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The Latrobe Family and Charm City

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The Latrobe family is sewn into the fabric of Americana. Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the patriarch, was the Union’s first trained architect and a strong proponent of Greek, Gothic and Neoclassical architecture. Latrobe designed elements of the U. S. Capitol and the White House. His sons John H. B. Latrobe and Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, with headquarters in Baltimore, helped organize, orchestrate and engineer the nations first railroad. Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe (son of John H. B. Latrobe) was mayor of Baltimore five times. He was known as the “Grand Old Man of Maryland.” His cousin Charles H. Latrobe (son of Benjamin Henry Latrobe II) was city engineer for a quarter century, designing bridges and buildings around Baltimore. Together the Latrobe Family helped shape and develop Charm City.

Architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe arrived on American soil in 1796. Known as the “Father of American Architecture,” Latrobe was born in England in 1764 to a British father and an American mother. He showed an early interest in landscape drawing and quickly moved to the architectural field. By age 20 Latrobe entered his initial apprenticeship in design and engineering. Married and the father of two, Latrobe’s first wife died in 1793 while giving birth to their third child. He struggled financially in his native country and sailed, with his children, to the newly forming United States in hopes of establishing a career. Landing in Virginia in March of 1796, Latrobe visited the Mount Vernon estate of President George Washington by that summer and his succesful and incredible life began taking form. After building a state of the art prison in Richmond, Virginia he moved to Philadelphia and then Washington D. C. seeking further government commissions.

Benjamin Latrobe relocated his family to Baltimore at the beginning of 1818 in order to finish work on the Baltimore Cathedral (or Basilica of the Assumption of the blessed Virgin Mary). Commissioned by John Carroll, America’s first native-born Archbishop, the building’s construction began in 1806 and was completed in 1821. He also created Baltimore’s original Merchant’s Exchange (razed in 1901) and the quaint Spring House of Dairy. Known as the father of American architecture, Benjamin Latrobe was a friend of presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He and Jefferson were instrumental in bringing Greek Revival architecture to our newly forming country, pairing the classic style with themes of democracy. Latrobe died of yellow fever in New Orleans in 1821 while working on a massive waterworks system for the southern port city. His sons and grandsons stayed in Baltimore and created legacies of their own.

John Hazlehurst Boneval Latrobe was born in 1803 in Philadelphia. Moving to Washington as a young child his house was frequented by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The multi-talented Latrobe took after his father’s passion for landscape painting. He eventually studied engineering at West Point but was forced to return home before graduating when his father suddenly passed away in 1820. Baltimore was home, and John H. B. began studying law with his father’s good friend, Robert Goodloe Harper. After passing the Maryland Bar, John went into private practice with his younger brother Benjamin Henry Latrobe II. The practice proved too difficult to maintain and Benjamin II turned to engineering. John H. B. went to work for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad as a land acquisition attorney. He was instrumental in the railroad’s expansion west, helping to link America’s rising industrial network. John H. B. incorporated the first telegraph service in the world along the Baltimore & Ohio’s line, his persuasive manner convincing company’s leaders of the communications system’s potential. He would spend most of his life working as the B&O’s chief legal counsel.

In his spare time, John H. B. Latrobe pursued numerous other ventures with the same intensity and professionalism he had for his day job. He was on the board of directors for Druid Hill Park and Green Mount Cemetery, spearheading the establishment of two of Baltimore’s finest outdoor museums. He founded the Maryland Historical Society and established a colony in Liberia for America’s growing population of freed slaves. John also wrote an extensive memoir (along with poetry) that can be read in the Maryland Room of the Central Branch of the Enoch Pratt Library System.

John’s work as a patent attorney may have peaked his interest in inventing. His most famous creation is the Latrobe Stove (Baltimore Heater), a heat concentrating device that went inside a home’s fireplace. By 1878 there were 300,000 in use in the United States.

Perhaps best known today for his association with Edgar Allan Poe, John H. B. Latrobe was one of three judges that awarded the struggling author with a first place prize in a local writing contest for the story MS. Found in a Bottle. Poe showed up to collect his prize at John’s Mount Vernon rowhouse. The historic building stands today and is in shouting distance of the Basilica of the Assumption. The short story was published in the the Baltimore Saturday Visitor, helping to launch Edgar Allan Poe’s turbid career.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, younger brother to John H. B., was born in 1806. He studied engineering and law, following the paths of his famous father and gifted older sibling. After a short time practicing law, Benjamin II began a career in engineering, starting at Ellicott’s Mill measuring ballast stone for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. He rose rapidly through the ranks and eventually became head engineer for the historic company. His greatest standing accomplishment is the Thomas Viaduct, the railroad’s first bridge built on a curved alignment. Originally rated for 30 ton trains, today the massive stone viaduct carries loads weighing up to 300 tons. Benjamin Henry Latrobe II designed the rolling pathways in Green Mount Cemetery where he is buried.

