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Superintendent’s House in Druid Hill Park

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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.


Written by monumentcity

March 15th, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church & Cemetery in Hampden

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At the Diocesan Convention of 1855 a petition was granted to create a new parish in the village of Hampden. The first church building was erected that year in present day Roosevelt Park. In 1859 the city bought the land and created the Hampden Reservoir, displacing the church. The reservoir was filled in a hundred years later.

The Saint Mary’s episcopal congregation moved in 1860, one year before the Civil War began, to a few acres of land in north Hampden donated by Henry Mankin, a developer and landowner in the area. The parcel was later expanded in 1900 through a gift from local businessman Robert Poole. The churchyard extends from Roland Avenue down the hill to Hickory Avenue and is bounded to the north by 41st Street and to the south by Rectory Lane.

The second church, built on the new property, was made out of wood and subsequently burned down before 1873. Northern troops may have used the timber for firewood. A wooden fence that once surrounded the property was taken down piece by piece and used at a nearby Civil War soldier camp. The southern sympathizing Hampdenites were apparently treated with contempt by the Union battalions.

The third church building was built in 1873 and still stands today. The parish was decommissioned in 2002 and the building was turned into an outreach center for the Hampden community. In 1964 the congregation tore down its rectory, which stood just south of the 1873 church, and the Roland towers assisted living complex was erected. The chapel at the northern boundary of the parcel is still standing but is vacant. The building was previously occupied by a separate congregation.

The Victorian graveyard is one of a few remaining in the city that is still physically connected to the church of its origin. Founded around the same time as the episcopal parish, Saint Mary’s Cemetery has graves dating back to the late 19th Century. The park is open from from dawn until dusk and is worth visiting for the view alone. A tour of Hampden is not complete without a trip to Saint Mary’s.


Written by monumentcity

December 28th, 2012 at 6:53 am

Melvale, Maryland

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Melvale is a section of north Baltimore City west of Roland Park with its center where Cold Spring Lane (once called Melvale Avenue) passes over the Jones Falls. A water driven flour mill was established in the first half of the 19th Century in Melvale. The mill structure still stands and is today part of the Fleischmann vinegar plant. From 1887 to 1920 the stone building was used by the Melvale Distilling Co., one of the nation’s premiere rye whiskey producers of its time. Prohibition ended the distillery’s successful run.

In 1885 an asylum was established by Dr. William Frederick Steuart in Melvale. Steuart was a surgeon for Robert E. Lee’s troops during the Civil War. His son, Dr. Cecilius Calvert Steuart, took over administration of the Melvale Hospital upon his father’s retirement. The Steuart’s are related to the Calvert family, founders of Maryland.

The Melvale gas holder was built in 1933 for the Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. The 258 foot tall steel cylinder was constructed by the Bartlett Hayward Co., one of Baltimore’s historic businesses. The gigantic tank sits just off the Jones Falls Expressway next to the Cold Spring Light Rail station. The decommissioned tank once stored gas and later natural gas for nearby Baltimoreans. The Melvale gas holder is targeted for demolition in 2013.

Phase IV of the Jones Falls Trail, a paved biking/hiking path, will run right past the gas holder on its way north to Greenspring Avenue and Cylburn Arboretum. The entire trailhead will eventually connect Baltimore’s Inner Harbor with Lake Roland. Phase IV, running from Woodberry to Cylburn, is scheduled to be completed in December 2012, but appears to be slightly behind schedule.

The boundaries of Melvale are difficult to determine today and the name is rarely used anymore. The old mill building lies within a series of parks starting with Cylburn Arboretum and descending south to Cold Spring Park, Woodberry Woods, Hooper & Rockrose Park and terminating at historic Druid Hill.

A city landfill, which started as a quarry, west of Cold Spring Park is now athletic fields and a parking lot. The city’s “stump dump,” once the sewage filtration plant for the Roland Park neighborhood is also contained within the region of Melvale.

The origin of the Melvale name is not clear to me at this time. Further research of land records and old maps will hopefully shine some light on the subject. I suspect the name is attached to the mill that once turned grain to flour along the west bank of the Jones Falls long before there was a concrete expressway dividing the rolling landscape.


Written by monumentcity

December 24th, 2012 at 7:09 am

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

Architectural Cast Iron in Baltimore

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In the 19th Century, Baltimore was at the forefront of cast iron architecture. Construction teams were eager to find stronger, more flexible materials. Cast iron was one solution. Created by pouring melted pig iron into molds, the molten material can be manipulated for use in various architectural applications ranging from ornate trim work to vital support columns.

