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The Latrobe Family and Charm City

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The Latrobe family is sewn into the fabric of Americana. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the patriarch, was the Union’s first trained architect and a strong proponent of Greek, Gothic and Neoclassical architecture. Latrobe designed elements of the U. S. Capitol and the White House. His sons John H. B. Latrobe and Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, with headquarters in Baltimore, helped organize, orchestrate and engineer the nations first railroad. Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe (son of John H. B. Latrobe) was mayor of Baltimore five times. He was known as the “Grand Old Man of Maryland.” His cousin Charles H. Latrobe (son of Benjamin Henry Latrobe II) was city engineer for a quarter century, designing bridges and buildings around Baltimore. Together the Latrobe Family helped shape and develop Charm City.

Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe arrived on American soil in 1796. Known as the “Father of American Architecture,” Latrobe was born in England in 1764 to a British father and an American mother. He showed an early interest in landscape drawing and quickly moved to the architectural field. By age 20 Latrobe entered his initial apprenticeship in design and engineering. Married and the father of two, Latrobe’s first wife died in 1793 while giving birth to their third child. He struggled financially in his native country and sailed, with his children, to the newly forming United States in hopes of establishing a career. Landing in Virginia in March of 1796, Latrobe visited the Mount Vernon estate of President George Washington by that summer and his succesful and incredible life began taking form. After building a state of the art prison in Richmond, Virginia he moved to Philadelphia and then Washington D. C. seeking further government commissions.

Benjamin Latrobe relocated his family to Baltimore at the beginning of 1818 in order to finish work on the Baltimore Cathedral (or Basilica of the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary). Commissioned by John Carroll, America’s first native-born Archbishop, the building’s construction began in 1806 and was completed in 1821. He also created Baltimore’s original Merchant’s Exchange (razed in 1901) and the quaint Spring House of Dairy. Known as the father of American architecture, Benjamin Latrobe was a friend of presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He and Jefferson were instrumental in bringing Greek Revival architecture to our newly forming country, pairing the classic style with themes of democracy. Latrobe died of yellow fever in New Orleans in 1821 while working on a massive waterworks system for the southern port city. His sons and grandsons stayed in Baltimore and created legacies of their own.

John Hazlehurst Boneval Latrobe was born in 1803 in Philadelphia. Moving to Washington as a young child his house was frequented by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The multi-talented Latrobe took after his father’s passion for landscape painting. He eventually studied engineering at West Point but was forced to return home before graduating when his father suddenly passed away in 1820. Baltimore was home, and John H. B. began studying law with his father’s good friend, Robert Goodloe Harper. After passing the Maryland Bar, John went into private practice with his younger brother Benjamin Henry Latrobe II. The practice proved too difficult to maintain and Benjamin II turned to engineering. John H. B. went to work for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as a land acquisition attorney. He was instrumental in the railroad’s expansion west, helping to link America’s rising industrial network. John H. B. incorporated the first telegraph service in the world along the Baltimore & Ohio’s line, his persuasive manner convincing company’s leaders of the communications system’s potential. He would spend most of his life working as the B&O’s chief legal counsel.

In his spare time, John H. B. Latrobe pursued numerous other ventures with the same intensity and professionalism he had for his day job. He was on the board of directors for Druid Hill Park and Green Mount Cemetery, spearheading the establishment of two of Baltimore’s finest outdoor museums. He founded the Maryland Historical Society and established a colony in Liberia for America’s growing population of freed slaves. John also wrote an extensive memoir (along with poetry) that can be read in the Maryland Room of the Central Branch of the Enoch Pratt Library System.

John’s work as a patent attorney may have peaked his interest in inventing. His most famous creation is the Latrobe Stove (Baltimore Heater), a heat concentrating device that went inside a home’s fireplace. By 1878 there were 300,000 in use in the United States.

Perhaps best known today for his association with Edgar Allan Poe, John H. B. Latrobe was one of three judges that awarded the struggling author with a first place prize in a local writing contest for the story MS. Found in a Bottle. Poe showed up to collect his prize at John’s Mount Vernon rowhouse. The historic building stands today and is in shouting distance of the Basilica of the Assumption. The short story was published in the the Baltimore Saturday Visitor, helping to launch Edgar Allan Poe’s turbid career.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, younger brother to John H. B., was born in 1806. He studied engineering and law, following the paths of his famous father and gifted older sibling. After a short time practicing law, Benjamin II began a career in engineering, starting at Ellicott’s Mill measuring ballast stone for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. He rose rapidly through the ranks and eventually became head engineer for the historic company. His greatest standing accomplishment is the Thomas Viaduct, the railroad’s first bridge built on a curved alignment. Originally rated for 30 ton trains, today the massive stone viaduct carries loads weighing up to 300 tons. Benjamin Henry Latrobe II designed the rolling pathways in Green Mount Cemetery where he is buried.

