Windows Into My Soul: A Home Improvement Saga

221 West Lafayette
221 W. Lafayette, home of Robert Bunch and Anne Marie Lennon, post-restoration.

By Robert Bunch

Anne Marie and I bought the residence known as the Mathias House (221 W. Lafayette) in September 2012. We knew it was going to be the biggest restoration project we had ever undertaken. But when Hurricane Sandy rolled into town in late October that year, we realized the gravity of our decision. The previous owners, Trail and Natasha, had owned the house for fifty years, and while originality thrived, maintenance did not. The storm brought down three ceilings; streams of water ran down the hallways and all thirty-three windows leaked like sieves.

It took me two and a half years to restore the house. Then it was time to turn to the windows.

The local preservation organization Baltimore Heritage advertised a training course on historic window restoration run by a chap named Duffy Hoffman down at Second Chance. I took the course, asked lots of questions, and thought, “Wow, that’s a huge amount of work – time to call in the professionals.” Sadly, the cost of having the windows professionally restored was high enough to make a Scotsman blush, so it was up to me to get stuck in.

It took me another two and a half years to restore the windows.

I realized that most of the water ingress had come from rotten windowsills. In fact, twenty-two of the thirty-three windows in the house were completely rotten and needed to be replaced. But where to start?

Having never replaced a sill in my life, I searched YouTube and found several videos that used a similar replacement technique. I measured all the sills and had rough versions cut from Spanish cedar (which doesn’t rot) by two different Baltimore woodshops. Then it was out with the circular saw and crack on. I got quite efficient as I went from sill to sill. At peak efficiency, I even managed to replace four in one day.

I received a Historic Tax Credit Grant from the Maryland Historical Trust, which meant that all my work on the windows, as well as the main house, had to be restorative and approved. I started at the top of the house and methodically removed two windows (four sashes) at a time. That was the easy part.

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In almost every case, the bottom rail of the upper and lower sashes were rotten. To restore them, the windows required partial and sometimes full deglazing. Then came the hazmat suit, the facemask and the removal of the lead paint back to bare wood. I then used Abatron’s system of epoxy wood consolidation and epoxy putty to permanently repair the rotten and missing sections. Priming, re-glazing, and two topcoats of exterior and interior paint followed.

While all this work was happening in the basement, I was concurrently restoring the window frames by risking life and limb leaning out of the window openings to sand, repair and repaint the frames before the restored sashes could be refitted.

The most important part of the restoration was the weather-stripping. There is no point having nice windows if the winds and chills blow into the house around the sides. After the sashes were epoxied and before priming, I routed slots in three sides. The two vertical slots would accommodate a metal weather strip and act as a runner and draft barrier, and the top and bottom slot would allow for a silicon bead to be inserted to seal against the windowsill or the top of the frame. In almost every case I had to custom make parting beads (the long strips of timber that divide the sashes), as you can’t buy them and they almost always break in two when you remove them.

It took an entire day to refit two windows, putting in the four fully restored sashes and replacing the chains and fixing the counterbalances as I went. But once they were in place they looked beautiful.

Restoring all thirty-three windows, sills, and frames was a labor of love, a labor of of blood, sweat, and tears. But the end result is wonderful: no drafts, lower heating and cooling bills and a very happy Scotsman.

If anyone would like advice on how they can restore their own windows I’ll happily talk them through the steps. You’ll just need to set aside a few months … or years!

Big Crowd Celebrates Black History Month at Party with a Purpose

Saché Jones of Fresh at The Avenue
Saché Jones explains how Fresh at The Avenue brings fresh produce to West Baltimore.

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 22, some 75 people attended the Second Annual Black History Month Party with a Purpose hosted by MRIA’s Social Action Task Force. The crowd’s generosity made this the SATF’s most successful party yet, collecting over $1,300 for two neighborhood organizations, Fresh at The Avenue and the Brown Memorial Tutoring Program.  

Don Palmer served as master of ceremonies and DJ, and hosts Michael Booth and Kristine Smets again opened their home for the festivities, as they did last year.

Guests included local jazz hero and community advocate Todd Marcus, No Boundaries Coalition’s Executive Director Ray Kelly, City Councilman Eric Costello and State Senator Barbara Robinson, as well as many Bolton Hill neighbors.

The program started with brief presentations by Saché Jones describing Fresh at the Avenue’s work selling fresh local and organic produce at the old city market on Pennsylvania Avenue. Amy Munds then explained the unique, inclusive approach to literacy adopted by Brown Memorial Tutoring Program in their work with Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School and elsewhere.

Don ably led partygoers who volunteered in presenting readings to the group, ranging from poems and speeches to passages from books and letters. Both well-known and not-so-well-known black writers and leaders throughout American history were represented. In most cases, the guests would try to guess the author after each reading.

