baltimore1814-header

[Baltimore 1814] “Frozen for a week” & more stories from January 1 to January 8, 1814

Brrr! Weathering the “polar vortex” this week certainly encouraged our interest in Captain Henry Thompson’s daily journal entries on Baltimore’s weather. On January 7, 1814, Thompson recorded:

“7th -  Fine day, and having Frozen for a week past, commenc’d filling my Ice House, haul’d 21 loads today with two Carts from Herring Run  Went to Town return’d to Dinner”

Over the past week of 1814, Baltimore has been hauling ice and more:

If you missed last week’s update, go back and check out  the New Year’s Day reflections of Baltimore newspapermen William Pechin and Hezekiah Niles. Find more background on the history of the city in the early 1800s and our Baltimore 1814 project.

Knowles Light Fancy Power-Loom, ca. 1787 Knowles Light Fancy Power-Loom, ca. 1787

Baltimore’s Old House Stories: Missing Baseboards and a Bolton Hill Brownstone

Thanks to Margaret De Arcangelis, Education & Outreach Director with Preservation Maryland for sharing the story of her historic Bolton Hill rowhouse and the adventure of starting an exciting restoration project.

Margaret's Old House

I came across a tweet the other day and could not help but smile: “It’s funny what makes you happy as a home owner.  I have baseboards.  Yeah!!! J”

As someone who has always enjoyed visiting old houses and loves learning about architecture, I always thought baseboards were great. It was not until this summer, however, when my husband and I bought our first house, that I truly appreciated the value of a well-placed baseboard. This appreciation is largely due to the fact that some of our baseboards, plaster, banisters and light fixtures are missing and I can only dream of the day when they will all be back in place.

Christopher and I did not buy a move-in ready starter house like many people do.  Instead Chris has lovingly followed me into what may be my most hare-brained (but wonderful!) idea yet.  We bought a true fixer-upper – an 1886 brownstone in Bolton Hill that needs more repair work than I have  space to list in this short post.  Like so many of the houses in that neighborhood, a prior owner subdivided the house into apartments leaving vestiges of long abandoned kitchens and bathrooms on each floor. Numerous walls were damaged when temporary walls were built and later torn down. Unlike many others rowhouses in Bolton Hill, however, our house remained in the hands of just one family from the 1880s to the 1950s (thank you MD Land Records for providing that fun fact!) and much of the original detail remains intact down to the stylish patterned parquet floors. Much of wood work including our 45 wood windows is covered by only one or two coats of paint and, despite a few missing pieces, the original stained glass transoms are in place and can be repaired.


After searching for the right house for ten months, I knew this was the perfect house for us the first time I saw it. There are so many beautiful details throughout the house that would be impossible or at least cost prohibitive for us to have in any other house. Some days the house does present challenges. The first few times it rained we found a new leak each time. We discovered that the duct tape on one of the sewer lines in the basement was not covering up a small crack in the pipe, but instead was put there to cover the ten inch by two-inch gouge in the pipe. We learned that sometimes the scope of a project changes midway through due to unforeseen circumstances, which may mean you need to remove a 100-year-old piece of Lincrusta from the wall so the plumbers can run new water lines. No matter what the new issue is with our house, all of those feelings of frustration go away each time I go to unlock the front door and am reminded how lucky I am to own such a beautiful old house.

We’re looking for more “old house stories” along with resources, tips and tricks you can share with other old house owners in Baltimore. Join the conversation on Facebook with Baltimore’s New Old House Forum or get in touch with Eli Pousson at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org

Friday! Bmore Historic Happy Hour at St. Mary’s Historic Site in Seton Hill

We’ve been busy this fall getting ready for Bmore Historic - our third annual “unconference” for historic preservation, public history and cultural heritage. If you work at a local archive, volunteer regularly for a historic site or house museum, or work in historic preservation, Bmore Historic is always a great opportunity to network with colleagues from all over the Baltimore region - and we still have a few spots left! Whether you’re coming to Bmore Historic or not, you are all welcome to join us this Friday evening at the St. Mary’s Historic Site for a tour and happy hour following the unconference.

Bmore Historic 2013 Happy Hour at St. Mary’s Historic Site

Friday, October 11, 2013, 4:30pm to 6:30pm
St. Mary’s Spiritual Center & Historic Site
600 North Paca Street, Baltimore, MD 21201​

No registration required! Beer and wine available – suggested $5 donation. Limited off-street parking is available in the St. Mary’s Spiritual Center lot and additional on-street parking is available in the area. 