Charles Hazlehurst Latrobe was born in a house on Calvert Street in 1833. He was educated locally and apprenticed under his father, Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, as an engineer for the B&O Railroad. He worked several years with his father expanding the rail lines west of the Ohio River at Wheeling, Pennsylvania. When his cousin, Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe, was elected mayor of Baltimore in 1875, Charles was appointed Chief Engineer of the Jones Falls Commission. He designed the containing walls that direct the Jones Falls through the city. The former Guilford, Calvert and Saint Paul Street bridges spanning the Jones Falls, with their monumental iron arches, were also articulated by the third generation engineer. As an architect Charles created Patterson Park’s Pagoda and Casino building, projects he worked on during his quarter century tenure as a city employee. During the Civil War he served in the Confederate Army where he earned the title of First Lieutenant in the Engineers of the Confederate States of America. Charles H. Latrobe is memorialized with a granite cross on the eastern wall of Green Mount Cemetery.

Born in 1833, Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe was the oldest son of John H. B. Latrobe. During his first professional life he practiced law with his father, working closely on the B&O Railroad’s legal affairs during its westward expansion. In 1875 Ferdinand was elected to his first of seven terms as Charm City’s top official. Loved by many in the community for his down to earth lifestyle, the mayor was known to have breakfast with his mother each morning, traveling there (as he traveled everywhere) in his horse-drawn carriage with his legendary Old Grey Mare leading the way. His political tenure was one of dignity and respect, his battles with Baltimore’s mob culture uniquely significant. In 1895 Ferdinand acquired land from the estate of Johns Hopkins that eventually became Clifton Park. He is memorialized in statue on the North Broadway median near East Baltimore Street.

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June 18th, 2011 at 10:43 am

Lizette Woodworth Reese Monument Plaques

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Grace Turnbull‘s Lizette Woodworth Reese Monument was moved from Lake Clifton High School to the new Johns Hopkins Eastern Campus, the former site of old Eastern High School, in April of this year. In May two plaques were placed at the foot of the memorial. The Bell Tower at Stadium Place is across the street.

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May 25th, 2009 at 7:58 pm

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Eli Siegel Stone in Druid Hill Park

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Swann Drive & Mansion House Drive (Street Viewapproximate)

GPS: 39° 19′ 1.16″ N 76° 38′ 29.32″ W

History

Eli Siegel was a poet and philosopher during his storied life, creating a body of work that few in his generation can match. He was also an extremely polarizing figure, gaining ardent supporters along with staunch opponents. Born in Baltimore, Siegel, however, spent most of his life in Greenwich Village, New York City.

In the 1930s he was master of ceremonies for a popular poetry and jazz night, known for his charged readings of his work. When he was subsequently fired from this job he started the Aesthetic Realism movement, continuing to teach until his 1978 suicide. In 2002, a monument was dedicated in Druid Hill Park in his honor. Then Mayor Martin O’Malley declared August 16 Eli Siegel day in Charm City and a generous ceremony took place at the stone’s unveiling.

Notes

Artist Chaim Koppelman was commissioned to create the monument. Koppelman began studying under Siegel in 1940, and is on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation. His work, primarily sketches and drawings, can be found in the Archives of American Art.

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May 12th, 2009 at 1:44 pm

Jose Marti Bust in Washington Hill

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N Broadway & E Fayette Street (Street View)

GPS: 39° 17′ 39.00″ N 76° 35′ 38.40″ W

History

Like another monumental figure in the Baltimore landscape, Simon Bolivar, José Julián Martí Pérez (1853-1895) was a pivotal figure in opposition to Spanish control of Central and South America. Marti, however, is a hero to the island nation of Cuba, claimed equally by all political factions. He is considered to be the “Apostle of Cuban Independence” and was a revolutionary patriot writer of great reknown, whose writings helped galvanize support for the unsuccessful 1895 colonial rebellion in Cuba. Baltimore’s memorial bust of Jose Marti was dedicated in 1998, under sponsorship by neighboring Latin American communities. Around the pedestal upon which the Marti bust rests are soil samples from 21 Latin American countries, Tampa & Key West and New York City.

Notes

Though not a career soldier himself, Marti was so passionately dedicated to the cause of Cuban Independence that he died fighting for it on the front-lines during the Battle of Dos Ríos. New York City’s Central Park boasts an equestrian monument to Marti, which is atypical of such memorials, depicting Marti at the moment of his death. A 358 foot tower and monument to Marti adorns the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana and was often used by Castro to address audiences of nearly a million. In 1999, a hand-picked Cuban baseball team defeated the Baltimore Orioles 12-6, while hundreds of anti-Castro protestors gathered at Marti’s bust in opposition.

