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Interior of one of this year's 12 houses on tour in Fell's Point.

Interior of one of this year's 12 houses on tour in Fell's Point.

This week, the Preservation Society is being awarded a national honor for an amazing restoration project they have just completed on one of the only remaining wooden houses in Baltimore. This house, located on 1627 Aliceanna Street, will also be featured on the 40th Annual Historic Harbor House Tour taking place this Sunday, May 8 beginning at 11 am.

The award is called the Preserve America Steward Award, signed by Michelle Obama, with a presentation ceremony on May 4 from 4-6 pm at the house.

Empty for 25 years, the house could just as easily have been left to the wrecking ball, instead the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell’s Point turned their attention to saving the 214 year old house.

“It’s a wonderful recognition of the restoration work we do with Fell’s Point houses,” says Preservation Society director Ellen von Karajan. “For the most derelict old places, we are their last resort. These houses are so full of our rich, local history.”

The Preservation Society currently has six historic houses in various states of repair. They range from the ca. 1765 Robert Long house, oldest residence in old Baltimore and the organization’s current headquarters which was completely restored in 1985, to two small ca. 1797 wooden workingmen’s houses on Wolfe Street, believed to be the sole survivors of their kind.

“We’re pretty much knocking on wood that we can raise the money to conserve and restore the Wolfe Street houses too, now that we have them stabilized,” said von Karajan.

Also on the Preservation Society list, and next to the fixed up Aliceanna house, is the Captains Hotel that von Karajan says at one time housed “one of the Point’s most elite houses of ill-repute – ‘for officers only’!”

“In the front was a bar where sea captains and officers would pause for a drink and to pay for their ‘entertainment’. They would be given a token and then proceed to the “Ladies” bar to meet the beautiful working girls and to make their selection. Then they would go upstairs.”

Over three years the team that fixed up the 1627 Aliceanna Street wooden house included student volunteers and an archeologist, Esther Doyle Reed, from UMBC’s Ancient Studies Department. They are still working at cleaning, cataloguing and painstakingly conserving the many historic artifacts recovered from the site, and also spent hours on clean up and surface preparation.

wooden house

Before (left) and after of the recently restored house at 1627 Aliceanna originally built in 1797.

Called The Academy, the house was built in 1797 by Nicholas Leeke, a Fell’s Point school master who instructed his pupils there. Leeke had served aboard the USS Frigate Virginia during the American Revolution. Leeke’s beautiful daughter Mary married a dashing young mariner, Captain Henry Dashiell, and they built their family home at 700 S. Broadway, with Leeke helping his daughter with the construction while Henry was away at sea.

During the defense of Baltimore in the War of 1812, Captain Henry served on land in the First Marine Artillery of the Union, and at sea as captain of one of the famed Baltimore privateer schooners, the Saranac. By the time of the War of 1812, Nicholas had moved into the Dashiell home at 700 S. Broadway and sold 1627 Aliceanna to a ship’s captain.

In the 1970s, the Dashiell sisters, great-great granddaughters of Nicholas Leeke, created the Fell’s Point Museum and Cultural Program and bought the house in his memory, intending to put a museum there, but their personal bankruptcy left their organization without cash to realize their dream.

Their organization transferred ownership of all three of the wooden houses and Captains Hotel to The Preservation Society when the City Housing Department issued a “rehab or raze” order in 2006.

After the award ceremony, the house will get some final interior work including the addition of a kitchen. Then it will be rented out as a residence.

“Hopefully, “ said von Karajan, “ to someone who appreciates history. After all, they will be living this historic house’s next chapter.”

If you go:

The 40th Annual Historic Harbor House Tour of Fell’s Point benefits Preservation Society Educational Programs

The tour takes place Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, 2011, 11 am to 5 pm.

A self-guided walking tour features about a dozen houses, gardens and historic sites (Tour programs may be picked up at the Fell’s Point Visitor Center, 1724 Thames Street, or Long & Foster Realtors. Guests may begin the tour at the house of their choice.)

Cost of the tour is $15 per person in advance or $20 the day of the event. For tickets and additional information go to the Fell’s Point Visitor Center (1724-26 Thames Street) or visit preservationsociety.com.

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