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Archive for the ‘Historic Building’ Category

The Null House in Old Town

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Built between 1782 and 1784, the Null House is one of the oldest extant homes in Baltimore City. The historic clapboard abode is located at 1037 Hillen Street, 300 feet from where it originally stood. The dwelling was relocated in 1980 to avoid demolition. A BGE facility occupies the lot today.

The Null House is significant for its all wooden construction. Its highly flammable building materials were prohibited after an 1799 ordnance was enacted. Equal parts luck and good fortune have spared this piece of Americana. Painted light blue and unoccupied, the two-and-a-half story building is invariably easy to walk past without noticing. The fact that it’s been responsibly owned and cared for all these years is extraordinary.

Listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1983, three years after it was relocated, and fairly early for a Baltimore structure, raises questions about the further significance of the privately owned Hillen Street home. The first being: Why is it called the Null House?
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After viewing the Passano file entry at the Maryland Historical Society’s H. Furlong Baldwin Library I found that the Null family owned the house for several generations. Cabinetmaker Francis T. Null (1872-1949) used the building for his successful business. His daughter Cornelia inherited the property thereafter.


Written by monumentcity

April 11th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

Spring House of Dairy at the BMA

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The Baltimore Museum of Art is located in Charles Village at the bottom edge of Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus. The BMA features paintings by Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh along side ancient mosaics, miniatures and stained glass. And admission is free. The Spring House of Dairy sits on the western end of the museum’s property. Designed by acclaimed architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1812, the small building was once located in what is now Roland Park at the former Oakland estate. Oakland was owned by the retired South Carolina State Senator Robert Goodloe Harper, a close friend of Latrobe’s, and the son-in-law of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. The building was originally situated over a running spring using the cool waters to preserve milk and other perishables. Spring House had a detailed frieze (possibly sculpted by Antonio Capellano) that has since been lost to the ages.

When John Russell Pope was designing the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1929, the Spring House of Dairy was donated to the project. Pope reconstructed the small Neoclassical style structure with as many original components as possible. He used the construction to offset the Wyman Gatehouse at the other end of the property, the subtle technique providing a balanced perspective between the lot’s three buildings.

Written by monumentcity

March 2nd, 2011 at 10:18 am

Four Historic Baltimore Synagogue Buildings

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Lloyd Street Synagogue B’nai Israel Synagogue Madison Avenue Temple Eutaw Place Temple

The Lloyd Street Synagogue stands just off Corned Beef Row in Old Town, Baltimore. Founded in 1830, the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation worshiped in an apartment above a grocery store until 1845 when the Robert Cary Long, Jr. designed building at Lloyd and Watson Streets was completed. The third oldest synagogue in America, the subtle Greek Revival style structure served its founding membership for 45 years. In 1890 the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation moved to the Madison Avenue Temple. Lloyd Street was subsequently occupied by two Catholic and two Jewish congregations until 1963 when it was abandoned. The Jewish Museum of Maryland purchased the noble structure shortly thereafter, restoring the synagogue as a shrine. The basement contains traditional matzoh oven and a ritual bath, while the interior and exterior represent the building’s historic aesthetic.

Next door to the Lloyd Street building is the beautiful B’nai Israel Synagogue. Designed by Henry Berge and dedicated in 1875, the Victorian Gothic style structure contains detailed facade stonework. Berge, the father of sculptor Edward Berge, was a master stonecutter and apparently a very talented architect. Dedicated in 1875 as the Chizuk Amuno Synagogue, the building was purchased in 1895 by the Russian/Polish B’nai Israel Congregation. The group still occupies the synagogue today. The Jewish Museum of Maryland was built on the lot between the Lloyd Street and B’nai Israel synagogues.

When the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation moved out of the Lloyd Street Synagogue (1890) they relocated to the Madison Avenue Temple in Bolton Hill. Deigned by Baltimore architect Charles L. Carson, the building is Byzantine in style and features a massive dome and two parallel octagonal towers. Carson also designed the Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church next to the Washington Monument. In 1951 the Berea Temple of Seventh Day Adventists purchased the temple when the BHC moved to their current location on Park Heights Avenue.

Just south of the Madison Avenue Temple is Joseph Evans Sperry’s Eutaw Place Temple. Originally built for Temple Oheb Shalom, the Byzantine structure, decorated with Beaver Dam marble, was completed in 1892. When the congregation moved out in 1960, the Price Hall Masonic Lodge purchased the Bolton Hill property. Dedicated in 1907, the Francis Scott Key Monument stands directly in front of the temple. The fountain memorial depicts Francis Scott Key on a small boat offering his patriotic poem to a golden statue of Columbia.

