So it was by a stroke of luck that Ortman ran into a Realtor friend in 2002. The friend had just finished restoring an old rowhouse that Ortman thought sounded ideal for his own family. With a handshake, Ortman's friend said he wouldn't list the house until the couple took a look at it.
"Hugh came home and said he had sort of bought a house for us," recalls Carroll, suppressing a smile. She hoped he hadn't agreed to some swampland.
He hadn't. And a vintage house in turnkey condition was very appealing because Carroll and Ortman admit they are not the handiest when it comes to home remodeling.
The best news of all: The 1,050-square-foot dwelling was in a part of the city they loved, at the nexus between the 30th Street Bridge and what is now Naval Square.
For some time, the post-industrial neighborhood has been establishing itself as a mecca for medical students and young families, who are seduced by the corner cafes, food markets, and local parks.
"Many Realtors refer to the area as Fitler Square, but to the old-timers it's simply Taney, Schuylkill, or `The Pocket,'?" Carroll, 52, says of the enclave of rowhouses built in the 1920s.
Says Ortman, 64, "What I like the most about living here is its easy access to other Center City neighborhoods, like Rittenhouse Square."
Carroll grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, graduated from Temple University, and for 20 years has worked as an editor in medical publishing. She met Ortman in the mid-1980s, and they married in 1993.
Originally from Washington, Ortman stayed in the region after graduating from Villanova University. He had a 10-year stint with the Philadelphia Eagles — first as special-projects coordinator, then as ticket manager. He proudly wears his NFC Championship ring from the 1980-81 season, when the Eagles played in Super Bowl XV.
"It was an exciting time to be with the Birds," says Ortman, who now is procurement commissioner for the City of Philadelphia.
His single requirement in a home is comfort, while she enjoys decorating and seeking out the perfect furnishings, one piece at a time, whether it's an antique from a Freeman's auction or draperies from Target.
Beyond the front vestibule is a small yet chic living room occupied by two armchairs — one in burgundy leather (Ortman's favorite), one a multicolored low-seat from Anthropologie — that fit comfortably into separate nooks. A plush slate-blue settee, gussied up with cashmere throws and silk pillows, sits opposite a fireplace.
A star-edged brass mirror stands among ceramic vases on the mantel. Turkish tiles purchased on neighboring South Street grace the fireplace surround. A warm glow is cast on the yellow walls when the many candles that Carroll has assembled are lit.
During the initial restoration, central air-conditioning and a new heater were installed, and electrical service and plumbing updated. (Pine flooring and intricate wood moldings went untouched, blending well with the eclectic furnishings.)
But the couple has made additional upgrades befitting a modern family. A year ago, the staircase, which rises from the dining room, was replaced with cherry wood and a balustrade punctuated with chrome spindles. Beneath a gold chandelier is a Jacobean walnut dining table and six white Eames chairs, where 20 family members gather for Thanksgiving dinners.
The homeowners also overhauled the main bathroom, creating a lavish retreat with Carrara marble and English tiles. A bold glass lighting fixture adorns the hallway ceiling.
Son Julian, a Central High School sophomore, inhabits the second bedroom, where one might also find Butch, a sweet female puggle, and an orange cat aptly named Juice.
Carroll's cherished collection of papier-mâché masks from Africa, Mexico and Sweden keep watch from the spare bedroom.
Last fall, Carroll and Ortman decided to carve out a 200-square-foot lounge in the basement. With the help of a skilled contractor, the old cellar was retrofitted into livable space. Now, birch stairs lead down into an airy, hip parlor anchored by a candy-apple-red sectional from West Elm, with a flat screen and laptop station nearby.
Monorail nickel lighting is strung between the original yellow-pine beams. A sleek second bathroom with space-saving pocket doors was added, along with more closets.
"A dream kitchen would be nice, and it will probably be the next big project," Carroll says, "but not for awhile."