Highlights included Don’s food-themed books and soundtrack for the party (see lists below), a joint reading of Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” by female members of the Kendra Rice Parlock family (and Kellie Wellborn), a Mary McLeod Bethune speech from 1938 read by Rob Helfenbein, and a reading of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Trouble in de Kitchen” by Michael Runnels.

Food at the party included an herbed fruit salad from Fresh at the Avenue, Cajun chicken pasta from Ida B’s, Poppay’s rolls from the Avenue Bakery, and red beans with andouille, black rice, and Hoppin’ John courtesy of Don Palmer. Guests brought additional goodies along with plenty of wine, beer, and other beverages that added substantially to everyone’s enjoyment.

Host Michael Booth commented that both this year’s party and last year’s “have left me with new areas of our history that I want to explore, new authors and poets (like Dunbar) to seek out. ” 

Don’s amazing collection of books were mostly about food, including:

  • Carolina Rice Kitchen: The African Connection, Karen Hess
  • The President’s Kitchen Cabinet, Adrian Miller
  • Taste of Freedom: Hampton Institute Recipes and Remembrances, Carolyn Quick Tillery.
  • Unfathomable City: A New Orleans Atlas, Rebecca Solnit and Rebecca Snedeker 
  • Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country, Lolis Eric Elie and Frank Stewart
  • Tremé: Stories and Recipes, Lolis Eric Elie, Ed Anderson, and David Simon
  • The Color of Food, Natasha Bowens
  • Snow-Storm in August, Jefferson Morley

The music he DJ’d also centered on eating:

  • Greens Back in the Day, Corey Harris
  • Saturday Night Fish Fry, Louis Jordan
  • Diving Duck Blues, Taj Mahal/Keb Mo
  • Gimme a Pigfoot, Henry Butler & Steve Bernstein
  • Chicken Fat, Mel Brown
  • Chitlins con Carne, Junior Wells

Thanks to the Social Action Task Force for sponsoring this event, especially the main organizers, Michael Booth, Rob Helfenbein, David Nyweide, and Don Palmer. Let’s do it again when Black History Month rolls around again next year!

News in Brief

Don’t Forget to Renew Your Parking Permits

Parking permits need to be renewed this month. Find the details here

Mt. Royal-NorthBay Chili FundraiserChili Fundraiser Recap

A seasonal ice storm in the hours leading up to Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle’s 3rd Annual NorthBay Chili Fundraiser didn’t prevent students, families, and community members from coming out in force. The $7,800 raised puts the school well on their way to reaching the goal of $10,000 to enable the 6th grade class to attend NorthBay Adventure this May.

Over 40 volunteers made and served 28 batches of chili and sold 888 raffle tickets, creating a room filled with laughter, community, and great memories for all. The event’s take included over $300 raised by the Brown Memorial bake sale and a $500 donation from MRIA that was unanimously approved at February’s Board Meeting.

Thank you to everyone for supporting Mt. Royal Elementary/Middle School, especially the volunteers who cooked chili, baked cookies, and helped out during the event.

Help put Mt. Royal over the top! Make your online donation here

Free Yoga ClassesFree Yoga Classes

St. Francis Neighborhood Center (SFNC) is hosting free yoga classes every Wednesday from 6:30–7:30 pm. Beginners are welcome; mats are provided. 

Contact for more information. The SFNC is located at 2405 Linden Avenue in Reservoir Hill.

New Neighbor Party

On January 29, MRIA’s Membership Committee hosted the annual New Neighbor Party, and thanks to everyone on the board who helped, it was quite a success. 35 new neighbors attended from a total of 23 residences, including two babies and a 15-year-old. Special thanks to Kellie Welborn, Margaret DeArcangelis, Lisa Schroeder, Stephen Martin, and Alexis Mogul for doing the heavy lifting. 

Bolton Hill Live Baltimore Tour
Live Baltimore staff with Jon Kaplan (lower R) and Avendui Lacovara (upper R)

Live Baltimore Tours Bolton Hill

On the last Friday of each month, Live Baltimore staff take a tour of one of the city’s 278 neighborhoods, providing them with firsthand experience they use to help potential new residents find the perfect home.

January brought them to Bolton Hill for a walking tour organized by neighbors Jon Kaplan and Linda Rittelmann. They started at Jon’s home in Bolton Square, where neighbor and realtor Avendui Lacovara addressed the group along with Jon and Linda.  

The group then walked over to John Kyle’s and Peter Satten’s Park Avenue home for a look into one of the grande dames of the neighborhood. They finished at MICA’s elegant Main Building for a talk with MICA President Sammy Hoi and Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Mike Molla, passing by lots of landmarks and the Bolton Hill Swim and Tennis Club along the way. All this in one hour!

