Historic House Tour and Tea
The community of Roland Park, situated inside the Piedmont Forest, is known throughout Baltimore for winding roads, rolling hills and lavish real estate. Rows of extravagant houses with neatly trimmed lawns line Roland Avenue and its surrounding landscape. One of these homes is helping to contribute thousands of dollars to a Baltimore charity.
The house that is located at 4711 Roland Ave. sits in the middle of an oak-tree lined block, the third in a row of eight charming residences facing what was once the town’s central promenade. From March 8 to 13 the newly renovated house was the setting for the Historic House Tour and Tea, an event in which community members were invited to explore 4711 Roland Ave. and bid on furniture and artwork displayed inside its many rooms.
The rooms were decorated by local designers, who filled the space with donated furniture and artwork of various styles. The house’s sun porch was converted into a tea room in which visitors could purchase refreshments. Proceeds from the refreshments, as well as a portion of item and ticket sales, were donated to Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland.
“This is the first time we’ve ever done this, and it’s very exciting,” said Chris Merriken, development coordinator for the organization. “We’ve spent a lot of time publicizing the event and coordinating with designers, so we’re hoping to do well with it.”
Volunteers for Family and Children’s Services worked with designers for several months in order to prepare for the event. Before that, renovators spent six months restoring the house into a space that was suitable for public view. At this time last year, 4711 Roland Ave. was not in good shape.
A century after the creation of the revered home that was made for Jeanneret, its rich structure and lush details had fallen into disrepair. At around the turn of the century, Jeanneret sold the house to Dr. Firmadge Nichols, whose family resided there for the next three generations. During that time, little renovations or repairs were made, and much of 4711’s grandeur was lost.
That began to change in July 2004, when the house was bought by Patrick and Laurie FitzGerald, historic renovators and owners of FitzGerald Design-Build. The FitzGeralds worked hands-on with their renovation company for nearly six months in order to restore the home to its earlier splendor. Workers spent approximately 5,000 total hours on the house, refurbishing flooring, stripping walls, and relocating rooms, among other things.
“It was a beautiful house that needed to be brought back from a bit of lack of maintenance,” Patrick
FitzGerald said. “It was in pretty rough shape, but it certainly had great architecture and a beautiful structure. It just needed a lot of work to bring it back to its full potential.”
Once renovations were complete, the FitzGeralds brought the idea for a fundraising event to Family and Children’s Services. The two were given the idea for a tour when approached by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra for a similar event. Laurie FitzGerald had served on several Family and Children’s Services’ committees before, so when the BSO fundraiser didn’t work out, they immediately thought of bringing the tour idea to the organization they had worked with so many times before.
The FitzGeralds also provided crucial help in getting designer donations for the event.
"Laurie is a past chairman of the Baltimore County Historical Trust and she has a retail antique store, so she knew a lot of the designers that she was able to invite to participate here,” Patrick Fitzgerald said.
Different designers decorated each room in the house, filling everything from bedrooms to the back porch with furniture, artwork and decorations. Tour volunteer Sharon Thompson said that visitors were curious to see the change of decor from room to room.
“They find the difference in style and the matching of colors just wonderful,” Thompson said.
Nearly all of the items displayed inside the house were available for visitors to buy. A portion of the sales went to Family and Children’s Services to fund programs on everything from drug addiction and domestic violence counseling to after school care.
“ We service the entire population, from infant to elder care and everything and anything in between,” said Christopher Pulido, special events coordinator for Family and Children’s Services.
“Our goal is to make $10,000, and I think we’re going to exceed that goal,” Merriken said. “We’re really excited. This will help a lot of people.”