Growing up in Canton Rowhouse Renovations: Painted Screens, Rooftop Decks and more!

Written by on December 21, 2011 in Featured, For Seniors - No comments

From Formstone to jalousies to central air to rooftop decks and Jacuzzis—my, how my Canton has changed. In my short life the neighborhood has morphed into an upscale townhome community.

Screen painting masters like Tom Lipka (above) have offered classes at the Hatton Senior Center to keep the art alive in Canton. Photo by Jacqueline Watts

Way back when I was a kid (in the 1950s) the fronts of our houses were “striped”—painted a dark brick color with white lines painted on to simulate bricks. With a few years of hard weather the paint faded and cracked, which meant it was time for a new paint job.

The front door and frame, and all the window frames would get a heavy multi-layered coat of faux woodgrain. It was someting to see the painters manipulate the paint and glazes to simulate the grain of good wood. Believe it or not that style is coming back, but it costs a lot of money.

When I was 10 our house and three others on my block had Fieldstone applied to the front of the house. Fieldstone was just another version of Formstone.

The process was quick. Chicken wire was nailed to the facade of the house, and then a thin coat of cement was applied over the wire. Once that was dry the workers mixed tubs of cement in different colors and applied it to the front of the house. The cement was sculpted to resemble large stone blocks.

Now everyone is remodeling their row houses in Canton, removing the concrete artwork of the 1950s and going back to natural brick. If you live next door to this reversion process you know what a toxic mess it is.

On some houses, after the rehabbers remove the Fieldstone they find striping.

The words “storm door” conjure up all kinds of images, don’t they? When I was a kid jalousie storm doors were all the rage. Jalousies were glass slats about three inches wide. They could be cranked wide open or shut flat, depending on the season. Since there was no air conditioning in most houses in those days, the jalousies allowed air flow through the home. In these days of air conditioning jalousies are harder to find than painted screens.

Our screen was painted with a bucolic country scene. The painting could be seen from the outside, and no one passing by could see into the house, but if you were sitting inside the house you could see right through the screen.

Painted screens, which are an original Baltimore art form, allowed air circulation and privacy at the same time, and they too are making a comeback.

These days, the popular home improvement is the rooftop deck. Some of them have Jacuzzi hot tubs. Walking around the neighborhood I see tiki torches and all kinds of patio furniture on the rooftops.

I understand the need for more space to relax and entertain, but sitting just a foot or so above a hot black tar roof just doesn’t do it for me. My rowhouse is now a “town home”—and don’t get me started on backyard gardens.

by Roland Moskal
Special to the Baltimore Guide

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