Charles Hazlehurst Latrobe was born in a house on Calvert Street in 1833. He was educated locally and apprenticed under his father, Benjamin Henry Latrobe II, as an engineer for the B&O Railroad. He worked several years with his father expanding the rail lines west of the Ohio River at Wheeling, Pennsylvania. When his cousin, Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe, was elected mayor of Baltimore in 1875, Charles was appointed Chief Engineer of the Jones Falls Commission. He designed the containing walls that direct the Jones Falls through the city. The former Guilford, Calvert and Saint Paul Street bridges spanning the Jones Falls, with their monumental iron arches, were also articulated by the third generation engineer. As an architect Charles created Patterson Park’s Pagoda and Casino building, projects he worked on during his quarter century tenure as a city employee. During the Civil War he served in the Confederate Army where he earned the title of First Lieutenant in the Engineers of the Confederate States of America. Charles H. Latrobe is memorialized with a granite cross on the eastern wall of Green Mount Cemetery.

Born in 1833, Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe was the oldest son of John H. B. Latrobe. During his first professional life he practiced law with his father, working closely on the B&O Railroad’s legal affairs during its westward expansion. In 1875 Ferdinand was elected to his first of seven terms as Charm City’s top official. Loved by many in the community for his down to earth lifestyle, the mayor was known to have breakfast with his mother each morning, traveling there (as he traveled everywhere) in his horse-drawn carriage with his legendary Old Grey Mare leading the way. His political tenure was one of dignity and respect, his battles with Baltimore’s mob culture uniquely significant. In 1895 Ferdinand acquired land from the estate of Johns Hopkins that eventually became Clifton Park. He is memorialized in statue on the North Broadway median near East Baltimore Street.

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June 18th, 2011 at 10:43 am

William Donald Schaefer Statue at the Inner Harbor

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Light Street & E Conway Street, Inner Harbor (Street View)

GPS: 39° 17′ 3.69″ N 76° 36′ 43.70″ W

History

Mayor of Baltimore from 1971 to 1987, William Donald Schaefer was central to the redevelopment of our city. The Inner Harbor, Oriole Park at Camden Yards and countless historical preservation projects dominate his political legacy. After nearly two decades as mayor, Schaefer became Governor of Maryland, serving the maximum two terms. In 1998 he became Comptroller of Maryland, a post he held until January of 2007. The often controversial Schaefer was never far from criticism, and his numerous remarks on immigration and women constantly sparked sharp responses from press and political rivals. However, his intense passion for Baltimore (and Maryland) have cast a positive light on the man, his work outliving his words.

Notes

The William Donald Schaefer statue stands in Bicentennial Plaza, next to the Visitor’s Center, serenely surveying the Inner Harbor. The left hand is raised and waving while the right hand holds a “Mayor’s Action Memorandum.” Dedicated on Schaefer’s 88th birthday, the bronze likeness actually depicts the politician in 1980, midway through his term as Baltimore’s chief administrator. With Schaefer’s declining health making posing difficult, sculptor Rodney Carroll used old photographs, video and borrowed family items to create the ideal monument. The result is a powerful representation of one of Charm City’s most important (and unique) public servants. The statue was unveiled on November 2, 2009, with Willy Don attending the ceremony.

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March 11th, 2010 at 8:21 pm

Mayor Edward Johnson

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Edward Johnson was elected in 1808 as the third mayor of Baltimore, replacing Thorowgood Smith. Johnson was subsequently re-elected in 1810, 1812, 1814, 1819 and and finally in 1822.

In the summer of 1812, with war against England looming, an angry mob of Baltimoreans trapped and tortured a group of British Sympathizers at old city jail. Mayor Johnson arrived in order to quell the situation, where he advised the prisoners and negotiated with the mob. His stance against the instigators was an important political decision as Baltimore, and the United States, moved away from vigilantism. He is also noted for owning the brewery in which Mary Pickersgill sewed the Star-Spangled Banner, America’s most significant flag.

A doctor by trade, Johnson began his medical practice the same year he entered politics. During a serious yellow fever outbreak in 1819, Johnson donated $150.00 of his own money for the publication of a medical report on the epidemic. His efforts proved central in ending the citywide health crisis. An historical tablet, placed across the street from Carroll Mansion, marks the location of his former home. Brewer’s Park, recently replaced with a hotel, was once next door.

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February 7th, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Baltimore City Hall

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Baltimore City Hall was dedicated on October 25, 1875. It replaced the Peale Museum, the forty-six year temporary home for city employees, and was an important step in Baltimore’s development as a prominent American city. Located at 100 North Holliday Street, the French Revival style structure was designed by the twenty-one year old George A. Frederick. Frederick also designed the Druid Hill’s Moorish Tower, Saint Thomas Aquinas Church and Cylburn Mansion during his long and successful career. The Wendell Bollman designed iron dome was fabricated by the Bartlett-Hayward Company of Baltimore.

At the behest of then Mayor William Donald Schaefer, the building’s interior was remodeled in 1976 after signs of dangerous deterioration were noticed. Baltimore’s City Hall is the only building of its kind in America that was renovated to continue as a city hall. In 2009 city government voted to restore and clean the exterior marble of the structure. A half a million dollars was allocated for the project.

