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Druid Hill Park’s Madison Avenue Entrance

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In 1863, George A. Frederick became the city’s architect for the Baltimore Park Commission, holding the position until 1895. Frederick created Druid Hill’s observatory and greenhouse, along with several buildings in Patterson Park and Federal Hill Park. Between 1867 and 1868 this monumental gateway was constructed at Druid Hill Park’s Madison Avenue entrance. There is some speculation that John H. B. Latrobe, son of architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, designed the sandstone entranceway, but it’s more likely that Frederick was behind the construct. Either way, the gateway serves as a fitting monument to one of America’s oldest parks. The Repeal Statue is a few paces away.

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March 22nd, 2010 at 7:59 am

Druid Hill Park’s Historic Buildings (Part One)

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Druid Hill Park has an array of historic structures within its boundaries. Opened just before the Civil War, the enormous public estate features monuments, installations and buildings from a time before ours.

George A. Frederick designed many of the park’s buildings. His Moorish Tower stands at the southeast edge of Druid Hill Lake, the location overlooking the city. Another Frederick design is the Palm House (or Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens) located at McCulloh and Gwynn Falls Parkway, near the zoo entrance. Completed in 1888, the Victorian style building is the last of Baltimore’s greenhouses still standing. Carroll Park, Patterson Park and Clifton Park all had similar buildings at one time, each falling victim to decay and demolition. The Druid Hill’s Conservatory was restored in 2004. Frederick also designed the main entrance on Madison Avenue, as well as the numerous pavilions scattered throughout the park including Council Grove Station and Latrobe Pavilion.

The regal Mansion House sits on a hill, its front yard a vast open field. Designed by Colonel Nicholas Rogers IV and buiilt in the late 18th century the building was the former home of the Rogers Family. Lloyd Nicholas Rogers (son of the Colonel) reluctantly sold the mansion and estate to the city of Baltimore in 1860. The English style residence and corresponding country landscape was preserved when the city began designing and constructing the park. George A. Frederick and John H. B. Latrobe made alterations and additions to the mansion during the late 1800s. The building now contains the main office of the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

The headquarters for Baltimore’s Department of Recreation and Parks is housed in the restored public bathhouse. After a $2.6 million renovation in 1994, the white marble structure was opened as the Dr. Ralph Waldo Emerson Jones, Jr. Building. The structure was designed by Josias and Hall Pennington and completed in 1924.

The Grove of Remembrance Pavilion was installed in 1927. The grove itself was planted in 1919 as a memorial to those who fought in WWI and is possibly the oldest living memorial in the United States. A tree was planted for each state, the city of Baltimore and president Woodrow Wilson. The grove has since been rededicated to include all of America’s conflicts and those that lost their lives in them. Colonel Israel Rosenfeld paid for the pavilion in honor of his fallen soldier son, Merrill Rosenfeld.

The Superintendent’s House was built in 1872 and was designed by George A. Frederick. It stands on small parcel of land disconnected from Druid Hill bounded by Auchentorly Terrace, Liberty Heights Avenue and Reisterstown Road. The Gothic style mansion is slated for complete renovation.

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February 1st, 2010 at 9:36 am

Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park

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Druid Hill Park is as mysterious as it is massive. Designed by Howard Daniels, the seven hundred and forty-five acres of rolling countryside just north of downtown Baltimore has a surprisingly pleasant vibe. Inaugurated in 1860, shortly after New York’s Central Park, the terrain features the Jones Fall Stream, Druid Lake and what was once known as Boat Lake. For many decades the expanse was an immensely popular location for city dwellers. Patrons could stroll the rolling hills capriciously, relaxing the day away with ease and grace. The city even provided a narrow-gauge railroad for straightforward transport around the estate.

