Annapolis officials know that local homeowners who restore and preserve their historic properties play a vital role in the city's architectural legacy.
Bill and Judi Kardash, owners of the circa 1770 Colonial mansion Acton Hall, are some of these top players. They consider themselves the current stewards of the home, which sits on an acre of land on Spa Creek.
Acton Hall is a perfect example of Georgian period architecture. The brick home features white trim, multipaned windows and a symmetric front elevation with a recessed center bay, along with well-proportioned wings that are adorned with pediments.
A "new" addition was created circa 1870, when an original carriage house moved onto the property. The carriage house was attached to the main house by a two-story, elongated link known as a hyphen.
By 1972, the house — first owned by the Hammond family and subsequently tended to by a succession of Annapolis residents — fell into a derelict state. An ambitious couple, Jack and Joan Bridges, undertook its restoration in 1978 and placed the home back on the market in 1984. The house sold twice more before being purchased by the Kardashes in 1990.
A large lawn leads from the street to what in Colonial times was considered the back of the house. The front of the house and primary entrance faced Spa Creek — where a veranda off of the living room's rear five bays is now found.
Seated in the home's carriage house — now the Kardashes' kitchen, breakfast room and attached greenhouse (with a small apartment on the second floor) — the couple share their knowledge of, and feelings for, Acton Hall.
"We have 5,100 square feet of living space on two stories," said Bill Kardash, the retired owner of an advertising company. "There are eight working fireplaces, three bedrooms, three full baths, a family room, dining room, waterside living room, a Christmas room [devoted to holiday decorations, which stay up and change out all year long] and [his] office."
The home's hyphen contains a laundry room, pantry and powder room. In the kitchen, cherry cabinets and Volga blue granite countertops project a feeling of Colonial warmth.
"Twenty percent of the glass in the house is original, and all the windows are 12-pane over 12-pane [sashes]," said Judi Kardash, a retired teacher.
Heart pine flooring is laid throughout the home, and all of the windows bear the original recessed shutters. Plaster walls, chair rails and hand-carved rope molding are some of the interior architectural embellishments.
The Kardashes have furnished Acton Hall with their collection of Colonial reproductions, such as their Chippendale dining room table and chairs. They also proudly display their treasured antiques, including a 1785 Philadelphia highboy wardrobe, a 19th-century English walnut armoire in their upstairs hallway and an 1812 Philadelphia cherry grandfather clock.
Gabby-Grace, the couple's 5-year-old petit basset griffon vendeen, likes to run into the waterfront garden, chasing ducks that swim in the built-in pool. A pier beyond the bulkhead juts into Spa Creek.
"[Judi] is an avid gardener, so the garden and greenhouse are a major focus," Bill Kardash said.
Apple, peach and fig trees, as well as a magnolia, weeping cherry, a willow oak, boxwood and hydrangeas, can be found at the rear of the property. Judi Kardash also tends to a portion of the land that includes a grape arbor and raised planting beds for her vegetables.
"After almost 25 years in Acton Hall, we have the perpetual discussion, 'Where do we go from here — and when?' " Bill Kardash said.
The answer is simply, "To be continued."
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Making the dream
Dream realized: "Acton Hall is an elegant and livable house packed with history with an unbeatable waterfront location in a quiet neighborhood just a short walk from downtown," Bill Kardash said. "While we are both retired, we love the scale of the city. We are also involved in several different community organizations: [I] am vice chairman of the board for Historic Annapolis, and Judi serves on their development committee in addition to volunteering at Anne Arundel Medical Center. We have both served on other nonprofit boards in the community. Our … social time [is] spent right here in Annapolis, with family and friends. This is a beautiful city with much potential."
Dream interiors: "While we spend most of our time in the kitchen/breakfast room, architecturally I like the living room, as it has beautiful detail and adjoins the porch and the garden," Bill Kardash said. "Judi loves to cook and entertain, and enjoys trying new recipes for family and guests. Quiet time is spent reading in the family room, as she belongs to two book groups."
"Christmas provides the largest collection of treasures; we usually have three trees, and every room in the house is decorated for Christmas in some way," Judi Kardash said. "I also have a very large collection of dishes, which change on almost a monthly basis for holidays and seasons. All of these changes are due to the fact that I was a teacher and loved changing the classroom each month."
Dream projects: "Owning an historic home requires a commitment to perpetual maintenance," Bill Kardash said. "Last year was redecorating the bedrooms and baths; this year will be a focus on energy efficiency, exterior painting and landscaping."