Written by monumentcity

February 23rd, 2011 at 8:37 am

Baltimore’s Flag House

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The Star-Spangled Banner Flag pwas conceived and primarily sewn at Baltimore’s Flag House. The historic building and museum was once occupied by Mary Young Pickersgill and her successful flag making business. In 1813 Colonel George Armistead, then commander of Fort McHenry, expressed interest in two oversized banners for the star-shaped stronghold. General John Stricker (who is buried in Westminster Burying Ground) promptly placed an order with the Pickersgill company for the giant pennants. $574.44 of federal money exchanged hands and Pickersgill, her daughter, two of her nieces and an indentured servant began fulfilling the contract.

The Great Garrison Flag measured 30 feet by 42 feet, while the Storm Flag was smaller (17 feet by 25 feet) and more suitable for inclement weather. The Great Garrison Flag was so large it had to be sewn in sections and taken to a nearby brewery for final assembly. Claggett’s Brewery (as it eventually became known) was owned by Mayor Edward Johnson and was one block from the Pickersgill house. The women worked by candlelight during evening hours, unknowingly creating an American icon. The brewery building is no longer standing.

Written by monumentcity

January 26th, 2011 at 11:36 am

Druid Hill’s Moorish Tower

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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.

Written by monumentcity

January 22nd, 2011 at 5:41 pm

Overhill Waiting Shelter in Roland Park

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The Overhill Waiting Shelter is one of the last remnants of the No. 29 Boulevard streetcar line which ran from Roland Park to downtown. In operation from 1908 to 1947, the line’s open air cars were a favorite of Baltimoreans during summer months, the commute offering a brief respite from the exhausting heat. The No. 29 was converted to bus service in June of 1947. The waiting station, situated along University Parkway in what is known as Centennial Park, is a lasting monument to the Baltimore trolley system. The Roland Water Tower stands at the top of the hill.

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January 13th, 2011 at 9:27 am

Bedford Square Station in Guilford

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This waiting station was part of Bedford Square Streetcar Line No. 11. Operated by the United Railways and Electric Company, the streetcar line was developed to supply Guilford residents with reliable and affordable access to the city. Built between 1913 and 1950, Guilford is a north Baltimore neighborhood designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. The 210 acre suburban tract is characterized by rolling hills, regal homes and classic landscaping. The historic community was serviced by trolley until 1947 when the progression towards automobiles finally overtook the interurban railway. The Bedford Square Station was converted to a bus stop and later a monument. A bust of Simon Bolivar is across the street.

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December 30th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Druid Hill’s Blacksmith Shop

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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.

Written by monumentcity

November 16th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Edman Spangler and the Holliday Street Theatre

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Burn the theatre,” was the first thing Edman Spangler heard following John Wilkes Booth’s infamous fatal shot on April 14, 1865. Edman Spangler, sometimes known as Ned or Edmund, was a carpenter at Ford’s Theatre and was an acquaintance of Booth’s, occasionally caring for the actor’s horse which was stabled behind the Washington D.C. playhouse. He claimed to have no knowledge of Booth’s escape route, but his story is contradicted by another stagehand working that night. Jake Rittersback claims Spangler told him to keep quiet when the two spoke after the assassination.

This and other damning testimony about his Confederate leanings and distaste for the president lead to his eventual arrest and sentencing of six years in jail. He traveled on the USS Florida to Fort Jefferson with Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlen, three other Booth co-conspirators.

On December 25, 1868 President Andrew Johnson pardoned the four convicts. Edman Spangler returned to Baltimore with Samuel Arnold and went to work as a carpenter at the Holliday Street Theatre for John T. Ford, his former boss and the previous owner of Ford’s Theatre. In 1873 the Holliday burned down and Spangler moved to Dr. Samuel Mudd’s farm in what is now Waldorf, MD where he lived out his final years. He is buried two miles from the Mudd residence in the St. Peter’s Church burial ground.

Written by monumentcity

November 13th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Cathedral of the Incarnation on Clover Hill

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The Cathedral of the Incarnation, designed by architect Philip H. Frohman, stands at the top of historic Clover Hill. Frohman is best known for his work on the Washington National Cathedral, a project he supervised from 1921 until his death in 1972. The Peace Cross Memorial is on the church grounds and the Confederate Women of Maryland Monument is across Charles Street.

Local Filmmaker Steve Blair wrote and directed the comedy “I Do & I Don’t” starring Jane Lynch. Shot entirely in Baltimore, Blair and his crew filmed several scenes featuring the Cathedral of the Incarnation at 4 East University Parkway.

Written by monumentcity

August 25th, 2010 at 12:16 pm