Courtesy Jack Breihan

Special thanks to Fr. John C. Kemper, S.S. and Heidi Glatfelter for hosting the Bmore Historic Happy Hour. Fr. Kemper will also be leading tours of the St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel: a Seton Hill landmark built from 1806 through 1808 by French architect Maximilian Godefroy for the French Sulpician priests of St. Mary’s Seminary. St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel won a 2013 Preservation Award from Baltimore Heritage this summer for a tremendous restoration by the Associated Sulpicians of the United States, together with Kann Partners, Lewis Contractors, Thomas Moore Studios, and Giorgini Construction. Their nine-month, $1 million project restored to Chapel to its centennial year appearance and surely guarantees its preservation for decades to come.

Monuments to George Armistead and Samuel Smith rededicated and celebrated for Defender’s Day Weekend

Thanks to Kathleen Kotarba, Executive Director of Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, for sharing a guest post on the Defender’s Day Weekend rededication of two War of 1812 monuments in Federal Hill Park and the story behind their conservation.

Baltimore from Federal Hill, ca1822

Federal Hill, courtesy Library of Congress, LC-DIG-pga-0019.

Join Governor Martin J. O’Malley, former Senator Paul Sarbanes, Congressman John Sarbanes, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Major General Jeffrey S. Buchanan, Commanding General of the Military District of Washington, and South Baltimore neighbors celebration and rededication of the Sam Smith Monument and Armistead Monument at Federal Hill Park. The US Army 3rd Infantry’s “Old Guard” Fife and Drum Corps, the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard, and the Maryland Defense Force Buglers will perform, accompanied by a Military Retreat and lowering of Federal Hill’s distinctive 15-Star Flag.

Celebrate and Rededicate War of 1812 Monuments on Federal Hill

Saturday, September 14, 2013, 5:00pm
Federal Hill Park, 300 Warren Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21230

The ceremony is co-hosted by South Harbor Renaissance, Inc. and the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, with the cooperation of the Maryland Military Monuments Commission and the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

Major General Samuel Smith Monument, 1917

The Samuel Smith Monument was one of several sculptural monuments commissioned in recognition of Baltimore’s Centennial of the War of 1812. General Smith was commander of the Maryland forces that repulsed and defeated the British in the Battle of Baltimore at North Point and at Fort McHenry on September 12-14, 1814. Previously, Smith had been a hero of the Revolutionary War. After his exemplary military career, he continued his public service by serving forty years in Congress including becoming President of the U.S. Senate, serving as Secretary of the U.S Navy, and at the age of 80 serving as the Mayor of Baltimore.

Prominent Baltimore sculptor Hans Schuler received three commissions during the Centennial of the War of 1812, including the monument to General Smith. Schuler’s sculpture artfully presents the strength of the General, standing in his military uniform from the War of 1812. This 1917 monument has been relocated twice and was originally located in the southeastern edge of Wyman Park. In 1953, the monument moved to a park named for Samuel Smith at the corner of Pratt and Light Streets. In 1970, General Smith’s monument was moved to its current Federal Hill Park location, overlooking the grand view of Baltimore’s harbor and skyline.

In January of 2012, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) determined that structural conditions within the monument’s base required the City’s immediate attention. In Summer of 2013, CHAP engaged Conservator of Fine Art, Steven Tatti, to conduct a comprehensive conservation of the monument, including the necessary reconstruction of the base.

The bronze statue of Samuel Smith was removed and secured to allow for the dismantling of the granite base. The statue of Smith was carefully cleaned and the bronze received a heated wax conservation treatment. The granite sections of the monument base were completely dismantled and placed adjacent to the monument. The existing structural pad was then cleaned and prepped for the reconstruction of the base. The one broken section of granite was repaired prior to reinstallation. The granite sections were gently cleaned to avoid potential damage. The monument base was then reconstructed and repointed, course by course, to restore its stability. It was very important to get each course level and plumb to insure that the bronze statue could be reinstalled securely.

Once the granite base was reconstructed, the bronze statue of Smith was returned the top of the monument. The projected was funded by the City of Baltimore, through CHAP’s Monument Restoration Program in the Department of Planning, with additional contributions of the Maryland Military Monument’s Commission.

