Bolton Hill is Baltimore's Most Elegant Neighborhood
The smell of pear blossoms hung heavy in the early Spring air on Saturday morning as I strolled into Bolton Hill. The streets were quiet apart from the occasional resident walking their dog or Maryland Institute College of Art Student headed home after an epic all-nighter. The 19th century felt within reach as my eyes fell on row after row of grand residences. Bolton Hill is Baltimore's most elegant neighborhood.
Bolton Hill has always been an in-demand neighborhood. Historical markers are abundant recording the presence of accomplished residents that shaped Baltimore into one of America's great cities. Many of my clients aspire to live in Bolton Hill and once established you can own a property for a lifetime.
Baltimore real estate is decidedly affordable and Bolton Hill is a neighborhood that has great appeal to Washington DC commuters. Baltimore's Penn Station which offers Amtrak and MARC commuter train service to Washington is walking distance from Bolton Hill. I commuted to Washington for a few years on the MARC. I have fond memories of meeting up at the end of a work day with Baltimore-bound neighbors to drink wine on the train as we enjoyed our ride home.
Elegance is in the details. Bolton Hill is one of the few neighborhoods in downtown Baltimore where a residence may have both a front and backyard. Some of the sweetest streets have community gardens where iron fountains and stone statuary invite quiet contemplation. If you've got a green thumb you can join the Bolton Hill Garden club. I saw members out in full force pruning the F. Scott Fitzgerald park.
If you're a modern architecture enthusiast (like me) than you'll be completely floored to stumble upon a small community of Hugh Newell Jacobsen homes located within the Bolton Hill neighborhood. Built in the late 60's, a tumultuous time in Baltimore's history, they are designed to abstract the classic 19th century Bolton Hill Queen Anne Style townhouse. I love how they contrast the older surrounding architecture. They are set on their own private park or "eclipse" as it is called. There are 35 HNJ residences, so when one becomes available it's best to seize the opportunity. Prices for these homes begin in the upper $300's.
Another option for would-be Bolton Hill residents who favor a more contemporary floor plan is the Park Purchase development. Built in the late 1980's this community is a great starter-home option within Bolton Hill. You'll find prices in the $200's. Thankfully Bolton Hill luxury was not spared when they designed the community grounds.
While we're on the topic of contemporary architecture, it should be noted that Baltimore's most edgy millennium construction, The Brown Center at The Maryland Institute College of Art, is located on Mt. Royal Ave and designed by the accomplished Bolton Hill resident-architect Charles Brickbauer. It stands as an engineering wonder of luminous glass letting bystanders know that in this case function follows form.
There is a formula at hand for in-demand real estate in Baltimore City, very often it is located walking distance from a University Community. While Johns Hopkins is the usual suspect in Baltimore, in the case of Bolton Hill, you have two schools; The Maryland Institute College of Art and The University of Baltimore.
MICA is an important member of the Bolton Hill community. Over time many of the grand residences on the main streets such as Park or Bolton Avenues have been divided up into multi-family residences where students can rent inexpensive walk-up apartments. I spent many an evening in my college days having a grand bohemian time with my best friend who was a MICA student residing in these studio-type apartments. Having the neighborhood filled with aspiring artists is a fantastic bonus in my book, it imparts a bit of Paris magic.
So you're "sold" on Bolton Hill and you want to know what it's going to take to purchase a residence? There are three levels of ownership; the first is acquiring a fully restored grand single family residence that is turn-key ready. Prices for these properties range from $450,000 - $650,000+ depending on size and features. Be sure the budget funds for all of the beautiful fine furniture and antiques you'll need to really add that wow-factor.
The second level of ownership is a property in the $250,000 - $375,000 range that needs some work. Often these properties have been divided into separate apartments allowing the owner to live in a large 2 story residence on the main and lower level and affording the option to have someone else help you pay your mortgage by renting out the top floors of the building. This type of ownership will turn you into a landlord. This means you'll need lead paint certificates and a rental license. My clients find this is a great way to acquire a large residence that they can fix up over time as their budget allows.
Within the second level of ownership you can find smaller-scale single family residences that are usually owned on average for 5-7 years when families are small. There are good options that meet this description around the $299,000+/- price range. When these properties come on the market you'll be able to see them from a mile away. The tell-tale sign is ikea furniture and toys all over the house. Agents do their best to encourage these sellers to tidy up so the homes look spacious when in fact they are often overrun with clutter.
The third level of ownership is a property that needs a total renovation. You can scoop up a property in this state of disrepair for $199,000+/-. Unfortunately many are foreclosures or bank owned properties where an ambitious renovation ran out of funds. These are properties that may require you to sign a waiver before entry. Be prepared for a full plumbing and electrical overhaul. Don't be fooled by the low purchase price, these homes will cost you as much as the $350,000+/- home. You'll be asked to purchase the homes "as is" and you'll want to check with your lender to make sure you're qualified for the right type of loan to take on one of these sledgehammer properties (as I call them). At least they're pretty on the outside.
Bolton Hill is Baltimore's most elegant neighborhood. Beyond it's own streets, the community is surrounded by prime cultural attractions such as Mt. Vernon and Druid Hill Park. Bolton Hill is part of the mid-town benefits district. It's in the heart of the city yet manages to be a quiet oasis. Click here to read a post about a property I sold at auction on Eutaw Place.
The best way to experience Bolton Hill is to make an arrangement with your favorite Baltimore City Realtor to take a walk through the neighborhood, say hello to the residents, and grab a coffee in one of the small cafes. Owning a Bolton Hill residence is a labor of love, one that requires an appreciation of historical property. Bolton Hill is Baltimore's most elegant neighborhood. When you are ready to take it to the next level, be sure to explore your 21217 options.
Broker / Owner Guerilla Realty and
Vice President Tranzon Fox Auctions
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