City slicker: In-town house has country seclusion

ASKING: $375,000
SIZE: 2500 fin. sq. ft., 800 unfin. sq. ft.
YEAR BUILT: 1991
ADDRESS: 923 Marshall Street
NEIGHBORHOOD: Parkside
CURB APPEAL: 7 out of a possible 10
LISTED BY: Gail Hubbard, McLean Faulconer Inc., 971-1926

Few people know where Parkside is. Tucked away behind Northeast Park between Locust Avenue and Park Street, this little cul-de-sac is within walking distance of Downtown, and yet there's no traffic except for people who live there. So you get country privacy with city convenience.

Other elements contribute to the seclusion. Because the house sits on the up-side of the street, residents are not troubled, as are people on the lower side directly in front of NorthEast park, by kids tromping past to get to the long bridge that connects to the playground down on Calhoun and Sheridan. A fully fenced backyard and lush plantings add to the feeling of being enclosed and protected.

The couple who own the house have made significant improvements to a basic model. Most impressive are the changes in what is a large utility basement. They've partitioned off a good-sized sleeping room (it can't officially be called a bedroom, the owner explained, without an "egress window") and an elegant bathroom that– with lots of marble and floor-to-ceiling tiling in the shower– is more lavish than the two full baths upstairs.

The rest of the basement is utility, but it's very large and has potential as a useful rec room or children's playroom. The laundry area and a large storage space with built-in shelves complete this lower level, which opens to a little slate patio under the main-level deck.

The main level is open and feels expansive even though it's not a strikingly large house. All the rooms have two doors and open off the central hall from the larger-than-average foyer. The overall feel is the opposite of claustrophobic... "breezy" is the word that comes to mind.

Upgrades added by the owners include a gas starter in the family room fireplace, which gets the fire started so wood can be burned, and a back-of-the-chimney trapdoor that allows the ashes to be emptied directly from outside the house. Around the fireplace they have added a raised brick hearth and a handsome mantel flanked by built-in bookcases.

In the dining room, lots of wooden chair and ceiling moldings add a colonial feel, and nicely complement the hardwood floors in all the first level rooms. In a curious touch, there's a "sunken" living room between the front door and the dining room, which was probably a good idea at the time. Now it just creates a safety hazard, necessitating negotiating stairs to get in and out of the room.

The large kitchen looks out onto the back yard with its hardwood trees and native stone wall enclosing azaleas and rhododendrons, which are reportedly quite a vision in the spring.

Upstairs are three bedrooms, the master suite adjoining a large bath with the requisite jacuzzi and walk-in closet. In short, the house has everything a modern house should, some of it of above-average quality and design.

It's in the Burnley-Moran school district, and the owner reports that the neighborhood is a typical city mix of interesting, mind-their-own-business-but-friendly-when-you-need-them folks.

It sounds very much like the sales pitch out in the suburbs, but this house has the one added benefit of city convenience and real neighborhoods just around the corner.