Generally brittle, cast iron is weak under tension yet very sturdy under compression. Its load-bearing qualities are greater than brick and stone while using less space. Cast columns allowed for a greater number of windows and larger interiors, a characteristic desired in storefront businesses and warehouses in the 19th Century.

Charm City possessed several foundries during the 1800s suited for producing architectural materials such as Hayward, Bartlett & Company and the Poole-Hunt Foundry. Remnants of the Poole-Hunt compound in Woodberry have been reconstituted as a restaurant, a gallery and an art studio.

During architectural cast iron’s heyday, from the mid 1800s to the 1890s, Baltimore’s businessmen outfitted the commercial district with warehouse/storefront structures lavishly decorated in molded pig iron. Most of the remaining facades are located between Old town and the Howard Street shopping district.

The Sun Iron Building, completed in 1851, was the second all cast iron structure in America. Designed by New York architects James Bogardus and Robert G. Hatfield, the Sun headquarters was the brainchild of publisher and mogul A. S. Abell. The impressive building set the tone for Baltimore’s industrial buildings thereafter. It was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1904.

Baltimore has several examples of finely restored cast iron facades. The Fava Fruit Co. building on Front Street near the Shot Tower was originally stretched out between 218 and 226 South Charles Street. Built in 1869, the iron front was removed in 1974 and placed in storage. In the 1990s the facade was reassembled in its staggered form at its current location.

The complex at 300 West Pratt Street near Oriole Park at Camden Yards has an accurately restored exterior and generously modernized interior. Additions flank the former warehouse turned office building, more than doubling its size. Erected in 1871, 300 West Pratt Street (originally called the Wilkens Building) is now called the Marsh-Mclennan building after the insurance firm that occupies it.

The city’s extensive park system has numerous pavilions, urns and fountains made with cast iron. Mount Vernon has its porches and railings poured in decorative patterns. It also contains the Edmund Lind designed Peabody Library, one of the finest cast interiors in America. Our old Victorian cemeteries have beautiful fencing created with the formed alloy, the Whitridge family plot in Green Mount being one of the finest remaining examples. Complex church interiors were assembled in cast iron such as Saint Alphonsus Church, the house of worship designed by acclaimed architect Robert Cary Long. Long lectured and wrote extensively about the flexible material and its benefits.

Cast iron fell out of fashion with builders and architects in the late 1800s with the arrival of inexpensively produced steel. However, its legacy lives on in America’s oldest cities where restoration projects continue to be financed and executed. Here in Baltimore the specialized and difficult work is steady as it goes.


Written by monumentcity

August 15th, 2012 at 11:21 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

Old Stone Building in Herring Run Park

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A friend and I found this strange structure on the western side of Herring Run Park. The empty building is hidden in dense woods near the northeastern portion of Lake Montebello. Possibly once part of the Ivy Mill, a former gristmill purchased by Morgan State University in 1917, the building appears to be constructed of Baltimore Gneiss. Baltimore Gneiss is a gray-green rock formed along this section of the Herring Run over a billion years ago. The oldest material within city boundaries, the abundant stone is said to be stronger than granite and was the primary construction material for the Ivy Mill complex.

The building may have been used by the city park system. At some point the windows and doors were removed and the interior gutted, creating a convenient pavilion for park-goers. Today it stands with a damaged roof and its access is limited by overgrown foliage and yellow caution tape. A complete restoration is necessary to return the historic building to a safe and useful status. Whether or not this will be done is unknown to this author.
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I received an email stating that this building was a Methodist church built around 1850. This book detailing the congregation’s history suggests it was a mission built near Harford Road. A map of Baltimore from 1905 shows the modest structure as M. E. Church or Methodist Episcopal Church. A site labeled Old Quarry is a few hundred yards to the northwest.

Written by monumentcity

October 10th, 2011 at 5:34 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 Patterson Park Pagoda

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During the War of 1812, as British troops approached Baltimore aiming to eliminate the bothersome privateer port, Commodore John Rodgers organized his large group of local volunteer soldiers at Hampstead Hill (now part of Patterson Park). Known as Rodgers’ Bastion, the fortified position provided a perfect vantage point during the British invasion of September 1814, allowing the Commodore to see the English flotilla coming up the harbor as well as the foot soldiers marching from North Point. The intelligent organization and courageous execution of Charm City’s defenders resulted in American victory. The Star-Spangled Banner was written by Francis Scott Key during the campaign.

