Archive for the ‘Druid Hill Park’ Category
The 1872 Superintendent’s House in Druid Hill Park is undergoing a complete restoration. The George A. Frederick designed stone mansion at Auchentoroly Terrace will be part of a new Parks and People Foundation complex that will also include the adjoining carriage house, a new structure and landscaped park land. The facility will make long overdue use of the neglected western parcel of Druid Hill, a once overgrown wasteland adjacent to Mondawmin Mall.
Ziger/Snead Architects are leading the project utilizing reclaimed building materials when possible and claims to be saving a majority of the 200+ trees that envelop the property. The gothic Superintendent’s House will remain true to the Frederick design on its exterior while its interior will be given a modern open feel. The stone building that once housed Druid Hill’s chief officer will be used as a multifaceted recreation center and community meeting place. The Ecology Center will be slightly north of the Frederick mansion and will include offices for the Parks and People Foundation. The project is exactly what Baltimore needs. Turning blight into a valuable resource for the community and saving historic structures at the same time is certainly worth it. I can only hope that the city and its numerous non-profits will follow this example.
The renovation almost never happened. During Kurt Schmoke’s tenure as mayor the overgrown 9 acres were nearly sold to a church. The congregation intended to cover the entire parcel with a 34,000 square foot house of worship, a family center, apartments and parking lots. The Superintendent’s residence, its carriage house and surrounding trees would have been lost. After an enormous outpouring of discontent from the community Schmoke canceled the city’s plan to sell the park property.
The land for Saint Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery was purchased for $3000.00 by the 2nd Evangelical Lutheran Congregation of Baltimore on October 25, 1854. The obscure location is west of the Jones Falls across from the neighborhood of Hampden. In 1860 the countryside surrounding the 4.5 acre cemetery was purchased by City Council under the guidance of Mayor Thomas Swann and turned into Druid Hill Park, the third oldest landscaped public park in America.
In 1868 the 2nd Evangelical Lutheran Church divided into three separate congregations: Saint Paul Evangelical Lutheran, Immanuel Evangelical Lutheran and Martini Lutheran Church. An agreement was reached to jointly maintain the burial ground thereafter. One stipulation of the agreement was that no lot owners could bury blatant blasphemers. During this transitional period the City of Baltimore bought 2.25 acres reducing the cemetery’s size by half.
The burial site was severely vandalized in 1986 leaving many of the markers tipped over and broken. A pile of stones remains at the base of an old growth tree. Today Saint Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery is solely owned and operated by Martini Lutheran Church with the Friends of Druid Hill Park adding assistance. The two groups have made vast improvements to the yard. A stone-worker is repairing neglected memorials and someone is keeping the grass trimmed.
The peculiar family plot of Gottlieb Taubert lies unmarked in Saint Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery. Lincoln conspirator George Atzerodt is supposedly buried with the Tauberts, secretly interred here by his mother and father sometime after 1869. Victoria and John Atzerodt went to Washington to retrieve their son’s remains when President Andrew Johnson pardoned those involved with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. They brought their son to Baltimore.
Upon reviewing the cemetery’s burial records at the Maryland Historical Society Library I noticed that a Viktoria Asserat (Victoria Atzerodt) was placed to rest in the Taubert lot in 1886. It’s my belief, and others, that George Atzerodt is buried anomalously along with his mother in the Gottlieb Taubert family plot, Lot 90 near the center of Saint Paul’s Lutheran Cemetery in Druid Hill Park.
The Gwynns Falls Parkway entrance to Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park has recently been renovated and decorated. The project consists of six salvaged iron support columns topped with historic images from the park’s past. Created by artist William Cochran and entitled Oak Wisdom, the monumental structure gives the west entrance a dignified appearance in-line with the nearby Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The entryway’s public works contract was awarded to the Mirable Construction Company at a cost of $276,617. The firm completed the project in early 2011. Further plans are in place to improve the entire complex surrounding the Conservatory.
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.
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.
Behind Druid Hill Park’s Conservatory & Botanic Gardens is a little used path that once lead to the Music Pavilion. The Promenade (conceptualized by the Olmsted Brothers) was a central feature of the city’s largest and best park, a place where patrons could gather and listen to music by either traveling acts or the park’s string band. The former yellow brick path, once lined with comfortable benches and well-maintained landscaping, is now a parking lot for the conservatory’s workers. The mall’s Moorish style pavilion was designed by George Aloysius Frederick and completed in 1865. The Gazebo eventually fell into disrepair and was torn down in 1961.
Rogers-Buchanan Burial Ground lies within the boundaries of Druid Hill Park across the street from the zoo’s Reptile House. This small north Baltimore cemetery was created in the 1700s as a typical family estate burying ground.
