The Baltimore Centennial Homes project, developed in collaboration between Baltimore Heritage and City Councilman James Kraft, recognizes families that have been in the same house for 100 years or more. Their stories show the changes that our communities and our city have experienced as well as the critical roles that neighborhoods and their families have played in keeping historic neighborhoods thriving.
Over 100 years ago, on October 22, 1918, two Baltimore natives of German ancestry purchased a house with ground rents at 3704 Greenmount Avenue on the eastern border of Baltimore’s Guilford neighborhood. The couple, Joseph Simon Wernig, Sr. and Caroline C. Hauhn Wernig, were the maternal great-grandparents of Edmond Francis Kohlhepp who presently lives in the same house. The Wernigs of 1918 had three children Mary Evelyn (Edmond’s grandmother), Harry Bernard and Joseph Simon, Jr. The property has remained occupied and in continuous ownership by a family member for 101 years.
The family patriarch, Joseph S. Wernig, Sr., owned the Joseph S. Wernig Transfer Company, one of the largest transfer companies in Baltimore City in the early part of the twentieth century. He had 172 horse-drawn wagons that rolled over the cobblestone streets of Baltimore. They transferred products such as paper goods, merchandise and furnishings from the train station to local businesses. The company also moved entire businesses such as McCormick Company, Inc. and Maryland Casualty Insurance Company to other locations in Maryland.
Upon his death in 1944, Wernig, Sr. conveyed the property at 3704 Greenmount Avenue to his wife, Caroline C. Wernig, and to his heirs thereafter in fee simple ownership. Unfortunately, Caroline died five years later in 1949. Prior to her death she decided that the house would be left to her daughter, Mary Evelyn, because her only living son, Joseph S., Jr., had inherited the family business.
In the early 1940’s when Mary E. was in her late teens, she met Edmond James Kohlhepp. Edmond was working behind the counter at the drug store located at the corner of Chestnut Hill Avenue and Greenmount Avenue. When Mary E. would cross the street and order ice cream, Edmond would always give her an extra dip, indicating even then, that he had a crush on her.
During World War II, Edmond J. Kohlhepp served in the Navy as a gunner on the Destroyer Escort, the USS Hissem. Years later his name was inscribed on the Destroyer Escort Memorial Plaque located in the main hall of the War Memorial Building in downtown Baltimore City.
Edmond J. and Mary E. began dating in December 1946. Two years later they married at the Blessed Sacrament Church (4200 block of Old York Road). The couple separated in 1962, and Mary E. moved into the Wernig house at 3704 Greenmount Avenue with her four children to live with her mother. By 1965 the couple divorced. 3704 Greenmount Avenue became the permanent residence of Mary E. and her children. In 1970, Edmond F.’s grandmother, M. Evelyn Wernig, died suddenly and left the house to her daughter Mary E. and her heirs, the four children–Edmond, Michael, Mary Ann, and Harry.
Edmond Francis, born in 1949, and his mother had many fond memories of the house and the neighborhood. He recalled the time she took the streetcar to La Paix Lane in the Towson area to visit her great uncle and aunt. From her relative’s house, Mary E. could look over to the Turnbull Estate and see the famous writer and novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald walking around in the backyard or swimming in the pool. Edmond F. also remembers his visits to Sherwood Gardens. One time, he even met Mr. Sherwood.
Some of Edmond F.’s fondest memories are of visiting the famous sculptor, Grace Hill Turnbull, twice a year for seven years from 1965-72. She lived in his neighborhood on Chancery Road, a few blocks northwest of their house. Although in her eighties, she was sharp as a tack and very knowledgeable about many topics. She always insisted that Edmond play her one of his recent musical compositions on her grand piano.
Mary E. Kohlhepp passed away in 2005 and the grand old house became the possession of the next generation. Upon the decision of the children of Mary E. Kohlhepp, the eldest son, Edmond F. Kohlhepp would occupy the house. On November 11, 2019, Baltimore Heritage was pleased to mount a Centennial Homes plaque on the Wernig/Kohlhepp house.
Summary of material compiled by Lisa Doyle. For the full house and family history, please see Lisa Doyle’s The Wernig and Kohlhepp Family