Preserving and promoting Baltimore's historic buildings and neighborhoods.
Author: Guest Writer
We're always looking for interesting stories and photographs about preservation and revitalization in historic Baltimore neighborhoods. If you are interested in writing a post, sharing a photo or you have an idea for a topic you'd like us to write about, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This past weekend, the Friends of St. Vincent’s Cemetery held a successful spring clean up day in Clifton Park with support from a great group of volunteers. Thanks to Stephanie Town for sharing a few photos from the event!
Special thanks to AOH-3 Towson, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Police Emerald Society, and Maryland Irish Charities for their hard work. Thank you Terry Nolan for bringing and operating the bush hog and Ed Crawford and Tom Kelleher for recruiting and advocating for this project.
We are glad to share this last post in the series from Tom Hobbs, President of the Guilford Association highlighting 100 years of history in Guilford.
By 1912, construction of the roads and infrastructure was well underway in Guilford and marketing of building sites began in earnest. The sales office was initially located in an original house of the Guilford estate close to Chancery Road. Prospective residents were directed into the community from the southern beginnings of Greenway along a sycamore tree-lined Chancery Road to the sales office and then to the Company-developed Chancery Square.
The Roland Park Company built other model homes, many of them designed by Edward Palmer, scattered throughout the development to further the marketing efforts. The success of the garden suburb of Roland Park and the established aesthetic and social value of the community as a desirable area was extended to and enhanced in Guilford. The Roland Park Company marketed the Roland Park-Guilford connection and the desirability of the area as Baltimore’s prestigious location. The prospects for Guilford were made even greater by the move of Johns Hopkins University to the Homewood campus, the decision of the Maryland Episcopal Diocese to purchase the southern tip of Guilford with the intention of building a huge, twin-towered cathedral, and the access to downtown that was direct by extended trolley lines.. These houses were intended to influence the architecture in that particular section but most of the lots were sold to be developed by the buyer and their selected architect. While the Roland Park Company prided itself on planning Guilford for residents with a range of incomes accommodating cottages to mansions, as James Waesche observes in Crowning the Gravelly Hill, “ its intent in Guilford was clear— plenty of room for Baltimore’s biggest spenders.”
The gently rolling and forested character of the land of the Guilford estate presented an opportunity for a variety of lot sizes. Olmsted’s plan accommodated that intent and further preserved the natural setting in three community parks and private parks spotted in the center of 10 blocks. (Only one of the private inner block parks remains as commonly held by surrounding residents—the block bounded by Northway, Greenway and Stratford Road but in other blocks the areas remain open and undeveloped.)
Along the three boulevard-like spine roads of Charles Street, St. Paul Street and Greenway and in locations adjacent to them sites were divided for the development of large homes, many of which when built have been called “little short of baronial.” J. William Hill, the realtor whose company represented property transfers in the community, commented that “Guilford won almost immediate acceptance as the place to buy, and lawyers, bankers and a number of Hopkins and University physicians set the standard.”
The Roland Park Company’s architectural review committee had to approve all design proposals but allowed development of a number of architectural styles so long as they were skillfully executed, built of fine materials, compatible with the surroundings and “reasonably in accordance with the canons of good taste.” Within fourteen months of the start of sales, 38 houses had been erected and 54 were under construction.
New highly sought after commission opportunities were created for the finest architects to demonstrate their skills. The houses that resulted were to be an expression of the owner’s social status and taste. As Egon Verheyen states in the book Laurence Hall Fowler, Architect, “he was a society architect and the documents assembled in the file on individual commissions attests to his role and the function architecture played in the circles which he frequented.” Styles of Guilford homes were typically based on classic colonial American architecture or European models but the Arts and Crafts influence is also seen particularly in cottage designs. The community thrives on the variety of styles in harmonious relationship.