Over time generous farmers and wealthy landowners started donating animals to the park. Habitats were constructed and the creatures were integrated into the overall scene. Primates and reptiles were eventually brought in to accompany the livestock. Opening in 1876 the Maryland Zoo at Baltimore is one of the oldest zoological gardens in America. Over the years it’s size and scope has changed, the zoo’s land has slowly diminished leaving behind remnants of it’s former charm. Large areas have been shut down because of financial and infrastructure problems. Numerous animals have been loaned to other institutions as Baltimore’s menagerie struggles to regain it’s former glory.

Exploring the Zoo’s forgotten installations is amazing. A friend of a friend led us past closed gates and imposing barriers down an old road. We saw the former alligator pond, the vacant emu runs covered in bamboo and numerous waterway installations. At the end of one ominous trail was a stone slab dump. This discarding site for cornerstones was creepy at best. Amongst the granite and concrete pieces were small monuments that aforetime pilgrims had erected coupled with the unforgiving sight of grave markers from god knows where.

The Buchanan and Rogers families inhabited this territory during the 18th and 19th Centuries. We stumbled upon their funerary grounds during our expedition. Some of the stones dated as far back as the late 1700s. The markers are coming to pieces and the perimeter fence is pretty mangled, but the 200 year old cemetery is in remarkably good shape.

After traversing the closed back roads of the park we came to a strip of modern pathway. It appears the Jones Falls Trail is being connected through Druid Hill. The tranquil bike path is well built and expanding. With city revenue down it could be some time before the trail is completed, but the idea is paramount. Baltimore needs these paths and park lands to alleviate internal pressures. When this park is restored and reestablished the neighborhoods surrounding it will benefit exponentially, helping revitalize the area.

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December 7th, 2009 at 5:24 pm

Mount Royal Entrance to Druid Hill Park

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Location: W North Avenue & W Mount Royal Avenue

These Egyptian styled gateway pillars stand at the original Mount Royal entrance to Druid Hill Park. The monuments were re-erected in 1988 by then Mayor Kurt Schmoke, along with the help of community members. George Aloysius Frederick, architect of Baltimore’s City Hall, designed the Nova Scotia freestone structures. The Colonel William Watson Monument towers nearby.

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June 27th, 2009 at 2:29 pm

Grove of Remembrance in Druid Hill Park

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Location: Beechwood Drive near the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore

Planted in 1919, The Grove of Remembrance (or Memorial Grove Oaks) honors those who fought in World War I. Two markers stand at the entrance of the thicket, one showing dedication information and the other displaying a map of the woodland area. One tree was planted for every state, the city of Baltimore and Woodrow Wilson. As the years went by more trees were planted marking each subsequent American War. It is said to be the oldest living memorial in the United States.

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June 9th, 2009 at 9:26 am

George Washington Statue in Druid Hill Park

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Hanlon Drive & Mansion House Drive (Street View)

GPS: 39° 19′ 3.00″ N 76° 38′ 33.60″ W

History

This statue was constructed in 1857 in Rome by the American artist Edward Sheffield Bartholomew at the behest of Noah Walker, a Baltimore businessman. Walker had the statue installed in a niche within the facade of his West Baltimore Street clothing business, at what came to be known as the Washington Building. The statue was originally installed on the second floor and was lit at night by a circle of gaslights. An 1871 sketch of its original appearance can be found here. When Walker died the statue was donated by his family to the city and was moved to Druid Hill Park. Initially the statue was placed on a small pedestal that has since been upgraded. Enoch Pratt, the philanthropist after whom Baltimore’s library system is named, donated the structure in which it now rests. The monument is next to the old Promenade entrance.

Notes

Bartholomew’s Washington statue is one of many monuments dedicated to America’s first president. Aside from the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon, there is also a Washington Bicentennial marker near the Basilica. And compatriots of Washington’s like Lafayette and Pulaski are also memorialized in Baltimore City.

