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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

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

Sherwood Gardens in Guilford

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Sherwood Gardens is located on 6 sprawling acres in the North Baltimore neighborhood of Guilford. Each year the tranquil expanse is planted with around 80,000 tulips. April and May are the best months to see Sherwood in full bloom. The park has no fence and is open to the public.

Guilford was once the estate of Revolutionary War veteran General William McDonald. McDonald named his property after the Battle of Guilford Courthouse where he was wounded. Upon the good General’s death, his son, Billy, installed a boat lake, horse track and a massive 50 room Italianate mansion designed by local architects Edmund Lind and William Murdoch.

Baltimore Sun publisher Arunah S. Abell purchased the rural property in 1872 for his family’s country seat. The Guilford Park Company acquired 210 acres in 1907 from Abell’s heirs for a million dollars and began developing shortly thereafter. The boat lake was drained and made into a community park named Stratford Green.

When the Olmsted Brothers designed community opened, local oil baron John Sherwood purchased a lot near Stratford Green and set about building his home. The conservationist’s love of gardening found him importing Dutch tulips and transplanting Colonial period trees from Southern Maryland. He purchased adjoining lots and created a vast flowering landscape. The Guilford community has maintained the park ever since Sherwood’s death in 1965.


Written by monumentcity

April 14th, 2012 at 12:55 pm

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

Gwynns Falls Parkway Entrance to Druid Hill Park

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The Gwynns Falls Parkway entrance to Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park has recently been renovated and decorated. The project consists of six salvaged iron support columns topped with historic images from the park’s past. Created by artist William Cochran and entitled Oak Wisdom, the monumental structure gives the west entrance a dignified appearance in-line with the nearby Rawlings Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The entryway’s public works contract was awarded to the Mirable Construction Company at a cost of $276,617. The firm completed the project in early 2011. Further plans are in place to improve the entire complex surrounding the Conservatory.

Written by monumentcity

August 9th, 2011 at 6:06 am

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

Calvert Street Bridge Lions

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Opened in 1880, the Calvert Street Bridge was a magnificent iron structure that spanned the Jones Falls in Midtown, Baltimore. One of two main northbound arteries, the other being nearby Charles Street, Calvert Street was a heavily trafficked thoroughfare in the days before the expressway was constructed. Countless Baltimoreans passed the noble lions on their way home from work, running errands or traveling to the countryside. The Gilded Age bridge was a monument to post-Reconstruction Era America.

After falling out of public favor, the lions were removed in 1957. For ten years the sculptures toiled away in a Druid Hill Park Storage facility. Eventually three lions ended up in a small park in Bolton Hill adjacent to the Francis Scott Key Monument. The statues have one paw raised, but curiously they are without object. This historic postcard shows the lion paw resting atop a shield with the Battle Monument on its front. The shields and the fourth lion have not been located by this author.

The neighboring southbound Saint Paul Street Bridge was similar in design and possessed four Lady Baltimore statues at each of its corners. The ladies were removed during the span’s 1960 renovation. One resides in Mount Royal Terrace Park, two are on the grounds of Cylburn Arboretum and the fourth was given to County Longford, Ireland, land once owned by George Calvert, 1st Baron of Baltimore.


Written by monumentcity

April 19th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

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.

Written by monumentcity

January 13th, 2011 at 9:27 am