A previous article in this series has discussed the great influence Palmer and Lamdin had on Guilford architecture through the design of many of the community’s most admired homes. Also particularly Palmer was a significant force as the architect for the Roland Park Company and later during the development of Guilford as a key member of the Company’s architectural review committee. The Company retained a list of recommended architects that had demonstrated their residential design skills. The inclusion on this list was highly sought after. Interestingly in the Roland Park files there is a 1913 letter from Mattu & White to Edward Bouton that attests to the value of being on the approved list. They state in the letter:
“. . . as we think our past work compairs (sic) favorably with the work of many of the thirteen Architects on your list, we respectfully request you add our name to your list of Architects which you recommend in connection with the development of Guilford. . . . The discrimination against us is not only harmful to our practice, but most damaging to our reputation. . . .”
Mattu & White ultimately met the screening test and went on to design many of Guilford’s impressive homes.
The core group of architects that molded Guilford, in addition to Palmer and Lamdin, include Laurence Hall Fowler, Howard Sill, John Russell Pope, Mattu & White, Bayard Turnbull and several other designers who had multiple commissions for Guilford homes.
Laurence Hall Fowler was classically trained as an architect. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Columbia, traveled through Italy and after a brief apprenticeship in two New York architectural firms he left for Paris in 1904 and was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He returned to Baltimore and worked briefly at the firm of Wyatt and Nolting. In 1906 he opened his own office making his name designing the homes for those who could afford the luxury of fine taste in Guilford, Blythewood, Gibson Island and the Greenspring Valley. The Garretts were long-time clients and he redesigned the interior of Evergreen House, including the addition of the library. Fowler designed 15 Guilford homes. Examples can be seen 105 and 107 Charlcote Road, 24 and 26 Whitfield Road, and 205 and 207 Wendover Roads. At 33 Warrenton Road there is a particularly fine Tudor revival home that Fowler designed for Harry C. Block. Fowler designed his own home on a Highfield Road site in Tuscany Canterbury— the property currently owned by John Waters.
Howard Sill was a student of colonial American architecture and his designs were focused primarily on modern adaptations of colonial homes. He had carefully studied and measured details and proportions of 18th century Maryland and Virginia buildings and he executed his designs with great care to capture authenticity. In Roland Park he had designed homes on Overhill and Somerset Roads, Merryman Court and Northfield Place and University Parkway. He was well known to Bouton and he like Palmer and Fowler participated on the Architectural Review Committee. He designed at least 13 Guilford homes. Examples can be seen at 204 E. Highfield Road (the Sherwood House), 4405 and 4214 Greenway, 36 Charlcote Place and 3901 St. Paul Street.
In 1914, New York based architect John Russell Pope was selected by James Swan Frick to design Charlcote House on the site in the center of Charlcote Place. Pope studied architecture at Columbia, won the Rome Prize and attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His designs were considered part of the American Renaissance expressed through revival and adaptation of classic styles. He designed homes for the Vanderbilts and many public buildings including the National Archives, the National Gallery, the Jefferson Memorial and the Baltimore Museum of Art where he worked with Howard Sill. While Charlcote House is the only Pope designed house in Guilford, its impact has been great. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mattu & White designed 19 Guilford homes – after protesting to Bouton about their exclusion from the Roland Park Company list of approved architects! They proved to be talented in interpreting a number of architectural styles. Their designs can be seen at 3907, 4402 and 4110 Greenway, 3, 16 and 34 Whitfield Road and 40, 42 and 43 Warrenton Road, 229 Lambeth Road and 6 Wendover Road.
Bayard Turnbull is perhaps best known for the design of his artist sister’s home at 223 Chancery Road and for renting a cottage on his Towson property to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The Grace Turnbull house is distinguished by its architectural style, an eclectic mix of Spanish Mission and Arts and Crafts elements— a unique structure in Guilford. Turnbull in architectural circles is also noted for designing the Italianate mansion at 4101 Greenway and 4105 Greenway.
This group of architects because of their stature, their skill in interpreting classic designs and their influence within the Roland Park Company are in large part responsible for setting the stage for the architectural quality found in Guilford. A number of other skilled architects contributed to the community whole through their commissions adding significant designs to the harmonious blend of consistently high design standards. The quality of design and construction and the Roland Park Company’s planning, standards and controls together with the provision for continuing oversight have left a legacy that ensures that Guilford will endure as one of the region’s prime places to live.