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May 28th, 2009 at 10:06 am

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

Christopher Columbus Statue in Druid Hill Park

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Hanlon Drive at the northwest corner of Druid Lake (Street View)

GPS: 39° 19′ 9.60″ N 76° 38′ 30.60″ W

History

The first monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus in the United States is the 44 foot tall obelisk on Hartford Road, just east of Lake Montebello. The structure was erected, in 1792, to commemorate the three-hundred year anniversary of the explorer’s discovery of America. During the 19th century a local legend developed stating that the obelisk was actually a monument to a horse of the same name, not the explorer.

The Italian community refused to recognize the obelisk, eventually collecting funds and erecting their own statue on the shore of Druid Lake. On Columbus Day in 1892 the monument was unveiled. The sculpture, carved by Albert Weinert, is a reproduction of artist Achille Canessa’s original. In 1950, Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. placed a wreath on the neglected Hartford Road monument, finally putting an end to misconception, and giving equal worth to both memorials.

Notes

A third monument to Chris Columbus stands in the Inner Harbor near the Katyn Memorial and the Public Works Museum. Professor Wayne Schaumburg of Johns Hopkins University states that Mayor William Schaefer planned to move the Weinert Columbus to the Harbor East location but the Druid Hill neighborhood committees protested strongly. Instead, a new statue was created and dedicated, in 1984, with President Reagan attending the ceremony.

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May 11th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

Richard Wagner Bust in Druid Hill Park

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Just off Lake Drive, on the Mansion House lawn, in Druid Hill Park

GPS: 39° 19′ 16.82″ N 76° 38′ 44.51″ W

History

First Prize for winning the 19th Triennial National Saengerfest, a German cultural festival focused on choral performances, in 1900, was a bronze bust of composer Richard Wagner. The United Singers of Baltimore took the title and the trophy at the contest, which was held in Brooklyn, New York, with the song Sheiden (Parting) by D. Melamet. The singers gifted the statue to the city thereafter and in 1901 it was placed on the lawn of Druid Hill Park’s Mansion House where it remains to this day. The house now serves as the main administrative building for the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. R. P. Golde created the memorial.

Notes

Captain Kidd, the famed Scottish Privateer and Pirate is rumored to have buried a sizable treasure of gold and jewelery near the Mansion House grounds. At one point, so much digging went on that the house’s foundation was in danger and the fortune seekers had to be removed. No treasure was ever located. The Wagner Bust sits on the edge of the road next to what remains of the Boat Lake. The surrounding park is vast and open, making this one of the more tranquil spots within city limits.

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May 11th, 2009 at 1:47 pm

John Cook Memorial Rose Garden & Sundial

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3100 Swann Drive in Druid Hill Park (Street View)

GPS: 39° 19′ 5.40″ N 76° 38′ 43.80″ W

History

The Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and Botanic Gardens of Baltimore was established in 1888 on the grounds of Druid Hill Park. Today the greenhouse network continues to thrive with plants from all over the world growing inside the contained environment. In 2004, a $4.8-million renovation took place that linked the main building, or Palm House, with some of the newer structures located behind it.

Directly to the right of the Conservatory is the John Cook memorial garden and sundial. Cook was a German-born immigrant that arrived in America in 1853. He came from a long line of florists and continued the family tradition in Baltimore, first tending garden for J. Howard McHenry, the grandson of James McHenry, then opening his own store in 1870.

As his career progressed, Cook began performing experiments with his roses, searching for new varieties. His hybrid tea, Radiance, became one of the most popular flowers of the early twentieth century. This garden was dedicated in John Cook’s honor.

Notes

Within the boundaries of the garden rests a strange sundial. From a distance it looks like a piece of modern art, but when you get closer you see the multiple time-telling gnomons jutting out from the structure. The timepiece was created in 1890 by a local stonemason named Peter Hamilton under the direction of the Johns Hopkins mathematics department. It tells the time for numerous places on earth from Cape Cod to Tokyo, but was designed before daylight savings time, and is mostly inaccurate now.

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May 9th, 2009 at 1:55 pm