Colonel George Armistead Monument, 1882

Armistead's Monument from The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812 (1896), California Digital Library.

The pictorial field-book of the war of 1812 (1896), California Digital Library.

The Mayor and City Council of Baltimore erected the Colonel George Armistead Monument on Eutaw Place on September 12, 1882. Armistead was commander of Fort McHenry during the British attack of September 13-13, 1814. The architectural firm of G. Metzger designed this monument that features the outline of Armistead’s career in the inscription on the shaft. The marble block of fourteen feet rests on a base a foot and a half high. This monument was commissioned as a “substitute” for an earlier ca. 1828 tablet of commemoration that became defaced and destroyed by time.

As with the Samuel Smith Monument, the Armistead Monument was moved from its original location. Designed for its initial installation on Eutaw Place, the monument was subsequently moved to Federal Hill after residents protested that its height did not harmonize with the loftiness of their homes. Today, the strong architectural presence of the Armistead Monument anchors the Federal Hill overlook in close proximity to the Samuel Smith Monument.

In summer of 2013, CHAP engaged Conservator of Fine Art, Steven Tatti, again to conserve the Armisted Monument. The original lower tier of the stacked stone foundation was cleaned and shimmed as needed. The stone foundation, as well as the joint between the foundation and the monument base, was then repointed with an appropriate sand cement mortar mix. The monument itself was gently washed, carefully avoiding damaging the fragile stone. The ornamental fence was then cleaned, prepped and repainted with alkyd black semi-gloss paint. The projected was funded by the City of Baltimore, through CHAP’s Monument Restoration Program in the Department of Planning, with the additional contributions of the Maryland Military Monument’s Commission and the City-wide Adopt A Monument Fund.

This post is based on the September 2013 Monument Project Conservation Report available from CHAP.

Help restore a historic cemetery in Clifton Park with the Friends of St. Vincent’s Cemetery on October 5

St. Vincent's Cemetery, 1970s

St. Vincent’s Cemetery, 1970s. Courtesy Friends of St. Vincent’s Cemetery.

Even before St. Vincent’s Cemetery in Clifton Park closed in the 1980s, the grounds had suffered from decades of neglect and vandalism. Over the past 30 years, the cemetery nearly disappeared under the thick weeds and five tons of trash and debris illegal dumped on the grounds. Fortunately, for the last three years, the volunteer-led Friends of St. Vincent’s Cemetery have been slowly taking the cemetery back. Baltimore Heritage recognized their efforts with a 2012 Preservation Award and you can join this group of descendants and Clifton Park neighbors restoration efforts at a cemetery clean-up day this fall.

Friends of St. Vincent Cemetery’s Clean-Up Day
Saturday, October 5, 2013, 9:00am to 1:00pm
St. Vincent’s Cemetery, 2401 N. Rose Street, Baltimore, MD

Wear appropriate work clothes and shoes (no sandals or flip flops!) and bring a
shovel or rake. Water and light snacks will be provided. For questions or to RSVP for the clean-up day, please contact Stephanie Town at 610-368-1910 or Rakeleafs@yahoo.com.

St. Vincent's Cemetery, 1970s

St. Vincent’s Cemetery, 1970s. Courtesy Friends of St. Vincent’s Cemetery.

St. Vincent de Paul Church purchased five acres of land for the cemetery from Robert Purviance and Miles White on April 1, 1853. The land was located just outside the city on Mine Bank Lane (now known as Rose Street) just west of Bel Air Road and remained outside the city until the annexation in 1888. On May 19, 1853, Rev. Leonard Ambrose Obermyer blessed the cemetery and led the church in transferring earlier burials from a cemetery the congregation had shared with St. James the Less Church along Harford Road.

Over 2,000 people were buried in the cemetery before 1965 including many Irish, Italian and German Catholic immigrants. With no endowment for maintenance, unfortunately, St. Vincent’s Cemetery suffered from repeated vandalism in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s damaging markers and, most disturbingly, removing bodies from their plots. Ultimately, the church decided to remove all of the existing markers and demolish the mausoleum in an attempt to protect the cemetery further disturbance and desecration.

A group of descendants came together in 2010 and with support from St. Vincent de Paul Church launched their ongoing effort to reclaim the cemetery from the weeds and trash making news in the Baltimore Sun and Catholic Review along the way. Join the Friends of St. Vincent Cemetery in cleaning up this unique historic cemetery in Clifton Park! If you’d like to learn more about conservation and historic cemeteries, join us in Druid Hill Park on October 2 for our tour of the Rogers Buchanan Cemetery with conservation expert Howard Wellman and local historian and Rogers family descendant Ed Johnson.