In 1892 Charles H. Latrobe (grandson of Benjamin Henry Latrobe) saw the completion of his monumental Patterson Park Pagoda at the top of Hampstead Hill. The four story oriental style tower is made of fabricated iron supports, wood and glass. The ornamental building has three observation decks with a spiral staircase leading to each. The perspective from the top deck is one of the best in Baltimore, with views of Canton, the Inner Harbor and downtown.

In 1914, during the Centennial Celebration of the Battle of Baltimore, two monuments were placed directly in front of the Victorian pagoda. J. Maxwell Miller’s Star-Spangled Banner Centennial Monument depicts two school children holding a memorial scroll and the Rodgers’ Bastion Memorial Cannon commemorates the land battle lead by Commodore Rodgers. Nearby is a row of five cannon representing the War of 1812 fortification.

The Patterson Park Pagoda was completely restored in 2002 and is operated by the Friends of Patterson Park. The observatory is open from noon to six on Sundays from April to October. The historic location is one of the most engaging in Charm City, offering layers of historical value and intrigue.


Written by monumentcity

June 6th, 2011 at 10:01 am

Clifton Park’s Historic Buildings

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Originally owned by an unknown farmer, Clifton Park was acquired by wealthy merchant and War of 1812 veteran Capt. Henry Thompson in the late 1790s. The land passed to Johns Hopkins, one of America’s wealthiest businessmen, in 1841. Hopkins bought the estate as a summer retreat. He added countless exotic trees, a lake, an orangery and a garden with over 100 pieces of marble sculpture. When Hopkins died in 1873, his will stipulated that the estate would become the grounds of a University in his name. The University’s trustees chose a different location and the land fell into a period of temporary neglect.

Purchased by the city of Baltimore in 1895 under the mayorship of Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe, east Baltimore’s Clifton Park was given to the citizens of Baltimore. The city turned the property into a park of recreation, installing Lake Clifton, an 18-hole golf course and twenty-seven tennis courts. The Olmsted Brothers were hired to design the park’s layout. The brothers incorporated the pasture’s existing features into their competent design, complete with meandering paths and splendid arbors. Today the park still maintains qualities from the 18th, 19th and 20th Centuries, its historic buildings and significant landscape architecture bridging the gap between America’s westward expansion period and modern times.

In the early 19th Century Capt. Henry Thompson made vast improvements to the estate’s existing farmhouse, turning the hilltop abode into a stately manor. When Johns Hopkins purchased the property in 1841 he enhanced the mansion house even further. Hopkins hired the architectural firm of Niersnee and Neilson to turn the house into an Italian villa, adding an observation tower and an extended veranda. Made of brick covered in plaster, Clifton Mansion rests on a foundation of stone and has walls nearly a foot thick. The historic building will soon be undergoing a full restoration.

In 1887 the Baltimore Water Board completed the Clifton Park Valve House. The Gothic Revival open-air structure was constructed over Lake Clifton’s valve system. The man-made lake was eventually filled and a high school was built at the location. The Valve House has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Gardener’s Cottage is tucked away in a wooded area off the 16th-hole of Clifton’s public golf course. Designed in the rural Gothic tradition, the cottage was built by Johns Hopkins’ gardener in the late 1840s or the early 1850s. Its design was based upon an Andrew Jackson Downing sketch. Downing’s A Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, Adapted to North America, a popular book at the time, contains a detailed drawing of a very similar cottage. The building appears to be structurally sound and stands ready for renovation.

Mothers’ Garden was dedicated by Mayor William Broening “to all the mothers of Baltimore” in 1926. At the northern tip of Clifton Park, the memorial garden features a stone gazebo and a wood and stone pergola. The gazebo’s eight-sided shape is seemingly inspired by the Valve House. The recently deceased William Donald Schaefer rededicated Mothers’ Garden in 1984.

Other historic buildings at Clifton include the bandstand, the superintendent’s house and the stable (now a maintenance garage). The collection of structures in the park display a wide variety of architectural styles and construction practices. They are presented in their original environment displaying their original intent. Wealth, luck and preservation have kept Clifton Park in a state of perpetual limbo that I can only hope continues for another 200 years.


Written by monumentcity

May 20th, 2011 at 9:03 am