Monument City Blog

Branches of Baltimore History

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.

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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.

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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.

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Written by monumentcity

April 19th, 2011 at 1:24 pm

‘To the Glory of Maryland’ Monument

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219 29th Division Street (Street View)

GPS: 39° 18′ 13.33″ N 76° 37′ 19.24″ W

History

Dedicated in 1925 to the soldiers of Maryland’s Fifth Regiment that lost their lives in World War One, To the Glory of Maryland graces the front of Baltimore’s historic armory building. Created by local sculptor Hans Schuler, the relief hangs above the main entrance of the Wyatt and Nolting designed structure. The armory itself was completed in 1901 and provided Baltimore with a suitable military institution. The massive castle-like building took two-and-a-half years to build and included an elaborate tunnel system underneath. The underground arteries reached the Baltimore Port and were used to safely transfer arms and troops undetected on the surface. After a 12 alarm fire in 1932 a pillared basement was installed, eliminating the hidden passageways.

At one point in time the armory was the largest convention center in Maryland, hosting events ranging from the circus to presidential conventions. John F. Kennedy even spoke here during his brief political career. The building still houses numerous government agencies and is only accessible by permission.

Notes

When I arrived to photograph the sculpture I was initially denied access to the grounds. The guard, an ex-Baltimore City police officer, after hearing my intentions, escorted me to the front door and allowed me to take a few pictures of the Schuler sculpture. The detail and care that went into the project is incredible. The ominous representation of courage and sacrifice reminds me of Patterson Park’s General Pulaski Monument (also sculpted by Schuler).

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Written by monumentcity

April 18th, 2011 at 10:35 am

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

The Julia Rollins at Green Mount Cemetery

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This Hans Schuler sculpture depicts the 19th Century ship the Julia Rollins. Marking Commodore Thornton Rollins grave in Green Mount Cemetery, the detailed relief was created around 1935, the year of the Commodore’s death. Thornton Rollins was a successful Baltimore merchant who dealt heavily in the international coffee trade. In 1885 Rollins commissioned the Skinner & Sons shipbuilding company to build the 146-foot bark for his growing enterprise. Baltimore was a thriving American port in the late 1800s and Skinner & Sons was a premiere shipbuilder, employing around 250 people and maintaining a 350′ X 350′ dry dock at the harbor. The Julia Rollins was named after the Commodore’s wife and cost $24,208.

On January 29, 1894, the 586 ton bark came under enemy fire at Rio Harbor. The merchant ship was attacked by Brazilian insurgents during their bombardment of Rio de Janeiro. The complicated diplomatic affair was tempered by the American Admiral Andrew E. K. Benham, a Civil War veteran sent to the region to protect American interests. Benham’s order of return fire from the U.S.S. Detroit stunned the determined insurgents. However, the Brazilian rebels, under the leadership of Admiral de Gama, did not go easily, and musket fire was exchanged. Realizing the American’s strict stance, de Gama attempted to surrender to U.S. forces. Admiral Benham refused and maintained his defensive position until the conflict was resolved. The rebellion ended a few months later and order was returned to Rio Harbor. The minor maritime standoff made newspaper headlines across the United States and was seen as an act of patriotism by President Cleveland and his administration. The Julia Rollins was later renamed the Northwest. It sank off the coast of South Carolina on July 13, 1916.

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Written by monumentcity

April 1st, 2011 at 9:30 am

Sculptor William Henry Rinehart

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Endymion Sleeping Children Ellen Walters Girl Strewing Flowers
Bust of William Walters Roger B. Taney Clytie Statue (BMA) William Prescott Smith

William Henry Rinehart was born in Union Bridge, MD in 1825. The son of a farmer, William began his career working as a fieldhand. The ambitious youth quickly graduated to an apprenticeship with a local stonecutter, an enforcement of his already peaked interest in the arts. In 1844 William moved to Baltimore, taking a job at Baughman and Bevan, then the largest stonecutting firm in the city. Initially tasked with fireplace mantel repair work, one of Rinehart’s first customers was William Walters, a railroad and whiskey man of considerable wealth who would go on the found the Walters Art Musuem. Walters, an avid art collector, was so impressed with Rinehart that he decided to sponsor the young artist. Their fruitful partnership lasted until the sculptor’s death in 1874.

Baltimore has a variety of Rinehart’s work on public display. The Baltimore Museum of Art has two of his important pieces, each designed in the Neoclassical style. Atalanta, an athlete in Greek Mythology, was finished after Rinehart’s death and may have been one of the last things he worked on. Clytie, considered to be the artist’s masterpiece, was completed in 1872 and purchased by John W. McCoy. A year later McCoy donated the statue to the Peabody Institute. Positioned in the middle of a dimly lit room lined with paintings, Clytie is both dignified and mischievous at the same time.

A bronze bust of William Walters is recessed in the outer wall of the Walters Art Museum at Mount Vernon Place. Inside the historic gallery are several pieces by Rinehart, including his original marble likeness of Mr. Walters, the Woman of Samaria and Brooch with Cameo of Spring.

Green Mount Cemetery contains several sculptures by Rinehart, including the renown Sleeping Children, of which there are twenty-five reproductions in galleries and private collections throughout the world. The work was commissioned by Baltimore businessman Hugh Sisson to memorialize his lost children. 150 years of wind and rain has deteriorated Sleeping Children in an elegant manner.

In the center of the cemetery, near the Mausoleum, Girl Strewing Flowers stands atop the Walters Family Plot, her stoic gaze fixed south. William Walters, his wife Ellen, their son Henry and the family servants reside peacefully below the majestic statue. Adjacent to Girl Strewing Flowers is the Tucker Memorial by J. Maxwell Miller. Miller graduated from the Rinehart School of Sculpture.

Known as the “last important American sculptor to work in the classical style,” William Henry Rinehart is one of Maryland’s greatest treasures. He is buried in Green Mount Cemetery, a bronze reproduction of his Endymion statue rests peacefully atop his headstone.

Written by monumentcity

March 21st, 2011 at 8:12 pm

Peter Hamilton’s Sundial in Druid Hill Park

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In 1892, lawyer and businessman Peter Hamilton gifted Druid Hill Park and the city of Baltimore this peculiar sundial. Hamilton was a 19th Century stonecutter (much like Hugh Sisson) who became president of the Guilford and Waltersville Granite Company, the firm responsible for supplying the stone for the Library of Congress. After countless hours of calculations, Hamilton hand-carved the the hemispherical compendium dial, affixing shadow-casting metal gnomons to the completed sculpture. In 1904 the sundial was repaired and reset by the Board of Park Commissioners. The board had metal sheets placed over the sundial, protecting it from the elements.

When local resident George McDowell, a sundial enthusiast, heard about the relic he went to investigate. He found the dial to be mathematically incorrect and decided to personally oversee its 1993 restoration. Jacques Kelly interviewed McDowell for a Baltimore Sun feature in 1994.

With the city’s permission, he worked with local metal artist Larry Lewis to have the dial cleaned of years’ worth of dirt. Some of the gnomons had been vandalized. Others needed mathematical correction. Mr. Lewis fabricated replacement pieces.

Peter Hamilton’s restored sundial sits within the John Cook Memorial Rose Garden next to George Aloysius Frederick’s historic greenhouse. Built between 1887 and 1888, the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory (or Palm House) contains exotic plants from around the world.

Written by monumentcity

March 8th, 2011 at 9:22 am

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