated patients in the Civil War. Later it was acquired by the Dashiell sisters, descendants of Captain Henry Dashiell, who married the original schoolmaster’s daughter. They sisters donated the house to the Society in 2005.
After the award ceremony, the house will get some final interior work including the addition of a kitchen. Then it will rented out as a residence.
“Hopefully, “ said von Karajan, “ to someone who appreciates history. After all, they will be living this historic house’s next chapter.”