Literary Heritage in Baltimore: Three free programs with H.L. Mencken, Edgar Allen Poe, and more Baltimore authors

Poe House, 1971

Poe House, National Register of Historic Places, 1971

Gertrude Stein learned to smoke cigars at home on Biddle Street. Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald drank himself into a stupor at the Stafford Hotel. Poet Ogden Nash cheered for the Baltimore Colts at Memorial Stadium. Emily Post, Edgar Allan Poe, H.L. Mencken Dorothy Parker, and scores of other nationally-known poets, authors, journalists and writers grew up, worked, wrote and died in Baltimore. Three free programs this fall offer a rich introduction to the city’s literary heritage with an the H.L. Mencken Open House in Union Square, the Poe House open for weekends in October, and an evening of readings from the works of Mencken, Poe and many more Baltimore authors.

We are also excited to announce the launch of our new Literary Heritage in Baltimore tour for Explore Baltimore Heritage. The tour was created in partnership with the University of Baltimore, CityLit, the Maryland Humanities Council and the Maryland State Arts Council with contributions from student volunteers including Ryan Artes, Nathan Dennies, Amelia Grabowski, and Elizabeth Matthews. Don’t forget to download Explore Baltimore Heritage for iPhone or Android or visit explore.baltimoreheritage.org to learn more about how these writers left their mark on Baltimore neighborhoods!

Happy 133rd Birthday, Mr. Mencken!

Sunday, September 8, 2013, 1:00pm to 5:00pm
1524 Hollins Street, Baltimore, MD 21223

Born on September 12, 1880, H. L. Mencken lived in the handsome historic rowhouse at 1524 Hollins Street for nearly all of his life. Join the Friends of the H.L. Mencken House as they celebrate Mencken’s 133rd birthday with their annual open house! The house and garden will be open and light fare will be served. Beer and wine will be available for a modest amount. The highlight of the occasion will be cake (with candles, though not 133 of them) served in his beloved garden. More details from the Friends of the H.L. Mencken House.

“Poe-pen House” Weekends in October

Saturday, October 5, 2013, 12:00pm to 4:00pm
Edgar Allan Poe House, 203 N. Amity Street, Baltimore, MD 21223
Thanks to support from Free Fall Baltimore, Admission to the Poe House will be free every weekend in October from 12:00pm to 4:00pm.

Closed since 2012, Baltimore’s famous Poe House re-opens to the public with a “Poe-pen House” on October 5! Join Poe Baltimore for stories and snacks, lore and a chance explore the famous house of the master of the macabre.  The family-friendly event will also delight avid fans of Poe, introduce the house to new visitors, and engage the surrounding community with this jewel in their neighborhood. No advance registration required. The house is small so tours will accommodate visitors on a first-come, first served basis. Email poebaltimore@gmail.com for more information.

An Evening with Dead Baltimore Authors

Thursday, October 10, 2013, 7:30pm to 8:30pm
University of Baltimore Wright Theatre
UB Student Center, 5th Floor, 21 West Mount Royal Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21201

Photograph of H.L. Mencken at 1527 Hollins Street by A. Aubrey Bodine, November 25, 1947.

H.L. Mencken, Maryland Historical Society, BCLM, B737(4)B

Join us for an Evening with Dead Baltimore Authors to hear the words of dead Baltimore authors with a selection of readings excerpted from the works of Edgar Allen Poe, H.L. Mencken, Karl Shapiro, Ogden Nash, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, Lizette Woodworth Reese, Upton Sinclair, Emily Post, Munro Leaf, Dashiell Hammett, Walter Lord, and Dorothy Parker. The evening will also feature an introduction to a few of the places these authors wrote, drank, lived and worked featured on our new Literary Heritage in Baltimore tour for Explore Baltimore Heritage.

An Evening with Dead Baltimore Authors is organized in partnership with the University of Baltimore, CityLit, the Maryland Humanities Council and the Maryland State Arts Council. Learn more about additional programs for Literary Arts Week through Free Fall Baltimore. Registration is not required for this free program. For questions or more information contact Jon Schorr at jshorr@ubalt.edu.