Written by Amy Shuman, with Photography by John Shuman
In lower LaVale there’s a home hidden near the side of a hill, with nearly 12 acres of beautiful land that is the artful home of Barry Fischer and his sons, Eric and Aaron. Liz Skidmore, of Robison Skidmore Realty, calls this location “a dreamer’s retreat!” Barry moved to the area with a vision of using his personal skills at a university to create a balance of traditional and contemporary trends in dance in the classroom and choreographic process. He began dancing in 1973, enjoyed independent study at the London School of Contemporary Dance, went onto Juilliard, then earned a bachelor’s and master’s in dance, ultimately becoming Dr. Fischer at New York University in 1986.
Barry had renovated a 19th century home on Main Street in Frostburg after he moved here in 1995 and, in 2003, he was itching to move. “The audacious New Yorker that I am was into this obsessive search in the LaVale area for a little picturesque home like I saw in the magazines. My friend, Jane Belloff, was instrumental in helping me find this treasure, which I had driven by so many times and simply loved!” explains Barry. “The major ‘turn on’ for me was the stream in the front, where the flow and the sound of the running water has such a soothing and embracing effect on everyone, family and friends alike!” Barry describes his home as a “high rancher,” typical of the 1970’s era, with three bedrooms, 2 baths and a full basement. The entryway and much of the home sports 100 year-old wide oak floors that Barry retrieved from a Pittsburgh brewery and installed. They are incredibly beautiful!
Having enjoyed renovating before, Barry worked on this home as well. He ripped out several walls and lightened up much of the space with skylights. He added a great front deck, where a rocking chair invites one to sit and enjoy the fabulous views in every season. Around back is a very interesting and useful retaining wall that serves as extra seating when friends enjoy visiting in warm weather, since the house backs up to a really steep mountainside. “I redid the kitchen cupboards three times,” Barry admits. “Getting rid of the dark walnut, I finally countrified them to blue and white, with different knobs and pulls to add great interest.” He also installed wainscoted ceilings to further pull in the cottage feel and look.
Barry’s goal for his oasis home was peace and serenity. The sunken living room features a large fish tank filled with prayer fish, angelfish and a shark fish, a tabletop waterfall and many live plants and vases of fresh flowers. Oriental rugs bring added warmth and charm. An eclectic collection of furniture is all put to great use. A corner cupboard doubles as a shoe rack. A hand carved cedar chest, which was sent to his Mom, from Japan, in 1942, serves as an end table. Color is everywhere: in his special art collection, family portraits with Barry’s beautiful choice of frames and various paint colors throughout. Barry chose to design a master suite, combining two of the original bedrooms so he could rest, relax and work out in a comfortable space. Since he became the Co-coordinator of Dance in the Division of Performing Arts at Frostburg State University in 2006, it’s important for improved restfulness, as he ages, he admits, to relax with the tempur pedic mattress on the gorgeous mahogany bed. A comfy armchair and ottoman sit nearby, facing an oversized window, which looks out onto an oriental wooden bridge in the yard. The cool breeze the day I visited was exquisite and I commented that this must be a favorite spot to sit and read. Barry smiled and nodded. Barry finished the basement, adding a full bath and bedroom for older son Eric. Eric is very handy with painting and carpentry and has assisted his dad with many renovations and updates. Barry decided to showcase the cellar windows by making terrariums outside and lining the inside of the window casements with colorful tile. They are one-of-a-kind and so unique!
Barry has very successfully raised the profile of dance at Frostburg State University and in our local area and looks forward to the day when “every seat is full” at spring and fall recitals. He brings distinguished American dance artists to each performance and we are lucky to be the recipients of his energy, spark and enthusiasm. Having grown up in New York City, Barry admits that he came from the most competitive surroundings in the world. “Now I’m about spirituality and connectedness.” Thanks, Barry, for sharing your thoroughly eclectic and wonderful Artful Home!