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Archive for the ‘Old Town’ 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.

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Written by monumentcity

April 11th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

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

McKim Free School

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The McKim Free School was established in 1821 with a $600.00 endowment provided by merchant John McKim. The Baltimore Quaker died in 1819, leaving detailed instructions for his two sons, Isaac and William, to carry out. The McKim brothers hired the design team of William Key Howard, son of John Eager Howard, and William F. Small, who trained under Benjamin Henry Latrobe for two years, to create the Greek Revival style building located at 1232 E. Baltimore Street. Opening in 1833, the school was Charm City’s first free school, offering much needed education to disadvantaged children. The building is an imitation of the Temple of Theseus in Athens. The Friends Meeting House, the oldest religious building in Baltimore, is just around the corner. The two buildings combine to form the McKim Community Association campus.

Written by monumentcity

January 9th, 2010 at 9:13 am

House at 9 North Front Street

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9 North Front Street was the former residence of Thorowgood Smith, a successful merchant and Baltimore’s second mayor. Built around 1790, the Federal style residence served as Smith’s home between 1802 and 1804. During the 19th and 20th centuries the building was used as a hotel, an auto-parts shop and a restaurant. Purchased in 1971 by Baltimore City as part of the Shot Tower Park complex, the Women’s Civic League stepped in to sponsor the property’s restoration. The house apparently serves as the organization’s headquarters.

Smith also owned a mansion in the Union Square neighborhood named Willow Brook.  When Willow Brook was torn down in the 1960’s, the city rescued its stunning Oval Room and its contents.  The room was recreated at the Baltimore Museum of Art several times.

Written by monumentcity

December 29th, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Phoenix Shot Tower

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Location: E Fayette Street & N Front Street

When completed in 1828, the Phoenix Shot Tower was the tallest free-standing structure in the United States. Designed to make ammunition for pistols, rifles and cannons, molten lead was dropped from the top of the tower into cold water at the bottom, forming a round “shot” in the process. Rendered obsolete in 1892, the building was almost razed for a gas station until local residents pitched in to save it. In 1971 the Phoenix Shot Tower was designated a National Historic Landmark. Carroll Museums, Inc. maintains the tower today, offering guided weekend tours by appointment.

On September 22, 1878 the Merchants’ Shot Tower (as it was then known) was devastated by fire. The building’s interior was completely burned out and 15 tons of lead fell from the tower’s peak to the ground floor. Flames could be seen pluming out of its top like a torch. No one was injured in the event and the tower’s brick shell was salvaged.

Written by monumentcity

July 7th, 2009 at 7:03 am

Fraternal Order of Police Memorial at Shot Tower Park

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E Baltimore Street & S President Street (Street View)

GPS: 39° 17′ 25.51″ N 76° 36′ 20.80″ W

History

In 1972, Mayor William Donald Schaefer presented the Women’s Civic League, a local community service organization, with the idea of renovating the former residence of Baltimore’s second mayor, Thorowgood Smith. The house, built around 1794, is located next to the historic Phoenix Shot Tower directly behind the Police memorial. Now known as Shot Tower Park, the small tract of land across the street from Police Headquarters contains one of the largest installations in honor of fallen officers in the United States. The memorial contains three statues, a large panel of inscribed names and various dedication plaques. Unveiled in 1978, the monuments face City Hall and War Memorial Plaza, adding to the dignified appearance of the downtown location.

Notes

Donald Pomerleau was Police Commissioner during the memorial’s construction. Pomerleau was hired by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1965, and sent to Baltimore to examine the city’s law enforcement system during the peek of the civil rights movement. He found the police force to be as corrupt and antiquated as any in the country. He spent the next fifteen years integrating officers and correcting the mistakes of his predecessors. Pomerleau retired from the force in 1981, three years after the memorial’s completion.

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Written by monumentcity

June 23rd, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Central Booking Obelisk

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This obelisk stands near the entrance to Baltimore City’s Central Booking. It’s very close to the original location of the Fallsway Fountain Monument, a Hans Schuler sculpture dedicated to the 1911-1916 fallsway water works project. The elaborate underground construction alleviated the city’s pressure issues by rerouting and containing dangerous water flow. The innovations ended downtown’s flooding problems.

Written by monumentcity

June 4th, 2009 at 6:48 am

Wells & McComas Monument in Old Town

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E Monument Street & N Aisquith Street (Street View)

GPS: 39° 17′ 52.66″ N 76° 36′ 6.84″ W

History

Daniel Wells and Henry McComas were apprentice saddle makers in Charm City during the War of 1812. By 1814, the teenagers were part of Captain Edward Aisquith’s Militia Rifle Company, preparing for an eventual English attack. After successfully sacking Washington DC, including the White House, The British decided to swing by Baltimore in hopes of eliminating the pirates and privateers stationed in the notorious port. General Robert Ross was in command of the invading land troops that approached the town’s western boundaries in September of 1814. Ross had a military background spanning 30 years and had served in the Napoleonic Wars.

As the Aisquith Company positioned itself on the North Point Peninsula, an area fortified a year earlier in fear of an impending British invasion, General Ross, noticing the American positions, found refuge on the local farm of Robert Gorsuch. Here he had breakfast cooked for him while waiting for the rest of his army to arrive. Brigadier General John Stricker, in charge of the 3,000 plus soldiers advancing the British land assault, ordered a group of 230 men with one cannon to flush General Ross out of the Gorsuch farm. Wells and McComas were a part of this small brigade, their defining moment arriving swiftly.

Riding on a white horse (or a black horse, depending on the source), General Ross was shot in the battle, mortally wounded by the American Militia. Daniel Wells and Henry G. McComas have been given equal credit for the historical deed, each sacrificing their life in the progress. Another American soldier was shot at the scene, 24 year-old Aquila Randall, credited with being the first United States fatality of the Battle of North Point, was found near the bodies Wells and McComas, all three had fired their weapons.

Noted local poet and Baltimore historian Christopher T. George has shed light on the possibility a sniper, and not Wells and McComas, killed General Ross at the Battle of North Point. As a reference George cites a passage in the book The British Invasion of Maryland, 1812-1815 by William Matthew Marine. The volume contains a conversation between an American, Henry Wilson, and an English gentleman claiming to have been General Ross’s aide de campe at the Battle of North Point. The British soldier reports that Ross’s mortal wound was “caused by a musket ball and a buck-shot”, his testimony running counter to the notion the wound was caused by musket ball only. The Independent Blues militia of the 5th Regiment used this modified method, loading ‘buck and ball‘, for their weapons. George also wrote that: “the unit’s commander, Capt. Aaron R. Levering [of Independent Blues], is alleged to have seen an officer ride up at the head of the enemy line. He is deported to have ordered his men, ‘Take good aim, there’s an officer.’ The militiamen saw the British officer fall from his horse and from the description of his uniform it was thought that it was Ross.”

Notes

In 1854, a committee gathered with the notion of erecting a monument to Wells and McComas. On September 10, 1858, after securing and investing the funds for the project, the bodies of the teen militiamen were exhumed and placed in the Maryland Institute. Thousands of people visited the coffins during the three days leading up to September 12th, the anniversary of the Battle of North Point, when the official cornerstone for the memorial was laid. On that day, the bodies of Wells and McComas were paraded to Ashland Square, the site of interment, and placed below the obelisk’s foundation in ceremonial fashion. The 21-foot monument was finally completed in 1873 and is made of Baltimore County marble. The Obelisk portion, resting on a two-step granite pedestal is comprised of two large pieces of marble, weighing 14 and 8 tons respectively.

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Written by monumentcity

June 1st, 2009 at 8:34 pm