Archive for January, 2011
Hugh Sisson was born in Baltimore in the twentieth year of the 19th Century. He began an apprenticeship in marble cutting at the age of sixteen, and seven years later, after achieving master status in the field, started his own company. The young Baltimorean quickly rose to the top of his profession, securing government and residential contracts throughout the city. By 1881 the Sisson family business had 1017 employees working in a network of marble mills and quarries. The enterprise provided the marble work for the interiors of City Hall, the Peabody Institute and a long list of other buildings. Hugh Sisson’s greatest accomplishment may be in the District of Columbia. His steam-powered mills fabricated the columns for the U. S. Capital building.
The Edgar Allan Poe Grave Monument is also the work of the master stonecutter. Dedicated in 1875, the Egyptian style monument was designed by George A. Frederick and carved by Sisson. The memorial is situated at Westminster Burying Ground.
Green Mount Cemetery is home to many headstones etched at Sisson’s Steam Marble Works. While I was locating Olivia Cushing Whitridge (Green Mount’s first interment) I noticed H Sisson inscribed at the bottom edge of a grave in the Whitridge family plot. The otherwise unreadable marker points in the direction of its creator. Hugh Sisson is buried with his work, a towering obelisk in the eastern section of the graveyard nobly marks his grave. He died in 1893. William Henry Rinehart‘s eloquent Sleeping Children sculpture is contained within the Sisson family plot.
The Star-Spangled Banner Flag pwas conceived and primarily sewn at Baltimore’s Flag House. The historic building and museum was once occupied by Mary Young Pickersgill and her successful flag making business. In 1813 Colonel George Armistead, then commander of Fort McHenry, expressed interest in two oversized banners for the star-shaped stronghold. General John Stricker (who is buried in Westminster Burying Ground) promptly placed an order with the Pickersgill company for the giant pennants. $574.44 of federal money exchanged hands and Pickersgill, her daughter, two of her nieces and an indentured servant began fulfilling the contract.
The Great Garrison Flag measured 30 feet by 42 feet, while the Storm Flag was smaller (17 feet by 25 feet) and more suitable for inclement weather. The Great Garrison Flag was so large it had to be sewn in sections and taken to a nearby brewery for final assembly. Claggett’s Brewery (as it eventually became known) was owned by Mayor Edward Johnson and was one block from the Pickersgill house. The women worked by candlelight during evening hours, unknowingly creating an American icon. The brewery building is no longer standing.
Druid Hill’s Moorish Tower occupies one of the best vantage points in the city. The hilltop location provides a panoramic view of East and Central Baltimore from Hampden to Downtown. The tower sits at the southeast edge of Druid Lake, one of the largest man-made earthen dams in the country, its sloping bank over-looking the Jones Falls Expressway. Designed by George Aloysius Frederick in the 1860s, the Turkish style building is made of white marble and brick. During renovation in the 1990s the tower’s spiral staircase, with access to the rooftop deck, was taken out and the iron door was once again locked.
This post is part of the vantage point category, a series of articles that target specific locations perfect for afternoon sightseeing. Generally high in elevation and separated from city streets, these vantage points represent wrinkles in the urban environment.
In the late 1800s Baltimoreans were riding bikes much like the ones ridden today. The N. T. Slee Bike Shop sold Rambler models to the multitude of cyclists that patrolled the city network on two wheels. The growing park system was a favorite place to ride, its trails endlessly winding through acres of undeveloped land. The city’s cobblestone streets were a different story.
The League of American Wheelmen was formed in 1880 when cycling clubs and bike manufacturers from across the country met in Newport, Rhode Island. Twelve years later they began publishing Good Roads magazine, one the earliest periodicals dedicated to all things cycling. The group’s main objective was to secure safe and decent road conditions for America’s bicycle enthusiasts. The League was a powerful political force, its Good Roads Movement successful and important long before cars were popularized.
The Overhill Waiting Shelter is one of the last remnants of the No. 29 Boulevard streetcar line which ran from Roland Park to downtown. In operation from 1908 to 1947, the line’s open air cars were a favorite of Baltimoreans during summer months, the commute offering a brief respite from the exhausting heat. The No. 29 was converted to bus service in June of 1947. The waiting station, situated along University Parkway in what is known as Centennial Park, is a lasting monument to the Baltimore trolley system. The Roland Water Tower stands at the top of the hill.