Thank you again to Tom Hobbs for sharing his writing and research. This piece was originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of The Guilford News.
After a long hiatus, we are glad to resume our series from Tom Hobbs, President of the Guilford Association on the history of Guilford’s architecture and development.
Almost immediately after the merger of the Guilford Park Company with the Roland Park Company in 1911 work began on the development of Guilford. A community plan prepared by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. existed and Edward H. Bouton had already been discussing refinements of the plan with Olmsted before the consolidation of the two companies had taken place.
The Roland Park Company sought to assure that Guilford would be a very special place of quality offering all the “conveniences and amenities of life” and the highest “artistic and aesthetic considerations.” In addition to the guidance provided by Olmsted and Edward Palmer, the Roland Park Company’s architect, Bouton brought together experts in landscape and architectural design and the development of suburban communities.
At the outset before there were any improvements the Company appointed a Design Advisory Board. In addition to Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and Edward Palmer, the Board members were J.B. Noel Wyatt, a noted Baltimore architect and president of the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects; Grosvenor Atterbury, an architect, urban planner and writer who had been given the commission by the Russell Sage Foundation for the model housing community of Forest Hills Gardens; and Howard Sill, Baltimore architect and designer of a number of Roland Park homes. Bouton when serving as General Manager of Forest Hills Gardens and also remaining as the president of the Roland Park Company had worked both with Atterbury and Olmsted. This group through a series of conferences formulated the principals that were to guide the development of Guilford. It was a group with whom Bouton felt comfortable and shared conviction.
The Roland Park Company brought to the development of Guilford an experience of more than 20 years handling property of similar character. It had the experience in details of design and construction of physical improvements as well as the management and administration of the undertaking. The Company was organized with the following divisions: Architectural Department of Design and Construction, Engineering Department, Building Department and Gardening Department.
In the spring of 1912, site work started in earnest. Grading was undertaken in preparation for road construction, water, sewer and utility lines installed and shortly after road paving and planting started. The systems and roads were initially private and were designed to the highest standards. Olmsted had studied every block of the development, taking care to preserve significant trees and preparing landscape plans for the roadways and community parks. Guilford was marketed as the Roland Park-Guilford District, a prime area of restricted development. Lot sales were undertaken immediately after construction of the infrastructure was underway. The community was planned and marketed as offering a wide range of housing opportunities but with much opportunity for manor-like properties.
The first development of housing was undertaken by the Roland Park Company itself with Edward Palmer as architect. Homes on Chancery Square, built in 1912–13, were the first Guilford homes followed by Bretton Place and York Courts in 1914. All were designed with a distinctly English village appearance, showing design elements adopted from English rural cottages. The six paired Tudor-revival homes of Chancery Square are built surrounding three sides of a street-centered green. They combine half-timbered stucco portions with brick, have steep slate roofs and tall distinctive brick chimneys. They are romantic in appearance and were intended to set an architectural tone and standard and continue the style of homes recently introduced in Roland Park. With fanfare the public was invited to visit these first Guilford homes in 1913.
The Bretton Place homes reflect both English Tudor-revival architecture and the cluster of attached homes within a pillared entrance cul-de-sac very reminiscent of what Attterbury was designing for Forest Hills Gardens. They were unique for Baltimore. As stated by Hayward and Belfoure in The Baltimore Rowhouse,
“Palmer designed Bretton Place, freely combining Tudor half-timbering with elegant Flemish bond, herringbone, and diaper-pattern brickwork using glazed headers; steep slate roofs with hipped and shed-roofed dormers, irregularly massed, oversize chimneys; multi-paned windows, double and triple sash; and a combination of round-arched and steeply pedimented craftsman entryways.”
Bretton Place was designed in response to Bouton’s direction that a series of very elegant “group homes” be built on the outer fringes of the new development. He directed Palmer to come up with a design for “fashionable, highly attractive rows that would be appropriate to the elite suburb and that would provide an elegant housing choice for those persons who did not need the size or want the responsibility of maintaining a large house and yard.” The Bretton Place homes were put on the market in 1914, priced from $6,950 (in fee) for the seven-room version, to $9,875 for the ten-room version According to the July 19, 1914 Baltimore Sun, the company offered to have a motorcar waiting at the entrance to Guilford or “better still, one of our salesmen will gladly call at any designated time, at your residence or office, and take you to Bretton Place.”
