Spy House of the Week: Historic House in “The Hill”

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The geographic area bordered by East Dover, South, Harrison and Talbot Streets and Easton’s Rails to Trails is a hallowed place in the history of Easton. The neighborhood known as “The Hill” is part of the National Register of Historic Places that includes Easton’s Historic District.

Scholars and archaeologists believe it was founded in the last decade of the 18th century by slaves who had bought their freedom and others who were freed by Methodists and Quakers. The first census in 1790 recorded 410 free African-Americans who were living in “The Hill. This is remarkable since at that time only 250 free African-Americans resided in Baltimore.

For the past several years, The Hill Community Project, in partnership with the East End Neighborhood Association, Historic Easton, Inc., Talbot County and the State of Maryland have been involved in archaeological digs and research to learn more about this unique site. Their knowledge may determine if “The Hill” is older than Treme, LA, currently recognized as the oldest US neighborhood founded by free African-Americans.

Homeowners and developers passionate about historic preservation have also begun restoration projects in “The Hill”.

This restoration of the “Trippe-Smith” house at 208 South St. was a labor of love by its developer, Gabrielle Koeppel, who converted this original duplex into a single family home. The two original exterior doors on the front and rear elevations remained as testament to its past.

The main floor is now an open plan interrupted by a small core of the stairwell and the powder room. The continuous vista from the front to the rear doors reveals the living room that now spanned the entire width of the house with sunlight from large windows on three sides, the adjacent original dining room defined by its corner windows and the kitchen that now combined the two unit kitchens into one spacious room. The other original dining room could become an office or a TV room.

Since each unit of the original duplex had one bath on the second floor, there is now a dedicated master bath as part of a spacious master suite. I loved how Ms. Koeppel kept the original claw-foot tub in one bathroom and diligently searched for period porcelain wall hung lavatories and period faucets from Second Chance in Baltimore to enhance the bathrooms. Three other bedrooms and another bath complete the second floor plan.

I was very impressed with Ms. Koeppel’s attention to detail-the beautiful wood floors shine again, period door knobs and light fixtures found on Ebay and auctions look right at home and she even convinced one owner of a barn to relinquish the exterior lights that now illuminate the front doors The wood shingled main roof, metal porch roof, the wood siding, windows with historic shutters and historic paint palette make this home a gem.

I like to think that the Trippe, White and Smith families who called 208 South Street home would be pleased with how lovingly their house was restored for future generations of families to enjoy.

For more information about this property, contact Gabrielle Koeppel at 202-744-0877, “Equal Housing Opportunity”

Spy House of the Week is an ongoing series that selects a different home each week. The Spy’s Habitat editor Jennifer Martella makes these selections based exclusively on her experience as a architect.

Jennifer Martella has pursued her dual careers in architecture and real estate since she moved to the Eastern Shore in 2004. Her award winning work has ranged from revitalization projects to a collaboration with the Maya Lin Studio for the Children’s Defense Fund’s corporate retreat in her home state of Tennessee. 

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