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Cylburn Arboretum in North Baltimore

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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.


Written by monumentcity

October 21st, 2012 at 5:22 am

B&O Railroad Museum

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The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is located at 901 West Pratt Street in Charm City. The museum is geared towards rail enthusiasts and fans of America’s industrial history. The collection includes over 200 pieces of rolling stock as well as hundreds of artifacts representing every key period in the timeline of American railways.

After studying rail facilities in England in 1826, businessmen Philip Thomas and George Brown returned to Baltimore and, with 25 others, organized the B&O. The railroad was formally chartered in 1827 and is the country’s first large scale commercial rail service. On July 4th, 1828 construction began with the aging Charles Carroll of Carrollton presiding over the ceremony.

The countries best engineers were hired to survey the line including Jonathan Knight, Major George Whistler and Colonel Stephen Long. The team initially set out to reach Ellicott Mills, a distance of 13 miles, as a test run on their way to the Ohio River. Over 140 years of continuous operation followed. In February of 1963 the Baltimore & Ohio was acquired by the rival Chesapeake & Ohio. By 1970 the line merged with several others to form Chessie System (now CSX).

Throughout the company’s long existence a few great men took great care in saving and preserving the B&O’s heritage, storing stock in unused yards for future exhibition. These relics would eventually find their place at West Charm City’s Mount Clare yards and its massive roundhouse.

In 1884 the company built a new structure at their existing Mount Clare yards. The E. Francis Baldwin designed roundhouse was the largest car shop in the country when it was completed. Today the building houses locomotives and rolling stock from the steam era to modern times.

The museum’s roundhouse, annex buildings and open acreage are littered with examples of rolling stock, and although some are in better condition than others, the collection is impressive. The price of admission may seem steep, $16.00 for adults, but if you have a few hours it’s definitely worth it. This is certainly one of the finer museums in Baltimore.


Written by monumentcity

June 29th, 2012 at 7:12 am

Abolitionist Elisha Tyson’s Summer Home on Stone Hill

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Quaker abolitionist Elisha Tyson established a successful milling business along the Jones Falls during Baltimore’s early stages as an American town. In the 1790s his Woodberry Flour Mill was rapidly turning grain to flour, providing a conduit between the regions farmers and the city’s burgeoning port. The radical Tyson embraced philanthropic ideals, using his acquired wealth to give back to the city’s less fortunate.

Tyson was an advocate of African-Americans, fighting for their freedom as well as providing institutions to better their welfare. In 1801 Tyson and Archbishop John Carroll founded the Baltimore Dispensary, the city’s first free health clinic for all citizens regardless of race or gender. Three years later he and Mayor Edward Johnson helped open the Baltimore House of Industry to provide vocational training and housing for the disadvantaged. That same year Tyson, along with Robert Goodloe Harper, John McKim, Andrew Ellicott and other Baltimore business men, successfully lobbied local government to pipe sufficient and sanitary water to the town’s growing residents.

Along with fellow business associates, Tyson helped fund and organize the Falls Road Turnpike (once a Native American trail and now Falls Road) that connected his and other Jones Falls mills to the harbor. He may have used the route as part of an Underground Railroad system operating in the area. Hideouts are rumored to still exist under the Greenway Cottages on 40th Street. He even directly challenged City Council on several occasions, successfully influencing legislation on the out-of-state sale of slaves. Legend claims that no less than 3000 blacks joined his grand funeral procession in 1824. Tyson was buried at Friends Aisquith Street Cemetery until 1906, when his remains were moved to Green Mount.

Elisha Tyson built his summer home on the east bank of the Jones Falls sometime between 1790 and 1804. The Quaker incorporated the Woodberry Flour Mill in 1790 and eventually erected his residence directly above the enterprise. The house faces the former estate of Colonel Nicholas Rogers IV, now known as Druid Hill Park. The Tyson gristmill stood where the Mount Vernon Mill No. 1 and No. 2 buildings stand today.

In 2005 local preservationists Robyn Lyles and Mark Thistle purchased the Stone Hill, Hampden property. The two diligently restored the Tyson house to its original form. Materials were removed, restored and reused when possible and previous alterations, though minimal, were undone. The entire process took four years and around a half million dollars. Completed in 2009, the address won the 2010 Baltimore Heritage Preservation Award.


Written by monumentcity

July 9th, 2011 at 10:12 pm

The Julia Rollins at Green Mount Cemetery

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This Hans Schuler sculpture depicts the 19th Century ship the Julia Rollins. Marking Commodore Thornton Rollins grave in Green Mount Cemetery, the detailed relief was created around 1935, the year of the Commodore’s death. Thornton Rollins was a successful Baltimore merchant who dealt heavily in the international coffee trade. In 1885 Rollins commissioned the Skinner & Sons shipbuilding company to build the 146-foot bark for his growing enterprise. Baltimore was a thriving American port in the late 1800s and Skinner & Sons was a premiere shipbuilder, employing around 250 people and maintaining a 350′ X 350′ dry dock at the harbor. The Julia Rollins was named after the Commodore’s wife and cost $24,208.

On January 29, 1894, the 586 ton bark came under enemy fire at Rio Harbor. The merchant ship was attacked by Brazilian insurgents during their bombardment of Rio de Janeiro. The complicated diplomatic affair was tempered by the American Admiral Andrew E. K. Benham, a Civil War veteran sent to the region to protect American interests. Benham’s order of return fire from the U.S.S. Detroit stunned the determined insurgents. However, the Brazilian rebels, under the leadership of Admiral de Gama, did not go easily, and musket fire was exchanged. Realizing the American’s strict stance, de Gama attempted to surrender to U.S. forces. Admiral Benham refused and maintained his defensive position until the conflict was resolved. The rebellion ended a few months later and order was returned to Rio Harbor. The minor maritime standoff made newspaper headlines across the United States and was seen as an act of patriotism by President Cleveland and his administration. The Julia Rollins was later renamed the Northwest. It sank off the coast of South Carolina on July 13, 1916.


