"This house will eat you alive." That was the warning uttered by the real-estate agent I bought the roughed-up 1897 row house from—he also happens to be a licensed contractor. That was back in December 1999. The empty, three-story house, located on a corner lot in the Charles Village historic district of Baltimore, had suffered a decade's worth of abuse at the hands of a rowdy fraternity so out of control that the city had cut off its utilities and filed lawsuits against it. Before that, the brick Queen Anne had managed to survive four owners and a century's worth of wear and tear while remaining basically intact. But the kids didn't really have any appreciation of that, taking a bat to the staircase balusters and using the doors for dart practice. The basement's cedar closet was ripped to pieces and strewn about with other victims of the frat's destruction: torn-off shutters, ripped-out door hardware, and shards of broken marble.
The terra-cotta-colored bricks on the 1897 Queen Anne row house's facade needed repointing but were otherwise in good shape.