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Realities of Real Estate: Historic mixes with modern at Eastport

One of the most enjoyable aspects of our job as real estate agents is the opportunity to see and experience an extensive variety of homes. It never ceases to amaze us how the broad spectrum of styles and wildly differing budgets can all cumulate in what each family makes as a happy home. For some, a 900-square-foot bungalow decorated with yard-sale treasures is just the ticket, whereas others find comfort in a 10,000-square-foot waterfront estate, decorated to a T with the finest furnishings.

Over our many years representing both buyers and sellers, we’ve sold them all, from a $12,000 double-wide (with the wheels off) to a multimillion-dollar mansion, where the garage alone was much larger than that double-wide. With all this variety, it’s always gratifying to see that despite the simplicity or opulence, there’s a Jack for every Jill, and each of those new homeowners were excited to make their new digs something they could call home.

On June 9 from 1 to 5 p.m., you can also have the chance to tour a unique group of Annapolis homes and see how these properties have been transformed from simple working-class cottages into something special. June 9 marks another year for the Eastport Home & Garden tour. A brainchild of the Eastport Civic Association, this popular event first started in 2006. Since that time, it has raised nearly $75,000 for many local charities.

In the brochure’s welcoming message for the 2013 tour, Jackie Wells, president of the Eastport Civic Association, describes how the Annapolis neighborhood of Eastport (near Back Creek in the southeast corner of the Eastport peninsula) evolved to become the community you see today. Jackie says:

“Across from busy colonial Annapolis, the Eastport peninsula remained largely undeveloped until the 1800s. In 1776, not far from the location of this year’s tour, a half-moon battery fort was built on Horn Point to protect Annapolis during the Revolutionary War. In the early 1800s, an 800-plus-acre farm and a few scattered structures occupied the peninsula.

“After the start of the Naval Academy and the expansion of railroads, bringing business opportunities and immigrants in the mid-1800s, a grid of streets and plots were mapped. Along streets paved with crushed oyster shells, the Eastport neighborhood grew as blue-collar workers and Chesapeake Bay oystermen and crabbers built their frame homes with wood siding. The Back Creek waterfront was rimmed with watermen’s homes, boatyards and piers for working boats and oyster-packing houses. The McNasby Oyster Company opened in 1918 and operated into the 1990s. It’s now the Annapolis Maritime Museum and Barge House, filled with the living history of Eastport. … Today, Eastport remains an eclectic mix of maritime and diverse businesses, good restaurants, with charming homes and gardens of longtime residents and relative newcomers.”

This year, there will be eight homes on the tour. To give you a flavor of what some of these homes are like, here’s a description we wrote about the property you can see at 418 First St.:

“Built in 1907, the home of Bob and Jill Penaloza was the classic case of what to do with a house that was just 900 square feet and only 16 feet wide. In the old days, the kitchen and bathroom were ‘out back,’ separate from the house. It was a typical Eastport home for the watermen and working class of the early 20th century. Bringing it into the 21st century, while maintaining the classic Eastport look, was a task that’s common to the community.

“Jill wanted the front facade to be faithful to the Eastport style. And Bob, at 6 feet 7 with a physique that rivals a Ravens linebacker, found the need for a little more elbow room.

“So in 2006, they decided to renovate, nearly tripling the living space to 2,600 square feet and expanding the home to four bedrooms, 3½ baths. Sourcing the help of local Eastport architect Terry Averill, they crafted a renovation that stayed true to old Eastport, while accommodating the needs of modern living.

“With an eye toward entertaining, the kitchen takes center stage in a wide open main level. At the entry, you’ll find the original fireplace and living room, as it flows to the kitchen and beyond.

“In a way where the concept of Frank Lloyd Wright’s ‘conversation nooks’ indulge the character of traditional Eastport, there are numerous places to make small groups, yet it all surrounds the kitchen, an area where everyone naturally wants to congregate. As Bob said, ‘We can have a big party, but there’s still a place for everyone to sit and be part of the scene.’

“Upstairs, you’ll find vaulted ceilings filled with light and the new addition makes for a spacious master bedroom, as well as a cozy outdoor deck and even more places to cuddle up with a good book.

“When renovating and expanding the home, Bob and Jill found some of what’s typical when turning over the dirt in these parts. Out back, a long, deep row of oyster shells harkens back to the day when much of the livelihood in Eastport depended on the bounty of the bay. Plus, some old glass bottles were unearthed. They are also common to the history of Eastport, when the Severn Glass Co. produced china, glass and pottery on the banks of Spa Creek from 1885 to 1902. Today, the home’s gardens include crepe myrtle and many local plantings.

“You’ll enjoy 418 First St. as a first-class renovation of an old Eastport home. Adorned by many pieces of the owner’s original artwork, it’s the perfect example of how old and new can come together in the eclectic style that is only Eastport.”

The other seven homes on the Eastport Home & Garden Tour also have uniquely interesting stories. It all makes for a fun afternoon in Annapolis and benefits many needy charities. For more information on parking and how to buy tickets, visit www.EastportCivic.org/Tour2013.

Bob and Donna McWilliams are practicing real estate agents in Maryland with more than 25 years of combined experience. Their email address is McWilliams@BobDonna.com.