Written by monumentcity

April 1st, 2011 at 9:30 am

Peter Hamilton’s Sundial in Druid Hill Park

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In 1892, lawyer and businessman Peter Hamilton gifted Druid Hill Park and the city of Baltimore this peculiar sundial. Hamilton was a 19th Century stonecutter (much like Hugh Sisson) who became president of the Guilford and Waltersville Granite Company, the firm responsible for supplying the stone for the Library of Congress. After countless hours of calculations, Hamilton hand-carved the the hemispherical compendium dial, affixing shadow-casting metal gnomons to the completed sculpture. In 1904 the sundial was repaired and reset by the Board of Park Commissioners. The board had metal sheets placed over the sundial, protecting it from the elements.

When local resident George McDowell, a sundial enthusiast, heard about the relic he went to investigate. He found the dial to be mathematically incorrect and decided to personally oversee its 1993 restoration. Jacques Kelly interviewed McDowell for a Baltimore Sun feature in 1994.

With the city’s permission, he worked with local metal artist Larry Lewis to have the dial cleaned of years’ worth of dirt. Some of the gnomons had been vandalized. Others needed mathematical correction. Mr. Lewis fabricated replacement pieces.

Peter Hamilton’s restored sundial sits within the John Cook Memorial Rose Garden next to George Aloysius Frederick’s historic greenhouse. Built between 1887 and 1888, the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory (or Palm House) contains exotic plants from around the world.

Written by monumentcity

March 8th, 2011 at 9:22 am

The Grave of Elijah Jefferson Bond

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Elijah Bond was best known for filing the first United States patent for the Ouija board. Born in Harford County, MD in 1847, Bond became a successful lawyer in Baltimore City, starting his own practice in the 1870s. He filed the Ouija patent on behalf of the Kennard Novelty Company in 1891. Elijah Bond died in 1921 and was anonymously buried in his family’s plot at Green Mount Cemetery. Robert Murch, America’s foremost Ouija historian, after fifteen years of searching, located the ambiguous grave. Murch erected the Ouija-themed headstone in 2008. The cemetery’s mausoleum is nearby.

Written by monumentcity

February 12th, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Stonecutter Hugh Sisson

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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.

Written by monumentcity

January 30th, 2011 at 9:35 am

Baltimore Trust Building

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The Baltimore Trust Building (or Bank of America Building) is located downtown across W. Baltimore Street from the William Donald Schaefer Tower. Built between 1924-1929 by the architects Taylor, Fisher, Smith and May, the ‘setback’ style skyscraper is a monument to the financial history of Charm City. As the Great Depression materialized the building’s occupant, the Baltimore Trust Company, went into bankruptcy, eventually vacating the tower by 1935. The virtually brand new Mayan Revival structure stood empty just six years after its completion. Maryland’s Public Works Administration moved in shortly after under the direction of FDR and his New Deal. By 1961, with the country’s economy stabilized, the Maryland National Bank purchased the structure. In 1993 the Bank of America acquired Maryland National, turning the 37-floor building into its downtown office.

The skyscraper is decorated inside and out with various sculptures and paintings. Mayan statues stare down to the street from above while significant relief work surrounds the entrance ways to the bank’s main lobby. One relief shows the old Baltimore Trust Bank being protected by a God during the Great Fire of 1904. The bank’s much smaller former building was spared when most of downtown went up in devastating flames. The building’s large open-space lobby contains murals depicting significant Baltimore events by local artists Robert McGill Mackall and Griffith Baily Coale.

Written by monumentcity

April 14th, 2010 at 5:45 am

Baltimore’s Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower

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The Emerson Bromo-Seltzer Tower is two blocks north of Oriole Park at the intersection of S. Eutaw Street and W. Lombard Street. Conceived by Captain Isaac Emerson and designed by Joseph Evans Sperry, the iconic structure was modeled after the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. Captain Emerson invented Bromo-Seltzer, a hangover remedy containing sodium bromide, a toxic ingredient taken off the U.S. market in 1975. Bromo-Seltzer was sold nationwide and was very popular for its sedative qualities. Originally a giant bottle of the elixir stood on top of the clock tower. The factory at the base of the structure has since been replaced with the John F. Steadman fire station, the busiest fire station in the country. Today the tower is an enclave for some of Charm City’s artists, the historic building providing studios for painters, writers and photographers.

Written by monumentcity

February 5th, 2010 at 11:21 am

Alexander Brown & Sons Building

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The Alexander Brown Building stands at 135 E. Baltimore Street. Built in 1901 for Alex. Brown & Sons, the first and oldest continuously operational investment firm in America, the structure is one of few that survived Baltimore’s Great Fire of 1904. Damaged stone on the building’s facade is striking evidence of the devastating event. The company’s former headquarters is an important monument to Charm City’s financial significance during the 19th century. The building is also the first in U. S. history to be entirely heated by electricity. In 1997 renovation was completed on the interior, restoring the century old bank to its original layout. The Gustave Baumstark designed stained glass ceiling was cleaned during the process. The historic Continental Building is across the street.

Written by monumentcity

January 13th, 2010 at 12:30 pm