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May 7th, 2009 at 2:01 pm

Lizette Woodworth Reese Monument

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1035 E 33rd Street, across from the YMCA (Street View)

GPS: 39° 19′ 41.26″ N 76° 36′ 5.62″ W

History

Born and raised in the Waverly community, Lizette Woodworth Reese was a Baltimore public school teacher for forty-seven years. In the 1890s, she began drawing praise for her rural-themed poems. Her highest regarded piece is the sonnet Tears from her 1909 collection A Wayside Lute. She was co-founder of the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore, serving as chairman of poetry until her death in 1935.

Hand-chiseled in marble by artist Grace H. Turnbull, the sculpture depicts a Shepard and his herd. In-line with Lizette Reese’s country style, the memorial is a reference to the above-mentioned poem, Tears. Another piece by Turnbull on public display in Baltimore is the Naiad statue in the eastern section of Mount Vernon Place. The playful sculpture sits in a fountain between the bronze casts of George Peabody and Severn Teackle Wallis. In stark contrast to the style of the Reese Monument, the Naiad is sensual and mysterious. Grace Turnbull was many artists. She was a writer, a painter and a sculptor. She never smoked, drank or read newspapers, her life an example of her philosophies. A woman of inherited wealth, she never had to take orders for her work. After graduating from the Maryland Institute of Art, Turnbull traveled the world in search of inspiration, yet she always returned to her home in Charm City. Her Spanish style house in Waverly was designed by her architect brother and contains four sculpted exterior beams, each containing religious imagery. The yard surrounding the estate is littered with her work, fine art springing out amidst the garden landscape. The residence and its contents were auctioned off last November for $315,000. Grace Turnbull died in 1976 at the age of ninety-five.

Notes

Entitled the Good Shepard, the memorial was dedicated, in 1939, on the grounds of Baltimore’s Eastern High School. In 1986, the school closed down and merged with Lake Clifton High, a campus not far down the road. At some point the sculpture was placed at Clifton where it temporarily resided until April of this year, when it was returned to its original home on 33rd street. In May, two dedication plaques were placed at either side of the marble monument. The historic Eastern High building is now occupied by Johns Hopkins University. Memorial Stadium once stood directly across the street.

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April 19th, 2009 at 7:51 pm

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Martin Luther Monument at Lake Montebello

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Hillen Road & E 32nd Street (Street View)

GPS: 39° 19′ 39.52″ N 76° 35′ 19.59″ W

History

Unveiled on October 31, 1936, the Martin Luther Monument is the work of Baltimore’s Hans Schuler. After studying at the Rinehart School of Sculpture, Schuler traveled to France with fellow artists Edward Berge and J. Maxwell Miller to continue his studies. In 1901, he won the Salon Gold Medal in Paris, the first American to do so. One of the city’s premiere sculptors, Schuler was director of the Maryland Institute College of Art from 1935 to 1951, resigning a year before his death.

A gift of a prominent local jeweler, Arthur Wallenhorst, the 18-foot tall statue of Luther once greeted visitors at the Mount Royal entrance to Druid Hill Park. In 1959 it was moved to it’s current spot over-looking Lake Montebello. A second statue of the German protestant, also by Schuler, was erected in 1947 at the The Lutheran Theological Seminary in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Notes

Situated in a small park on the southwest side of the lake, Martin Luther’s likeness gestures sternly with right hand raised. Two benches once flanked the statue, but only their supports remain. Baltimore’s Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation has been maintaining the monument since 1980.

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April 15th, 2009 at 8:04 pm

Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe Monument

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W Mount Royal Avenue & Maryland Avenue (Street View)

GPS: 39° 18′ 20.33″ N 76° 37′ 2.39″ W

History

The Edgar Allan Poe Monument was dedicated on October 20, 1921 and is by artist Moses J. Ezekiel. It was originally placed in Wyman Park at the corner of 29th Street. Interestingly, the first model for this monument was destroyed in a custom house fire, the second was destroyed in an earthquake and the third was delayed many years during WWI from being shipped across the Atlantic (Ezekiel, though born in the U. S., lived and worked in Rome, Italy).

The original base, now lost, also has a strange history. It contained two misspellings in its dedication quote, one of which was eventually corrected by a vigilante-fan named Edmond Fontaine. In 1930 Fontaine chiseled the unnecessary “s” from the statue’s base, was arrested, spent the night in jail and was released the next day. He was never charged for the corrective crime. Poe’s monument was moved from Wyman Park to its current location in the Law Center Plaza, outside the University of Baltimore on Mount Royal Avenue, in 1983.

