In the spring of 1979, Ulysses Glee decided to move to the District. Marion Barry was spurring the drive to get blacks to move back to the city, and Glee was ready. "I had a five-bedroom house in Silver Spring. It was America's dream, but it wasn't mine," he says. He leased his Silver Spring house when he heard about an affordable property on Westover Drive in Hillcrest. The 40-year-old Cape-style house was affordable for a good reason -- it was about to be condemned. "I wanted the neighborhood. All I cared about was that the house be structurally sound. This house," says Glee, "was a diamond in the rough."
Glee began fixing up the front yard, "so folks would know someone was working on it." He'd get up at 5 a.m., work on the house, go to the office, come home and work again until early mrning. He cleared junk, rewired, stripped and painted the walls. He knocked out a wall in the bedroom to make room for a closet and installed a fireplace beside. Three contractors told him the oak floors couldn't be saved. He found a building janitor who did the job. Glee watched him work and, when the floors needed to be redone this year, Glee did them himself. For jobs that needed extra hands, like brick laying and debris hauling, Glee used the help of day laborers who gather every morning on nearby Good Hope Road SE or on New York Avenue.
Glee's house reflects the independent style of the 1980s bachelor. The "bachelor pad" of the '60s was a high-rise apartment, maybe with a water bed. Here, the apartment has grown up into a house, and the water bed been replaced by a hot tub. Glee has his in a greenhouse- style sanctuary downstairs. The red hot tub is framed by glass on two sides. From inside the tub, through a wall of glass, Glee can see the carefully sculpted back yard. Beyond the back yard, there are trees.
Glee grew up on a farm in Florida. At one time, his family raised cotton, corn and tobacco. Glee left to go to school and got his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in agriculture. (He is now director of financial aid at the University of Maryland.) "In 15 minutes, I can look at a yard and decide what's wrong and what should be there," says Glee. "This, to me, is not much different from the farm."
Glee decorated the house without a design guru. His style is contemporary. "I find antiques a little depressing," he says. All of the walls are painted white. Throughout the house, the floors are high gloss.
Glee isn't finished yet. Sometimes, he will stay up and work until 3 a.m. on whatever project has captured him. "I've got to do something with the downstairs bathroom," he murmurs.