When his life partner, Joel Pearson, died suddenly nearly six years ago, Jon Adler Kaplan says he never really considered moving out of their Bolton Square townhouse.
“This is my piece of Joel,” says Kaplan, 56, looking around his living room of hardwood floors, built-in shelves, floor-to-ceiling windows and a gas fireplace. “I just love living here. It’s my happy place. … Joel was an architect and taught me so much about design and light. When we walked into this space, we knew we wanted to live here. We wanted a space that was livable, but not too big.”
When moving in 11 years ago, Kaplan and Pearson knocked down the walls of the kitchen adjacent to the living room to “open up the space. We really gutted this place.”
They strove to keep things decidedly minimalist, modernistic and devoid of clutter. (Kaplan keeps his vast collection of Donald Duck paraphernalia in the basement.) “We believe less is definitely more,” he says. “It’s a very open space, and I love the light in here. We need light to be healthy. Light is energy. That was a big selling point for me.”
A Pittsburgh native, personal trainer and corporate health coach, Kaplan says the first thing visitors notice when walking into his three-level, 2,100-square-foot home are a piano and banjo resting near a patio door overlooking the courtyard. “I don’t play a lot, but I love it,” he says of the piano. “I learned after two lessons that the banjo isn’t so easy to play.”
The musical instruments lend a sense of fun and whimsy to his two-bedroom, two-full bathroom lair — as does a nearby bubblegum machine and menorah fashioned in the shape of a moose — but it’s the courtyard that makes the house particularly special, he says.
“It’s awesome,” Kaplan says of the courtyard, framed by brick walls and featuring a fire pit, trees and a view of the old Eutaw Place Temple. “We didn’t want a big yard to take care of. We have shared green [communal] space around here. I just like to piddle in the garden. You see the seasons change here and it’s just amazing.”
Designed by acclaimed architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Bolton Hill’s Bolton Square is a 50-year-old oasis of modest brick townhomes considered Baltimore’s first modernist landmark. Kaplan says he enjoys living in a contemporary structure in a historic area, as well as being surrounded by an abundance of nature while residing in an urban area.
“I love city living,” he says, dismissing concerns about crime and urban violence. “Random stuff happens everywhere. I’m not one to live life in fear.”
Kaplan says he also enjoys living in a diverse community with friendly neighbors who look out for each other. “We have really good folks around here,” Kaplan says. “I have so many wonderful friends. I’ve lived in a lot of neighborhoods, but this one is the best. In the winter, we have ‘Soup Nights’ every other Friday night. We joke, ‘What happens in Bolton Hill stays in Bolton Hill.’ I couldn’t imagine living somewhere else.”