On the second floor several statues are on display. Two Hans Schuler pieces, the Centennial Eagle and William Pinkney Whyte statue, along with Edward Berge’s likeness of Thomas Gordon Hayes, dominate the bronze exhibits.

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December 26th, 2009 at 9:35 am

Mayor Thorowgood Smith

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Thorowgood Smith (1744-1810) was a merchant-shipper that established himself in Baltimore during the 18th century. He owned 26 acres of land in what is now known as the Union Square neighborhood. In 1799 Smith’s stately manor, Willow Brook, was completed making it one of the finest abodes in the city. Financial hardships occurred when Smith’s shipping investments went south and he was forced to sell the mansion. Around 1802 Smith moved into a small home on the edge of town that still stands today. Situated in Shot Tower park, the House at 9 North Front Street is maintained by the Women’s Civic League.  Smith was the city’s second mayor, holding the post from 1804 to 1808.  When he died in 1810, his estate was left to his wife and then nephew, John Donnell. Donnell began dividing the property into lots for sale as the harbor and adjoining communities began to thrive.

Smith wore personally designed eyeglasses attached by a ribbon that wrapped around the top of his head. This distinctive look was used by Smith to avoid pinching the bridge of his nose. The portrait is located in room 215 of City Hall. It once hung in the Peale Museum.

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December 25th, 2009 at 9:10 am

Posted in All Posts,Mayor

Mayor Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe Monument

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N Broadway & E Baltimore Street (Street View)

GPS: 39° 17′ 30.13″ N 76° 35′ 37.96″ W

History

Dedicated on June 1, 1914 and rededicated on June 11, 1997, this monument to Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe is by artists Edward Berge and J. Maxwell Miller. Baltimore-born Ferdinand Latrobe (1833-1911) served seven non-consecutive terms as mayor of Baltimore, between 1875-1877, 1878-1881, 1883-1885, 1887-1889, and finally again in 1891-1895. Along with Thomas D’Alesandro, Sam Smith and William Donald Schaefer, Latrobe is one of four Baltimore mayors who have been immortalized in outdoor monumental form. Clayton Colman Hall writes in his book, Baltimore, “To write a personal history of General Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe is in effect to write the history of the most important events concerning the growth and improvement of the city of Baltimore for more than half a century.” Responsible for a slew of civic works and improvement projects, Colman explains that “It is not flattery to say that he was acknowledged to be the most prominent and popular citizen of Baltimore, and in his private as well as in his official capacity did more for the advancement and improvement of the city of Baltimore than any other one man.” Latrobe also was responsible for the re-organization of the Maryland militia under the Act of 1868, which he authored. Ferdinand Latrobe was the son of John H. B. Latrobe and grandson of Benjamin Henry Latrobe, figures of no small import in Baltimore, as well as national, history. Latrobe is quoted as having said, in 1894, about the first incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team, “We have always had the most beautiful women and the finest oysters in the world, and now we have the best baseball club.” Latrobe is also known to have been an avid breeder of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery.

Notes

Latrobe’s memorial stands at the southern-most end of a row of monuments which stretches north along Broadway, next in line being Thomas Wildey, and Jose Marti. A few short blocks to the east is the western entrance of Patterson Park, in which resides several other city monuments.

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May 25th, 2009 at 10:11 am

Major General Samuel Smith Monument on Federal Hill

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Federal Hill, Key Highway and Covington Street (Street View)

GPS: 39° 16′ 49.00″ N 76° 36′ 30.20″ W

History

Samuel Smith (1752-1839) served as major general of the Maryland militias in the War of 1812 and commanded the city’s defenses in the Battle of Baltimore. Smith served two terms as Mayor of Baltimore from 1835 to 1838 and served in Congress for forty years. His country mansion was located slightly west of the present site of Lake Montebello. This monument was dedicated on July 4, 1918 and is another piece by sculptor Hans Schuler. From 1918 to 1953 the statue was located in Wyman Park at Charles and 29th Streets. It was moved in 1953 to Pratt Street and Light Street and moved again in 1970 to its current location.

Notes

Situated on Federal Hill next to the George Armistead Monument, the historic location offers an excellent view of the Inner Harbor. The Pride Memorial stands at the foot of the hill.

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March 2nd, 2009 at 10:15 am

Mayor Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. Monument

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N Charles Street and E Lexington Street (Street View)

GPS: 39° 17′ 28.14″ N 76° 36′ 56.47″ W

History

This double statue depicts the father of Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. who served as mayor of Baltimore from 1947 to 1959. He is described as a visionary man who oversaw the revitalization of the downtown area, especially around Charles Center, which his statue overlooks. His son, Thomas D’Alesandro, III also served as mayor between 1967 and 1971 – a tumultuous period of Baltimore history which bore witness to rioting in the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. Memorial commissioned in 1986. Artist: Lloyd Lillie.

Notes

You’ll find this monument tucked away from the intersection of Charles and Lexington to the west, at the entrance of One North Charles Street, a skyscraper. The monument consists of two statues, one of which stands overlooking the plaza down below, and the second of which is seated in a bench with his arms outstretched.

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February 20th, 2009 at 9:19 am