Read Live Baltimore’s recap of the tour and find photos of the walk on their Facebook page

Styrofoam Container Ban Considered by City Council   

At February’s MRIA Board Meeting, Dennis Gong of Baltimore Beyond Plastic explained legislation before the City Council that would ban use of Styrofoam containers from restaurants in the City. These containers are the most common form of trash in Baltimore, with an estimated 700,000 items collected by the garbage wheel in the Inner Harbor.  

MRIA unanimously passed a motion to support the legislation. You can add your endorsement of this effort by signing this petition. Learn more about efforts to reduce all plastics on their website

Dog Park in Bolton Hill?

With the help of some large aerial photographs, Joe Palumbo introduced the idea of creating a dog park in Sumpter Park or Maple Leaf Park at February’s MRIA meeting. MRIA will disseminate an online survey for input from the community to solicit input from both dog owners and non-dog owners. 

Joe emphasized that it will take time and lots of work with both residents and the city before a dog park can become a reality in Bolton Hill.

State Center Getting Back on Track?

An artist’s rendering of the stalled redevelopment design for State Center.
Artist’s rendering of the stalled redevelopment design for State Center.

At February’s MRIA Board Meeting, Bolton Hill resident and State Center Alliance President John Kyle related the twelve-plus-years-long saga of efforts to redevelop the State Center area. A few years ago, the redevelopment project was at the ground-breaking stage, but was suddenly shelved by Governor Hogan shortly after he took office. He did this despite the unprecedented level of community support the project had received, including from all twelve of the neighboring community groups that form the Alliance.  

John reported that Ekistics LLC, the developer that has been working on the redevelopment plan alongside the community, has just released a new economic analysis of the project. This report concludes that the deal that had been resoundingly approved a few years ago and then cancelled by the Governor’s administration is still good for neighborhoods, the city, and the state, in terms of market-rate rentals and tax revenue that would be generated.  

The Maryland Stadium Authority, at the behest of Governor Hogan, has also just completed its own redevelopment study of the area. Their report is not nearly as comprehensive as previous studies, and unfortunately reflects a planning perspective that is suburban, rather than urban – for example, suggesting that the site be redeveloped to include chain restaurants like TGI Fridays.  

The Hogan administration also has expressed interest in exploring the viability of building a stadium at the location, an idea that has no support from anyone else. 

The project has stalled for some years as the Hogan administration and Ekistics, LLC have filed suits and countersuits regarding the project. Meanwhile, the State Center Alliance, which is not participating in the legal complaints, is encouraging settlement between the two parties. 

The Alliance also has met with Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus to craft Senate Bill 614, and a similar House bill, HB1286. These bills would require that any redevelopment plans for the State Center site incorporate and honor all of the agreed upon strategies that the Alliance has secured. Building on what has already been accomplished is the best way to obtain neighborhood support and make positive redevelopment occur.

Both of these bills would ensure that

  • The elements envisioned by the communities are included in any future or revised plan for State Center.
  • Any new or revised plan includes an enforceable community benefits agreement.
  • Any new or revised plan includes an economic improvement plan focused on training, short-term jobs, and long-term careers.

The Alliance requested a letter from MRIA in support of SB614 and HB1286. A motion confirming this support passed unanimously.

Delegate Hayes noted that many new legislative members had questions about the redevelopment during a recent legislative briefing on the project, and he’s optimistic that a breakthrough can happen. 

Keep your fingers crossed!

On March 1, WYPR aired a story on these State Center related bills, and you can read the text of that piece here. You can support these bills by writing to Delegate Shane Pendergrass (Chair Health & Government Operations) and Delegate Maggie McIntosh (Chair, Appropriations Committee). Alliance President John Kyle asks that you also send a copy of your letter to him,

Helping with Homelessness

By Susan DuMont

Mendicant: [men-di-kuh nt]


1. begging; practicing begging; living on alms.
2. pertaining to or characteristic of a beggar.


3. a person who lives by begging; beggar.
4. a member of any of several orders of friars that originally forbade ownership of property, subsisting mostly on alms.

Along with teaching us this new word for professional pan-handlers, Nate Fields, Manager of Homeless Outreach from Baltimore’s Downtown Partnership, shared information on the City’s efforts to address homelessness when he attended the February MRIA meeting. Neighbors in the audience voiced concerns and questions about the encampment near the JFX North bound on-ramp at North Avenue.

I followed up with Nate to better understand how Bolton Hill residents can support the City’s efforts to provide care and transition to people experiencing homelessness, and the side effects of homelessness on the city. 