The estate was acquired by Lord Baltimore in the late 1600s and being prized for its lumber, was sold many times to industrial colonialists. Nicholas Rogers came to own 200 acres of the forest-covered land. When Rogers died in 1709 he left the estate to his daughter Eleanor.
Eleanor married George Buchanan, one of the seven commissioners responsible for establishing Baltimore City, and bore him ten children. When George Buchanan died in 1750, his son Lloyd took over the land, adding surrounding properties and enlarging the estate to 625 acres.
The Colonel, a Revolutionary War veteran, had an interest in architecture and worked on city projects with builder/architect Robert Cary Long. Rogers designed the the Assembly Room which stood adjacent to the old courthouse. The building burned down in 1873 in the Holliday Street Theatre fire.
Through the years the Rogers family modified the estate, adding rolling pathways and adventurous landscaping. Colonel Rogers IV made great improvements to the property by adding bays and indentations to the untamed forest.
In a unique move for the time, the Colonel’s will provided that his slaves be freed and given monthly salaries upon his passing. Rogers IV died in 1822, outliving his wife by ten years. Their son Lloyd Nicholas Rogers inherited Druid Hill.
Rumored to be a recluse, Lloyd apparently cut off ties with friends, city officials and former family business partners. When Mayor Thomas Swann and City Council wanted to build a turnpike through the Rogers-Buchanan estate, Lloyd refused. A bitter and lengthy battle ensued. Lloyd Nicholas Rogers died in 1860, a month and a half after he unwillingly sold the family property.
The half-acre graveyard was left in the possession of the Rogers family when the sale of the park was finalized. The burial ground’s last interment was Edmund Law Rogers in 1896.
Three Sisters Ponds is situated in the northwest corner of Druid Hill Park. Originally made up of five separate bodies of water, Three Sisters is a network of man-made basins surrounded by strolling paths, elderly trees and a disc golf course. Originally part of the park’s fish hatchery, the ponds were once fed by the adjacent High Service Reservoir (now a baseball diamond). Three Sisters Ponds have been abandoned since the 1960s. The Rogers-Buchanan Burial Ground perches on a nearby hill just off of Greenspring Avenue.
The front pond is small and oval-shaped, its stone wall reinforced with concrete and wood. Structurally sound, it looks like it may hold water if filled. It appears to be the newest basin in the network.
Sea Lion Pond, a fenced-in former zoo installation that once housed two eared seals, is a few paces north. A stone formation sits at the center of the pool and an enclosed fountainhead behind a gated entrance occupies the southern end of the pond. The Friends of Druid Hill Park have been routinely cleaning the neglected area.
Directly above Sea Lion Pond is the largest of the Three Sisters, yet the most difficult to locate. Covered in copious layers of vines and brush, the hidden marsh is well over an acre in size and was known as Lily Pond. Its eastern portion, once on the other side of Three Sisters Lane, has been completely removed.
Further north is the what seems to be oldest basin in the complex, its walls made of uneven dark green rock. It has the appearance of an early 19th Century reservoir and looks very much like a smaller, older version of Druid Hill Lake. All four ponds empty into a rolling creek that leads to the Jones Falls.
Druid Hill Park is as tranquil as the city of Baltimore gets. The 150 year old park stretches out over 700 acres, much of which is covered in forest cut with simple utility roads and bike trails. The Jones Falls Trailhead is accessible from the Woodberry / Clipper Mill area just around the corner from Woodberry Kitchen. Once you’re on the trail you can either exit to the northwest side of the park along Philosopher’s Walk or take the work roads through the woods along the path of the Jones Falls. The little used roads wind through the dense foliage along the northern boundary of the zoo. The other day I rounded an unfamiliar bend and found the fenced off ruins of a building. After a little research I found that the structure was once Druid Hill’s blacksmith shop. The historic building is without a roof but its foundation and outside walls remain. The old repair shop is situated next to a peaceful waterfall.
While biking through Druid Hill Park I stumbled upon a large public pool filled with dirt and grass. An information tablet, though nearly aged beyond readability, indicates that the strange oasis is a memorial to the struggles of racial segregation and those that endured its hardships. During the first half of the 20th century Druid Hill Park operated under strict laws of separation, blacks and whites assigned to their own swimming and tennis facilities.
Pool no. 2 was the only outdoor public swimming area in Baltimore for African-Americans. Standout athletes like Connie Boyd refined their abilities at the well-attended and safe facility. By June of 1956 the city’s parks were fully integrated. The memorial landscape was designed by artist Joyce J. Scott.