Notes

Edgar Allan Poe was laid to rest at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore. The controversy over his demise is perhaps not surprising since much of his work dealt with the vicissitudes of death.

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April 10th, 2009 at 4:27 pm

Chapin A. Harris Memorial Bust in Charles Village

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W 31st Street & Wyman Park Drive (Street View)

GPS: 39° 19′ 29.35″ N 76° 37′ 15.72″ W

History

The story of formal dentistry begins with Chapin A Harris. Between 1839 and 1840, Harris was instrumental in starting the first dental college, the first society for dental surgeons, and the first dental publication, the American Journal of Dental Science. The original list of subscribers to this pamphlet was discovered by G V Black, the seminal dentist to use nitrous oxide, and published thereafter, providing a transcript of the origins of dentistry. Harris published numerous books during his lifetime, many of which were used as medical guides throughout the world. He acted as dean and as a professor at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery until his untimely death in 1860.

Notes

Nestled within a loosely trimmed hedge, the memorial bust rests atop a podium with Chapin’s last name and life dates on the front. Harris wears a dignified jacket with scarf and stands facing the university’s main campus. The sculpture, dedicated in 1922, is yet another piece created by Baltimore’s Edward Berge. The bust originally stood at the intersection of North and Linden Avenues before it was moved to Wyman Park. Within shouting distance is the double equestrian statue of General Robert E. Lee and General Stonewall Jackson.

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March 23rd, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Daniel Coit Gilman Statue at Johns Hopkins

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In front of Shriver Hall on Johns Hopkins University’s main campus

GPS: 39° 19′ 36.43″ N 76° 37′ 13.58″ W

History

Asked in 1875 to be the first president of Johns Hopkins University, Daniel Coit Gilman left the campus of California University, where he was dean, and accepted his new post in the east. Gilman attended Yale and was a member of the secret society Skull and Bones. He is co-founder of the Russell Trust, the organization that funds Yale’s famous ambiguous association.

Gilman is highly regarded for his ability to assemble premiere scholars and teachers for his universities, establishing these schools as top academic institutions. He wrote several books, including the still-published Life of James Monroe. In 1898 he edited and wrote an introduction to Democracy in America, the classic volume by French author Alexis De Toqueville. In 1908, after a long and successful life, Daniel Coit Gilman passed away in the city of his birth, Norwich, Connecticut.

Notes

Flanked to the right of Johns Hopkins University’s Shriver Hall, the Gilman statue stands tall and regal. Installed in 1957, the monument shares its historic site with the Isaiah Bowman Bust and the William H Welch statue. The likeness of Gilman was designed by the artist Sidney Waugh.

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March 20th, 2009 at 10:40 am

Sidney Lanier Monument in Charles Village

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3436 N Charles Street, Johns Hopkins University (Street View)

GPS: 39° 19′ 52.45″ N 76° 37′ 5.19″ W

History

Born in 1842, Sidney Lanier’s life was forever shaped by the Civil War. Upon graduating Oglethorpe College in Milledgeville, Georgia, the War Between the States broke out and Lanier enlisted in the Confederate Army. He was captured by Union soldiers near Wilmington, North Carolina, and placed at Point Lookout Prison in Saint Mary’s County, Maryland. Lookout was by far the worst Union POW camp, with bitter cold conditions and no barracks, the captured soldiers and civilians died by the scores.

Of the fifty thousand detainees, some four thousand perished, and countless others contracted tuberculosis. Lanier was not spared, and he left the jail skinny and emaciated, bound to suffer from consumption for the rest of his short life. Lanier wrote his only novel, Tiger Lilies, about his tumultuous time at Point Lookout.

After the Civil War he traveled extensively in search of a cure for his disease, eventually landing in Baltimore, where he was asked to fill the first flute chair in the newly formed Peabody Orchestra. In a letter to his wife, he expounds on the benefits of Charm City, explaining that they could “dwell in [this] beautiful city, among the great libraries, and [in the] midst of the music, the religion, and the art that we love–and I could write my books and be the man I wish to be.” He continued creating poetry and literary papers, writing some of his most loved pieces while in Baltimore.

Towards the end of his life, Lanier took a teaching position at Johns Hopkins University. He passed away in 1881 and is buried in Green Mount Cemetery. In 1942, a monument designed by Hans Schuler was dedicated in his honor.

Notes

The relief style monument depicts Lanier sitting tranquilly under a tree as the sun sets behind him. He is holding a pencil in his right hand and has a journal on his lap. His flute rests next to him on top of an open book. The bronze cast is set into a stone embankment, making this one of the more unique memorials in the city. There are two benches flanking the monument, and a stone path between them, allowing for an intimate view of the structure.

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March 17th, 2009 at 11:24 am