About the same time The Roland Park Company was developing Bretton Place, the York Courts were being constructed by the company to the north facing York Road (Greenmount Avenue). These houses also designed by Palmer were intended to complement the Georgian-revival style houses anticipated to be built on the interior lots. Arranged in an open-ended rectangle facing the street, each of the three groups constituted a York Court and shared common front lawn as well as small back yards. The houses were placed back from the street with trees and greenery around them.
The Roland Park Company placed much initial attention on the eastern, northern and southern edges of the Guilford site and took responsibility for the housing that was constructed there because they could not control the development of the areas to the east, north and south of the Guilford tract. As was characteristic of many Olmsted community plans, streets on the outer edges of the tract were designed with the house lots facing inward, toward a green or a cul-de-sac, thus ensuring the privacy of the new development and insulating the inner more expensive house lots from the “lesser neighborhoods” outside of the development. Along York Road, the company had taken yet a further step of designing and constructing the housing shortly after the opening of Guilford. On the north edge, the Norwood cottages would be Palmer designed and company built in a similar action. Many prime inner lots were sold in 1913 and 1914 with active construction following but development was slowed by the outbreak of the World War I.
This piece was originally published in the Fall 2012 issue of The Guilford News. Look out for our next guest post from Tom on the history of Guilford soon!
Thanks to Dr. John Bedell for sharing his experience digging this past Saturday and explaining the stratigraphy that shows the remains of the 1814 earthworks below Pagoda Hill at Patterson Park.
In our third attempt to dig a trench across the 1814 fortification ditch we finally got the profile we were looking for. In our first two trenches we could see what might have been the 1814 ditch, if we squinted right and waved our hands for effect. Honestly, if we hadn’t known what we were looking for we would not have described the soils in either place as a back-filled ditch. But this third profile is exactly what we were hoping to see.
It’s hard to make out but if you enlarge the pictures above and look closely you can see five distinct layers in the soil:
At the top (A), is dark grayish brown topsoil. Below that is a mixed-up layer with numerous rocks (B), which is landscaping fill put down in the early 1900s when the Olmstead Brothers beautified the park. We have found both of these layers everywhere we have dug.
Beneath the landscaping fill is the 1814 ditch. The top layer of in the ditch (C) is a mix of the landscaping fill with the older trench fill. Beneath that is a layer of sand (D) that washed into the ditch in the decades after it was abandoned, untouched since before the Civil War.
Below that (E) is the natural subsoil.
Since we feel like we have a good grasp on the soils we are looking for, we have started trying to trace the trench across the landscape using smaller holes. Using a bucket auger you can extract a narrow column of soil, which you can lay out next to a measuring tape to get an approximate idea of the stratigraphy below the surface.
We tried our first group of auger tests 75 feet from our last trench, and we think we identified the fortification ditch there, along the same line. But 150 feet down the line we did not find it, so we suspect that it has curved. Fortunately, we still have a few more days to sort this out.
Thanks to John Bedell for sharing his reflections on digging in Patterson Park during Día del Niño and a few photographs from a sunny day of archeology, music, and art.
I spent most of today in Patterson Park again, helping my crew and our volunteers keep looking for the 1814 earthworks. This is proving to be more of a challenge than we thought a week ago. I spent my day in the south trench, which you can see above in the early morning light. We thought we had found the fortification ditch here last week, but that turned out to be a brick-lined drain dating to around 1900. (Hence the bricks piled around the trench.)
We had to dig two feet deeper to reach what we hope is the top of the actual 1814 ditch. But we are now 4 feet down and can’t take the trench any deeper for safety reasons, so we will try to verify that the ditch is what we think by digging a couple of shovel tests in the trench floor. I did a fair amount of digging myself today, for the first time in months!