Nate advised that the number one thing residents can do is support the assistance efforts that are already in place with money and physical donations. The City, the Downtown Partnership, and United Way are getting a “Text-to-Give” phone line up and running, which will allow Bolton Hill residents to give directly through a text service and encourage others to do likewise. 

Donate Money and Supplies

Healthcare for the Homeless provides comprehensive services for homeless persons. These services go far beyond healthcare to include financial aid, counseling, and support services that help clients obtain identification papers, employment, and housing, as well as clothing and other items they need. 

They accept financial donations online, and provide details on the kinds of donations they need most, and offer other suggestions for how you can help, including simply smiling and saying hello. They also have a one-page overview explaining how you can best help

Physical donations for their clients can be dropped off at 201 East Baltimore St. They are always in need of socks, t-shirts, shoes, pants, jackets, hats, coats, and rain gear. 

If you are in a position to give new items, either directly to people you encounter on the streets or to organizations, Nate advised that new socks are considered a great luxury and are always in high demand. 

Minor medical ailments like athlete’s foot can become serious health threats without access to treatment.  Foot fungus can be worsened due to lack of fresh socks, and it can be spread through used socks.  A pack of socks can make a significant difference to a homeless person for very little money. Consider keeping a supply in your car to give out instead of cash.

Healthcare for the Homeless also helps people access support services, including assistance getting birth certificates, Social Security cards, and other documents that are often barriers to gaining employment and housing.  

One of the biggest obstacles to obtaining housing is the required first month’s rent and security deposit.  Healthcare for the Homeless uses donations to help ease the burden of these required upfront payments, and also helps provide furnishings for apartments, as well as home welcoming kits.

Donate Your Time

Continuum of Care provides local, hands-on outreach, going out and working directly with people experiencing homelessness. If you want to see Baltimore’s homeless people dealt with humanely and with great results, give time to this organization. They always need more hands and will provide training.


Regarding recent concerns regarding trash generated by the homeless encampment at the intersection of North Ave. and I-83, Nate recommended that we continue to keep Councilman Costello appraised of any noticeable changes (or lack thereof) as the City determines who is responsible for the area. 

We also discussed the possibility of a one-time cleanup effort supported through a partnership with Nate and his team in order to get the area cleaned until it gets on the a regular cleaning rotation. Stay tuned for more information on this.

Kappa Alpha Psi Cuts Ribbon for KYCC

Kappa Alpha Psi Ribbon Cutting
Delegate Antonio Hayes, Delegate Adrienne Jones, Chapter President Theodore Garret Jr., Foundation President Dr. Nathan Fletcher, Delegate Keith Haynes and other dignitaries cut the ribbon recognizing top donor Dr. Ray Brodie.

On January 27, the Kappa Alpha Psi Foundation of Metropolitan Baltimore hosted a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at the Kappa Youth and Community Center (KYCC) to honor the donors to the KYCC Renovation Project.

The center houses the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Baltimore Alumni Chapter’s Kappa League and Guide Right Program, which mentors Baltimore high school students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and leadership.  

The many donors to the mentorship programs were acknowledged during the ceremony, culminating in the dedication and naming of the first room of the facility in honor of Dr. Ray Brodie, the top donor to date.

Community dignitaries in attendance included Senator Nathaniel McFadden, Delegate Adrienne Jones, Delegate Antonio Hayes, Delegate Keith Haynes, and Promise Heights Executive Director Bronwyn Mayden. 

In addition to mentorship activities, the Center, at 1207 Eutaw Place, also hosts community and family events such as weddings, showers, and educational forums. 

For more information about supporting the Foundation or facility rental, visit their website.

Our Neighborhood Postman Angus Smith

Mr. Angus Smith, Postman
Angus Smith

By Peter Van Buren

I always enjoy seeing our mailman, Angus Smith. With his ready smile, he seems genuinely happy making his rounds, whatever the weather.

Recently, he told me he started working for the postal service in 1968, “indoors” at first, before going “outdoors” in 1988. He’s been working the Bolton Hill route for a long time.

A Baltimore native, Mr. Smith grew up in the Oliver neighborhood of East Baltimore, around Broadway and North. He started his first real job while in school at City College working in a pawn shop, and then continued on for a while after he graduated. 

Fairly soon, the family business called him, and he started working for the U.S. Postal Service. He’s been doing it ever since. But this year will probably be his last, as he plans to retire in December after 50 years of service. 

“I still enjoy it, even though I have a few miles on me,” Mr. Smith admitted. As for his opinion of the neighborhood? “It’s friendly – for the most part.”

So when you see Mr. Smith on the street, please say “Hi” and “Thanks,” and help convince him that we really are friendly more of the time.

And Mr. Postman, may you always walk between the rain drops, and may all the dogs wag tails instead of bark.