Jesse Tyson, the grandson of abolitionist Elisha Tyson, purchased 180 rolling acres of north Baltimore land in 1863. The Quaker businessman planned to erect a summer home for himself and his aging mother. However, his mother passed away and the Civil War loomed, stalling development.
Tyson enlisted George Frederick, a gifted local architect, to design and oversee construction of a stone mansion at the property’s highest point. Built out of gneiss from Tyson’s Bare Hills quarry and topped with a mansard roof, Cylburn Mansion is one of Baltimore’s most unique homes. In 1889 Tyson and his young bride Edyth Johns began living at the property.
Edyth took immediate responsibility of the grounds, directing the landscaping and gardening that epitomizes Cylburn. She decorated the Victorian mansion with the same tenacity, filling the house with European furniture and art. After Jesse Tyson passed away in 1906 Edyth spent fours years as a widow before marrying Bruce Cotten, a veteran of China’s Boxer Rebellion.
The couple spent summers together at Cylburn entertaining friends and enjoying the peaceful surroundings. A private railroad brought guests to the remote area. Cotten volunteered his services during World War I and returned with the rank of Major. When his wife died in 1942 he sold the estate to the city.
Today Cylburn Arboretum is one of Baltimore’s finest parks. The preserve is free to the public and open from dawn until dusk Tuesday through Sunday. A modern visitor’s center recently opened and the mansion is under renovation. There are several hiking trails in the wooded area and the open air space is ideal for relaxation. Cylburn is without a doubt the cleanest park in Charm City and is perfect for escaping the stresses of urban living.