Author: Molly Ricks

Legacy Business: A.T. Jones & Sons

Baltimore Heritage’s Legacy Business Program highlights the city’s businesses that have survived for over 100 years and are still going today. Just as much as our harbor and our great neighborhoods, Baltimore’s longstanding businesses are a central part of what makes our city unique.

Imagine a horde of Christmas elves attacking a chorus line of Roman legionaries. Now if you wish to film this fever-dream, go to A.T. Jones & Sons on N. Howard Street. They have a warehouse filled with costumes from any period of history.

Alfred Thomas Jones started renting out costumes in 1868. He arrived in Baltimore from North Carolina in the spring of 1861. He was there to collect a $500 prize for a painting he submitted to a contest sponsored by the predecessor of the Maryland Institute College of Art (Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts). He was unable to return to N.C., however, after fighting broke out at the start of the Civil War. So, he settled into a new life as a teacher at the art school that awarded his prize.

Jones began buying costumes as a hobby in 1868. He purchased Confederate and Union army uniforms as well as parade and masquerade ball costumes. These costumes served Mr. Jones well as he was able to rent them for masquerade balls, a popular form of high society entertainment in the late 19th century. A costume from one season could be altered and rented the next.

Perhaps the largest of the masked balls of the late 19th century was the Oriole Pageant, sponsored by the Order of the Oriole. The first of these pageants was held in 1880 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the settlement of Baltimore. The following year the society outdid itself with a three-day affair that included a parade through the city (illuminated with electric lights), concerts, a parade of boats in the harbor, and, of course, a masked ball. The B&O Railroad added extra cars to accommodate the crowds attending the festivities. All of these events required costumes, some of which were rented out by Mr. A.T. Jones.

The costume rental business included supplying local theatre companies. Many of the famous actors of the 19th century depended on the Jones family. Edwin Booth, the most illustrious of a Maryland family of actors, gave Jones some of his own props and costumes, such as a sword used in Hamlet and pound-of-flesh scales from Merchant of Venice.

The most loyal and long lasting customer of A.T. Jones & Sons is the Gridiron Club, a journalistic organization in Washington, D.C., made up primarily of news bureau chiefs. It was founded in 1885 and has been renting costumes annually since 1888 for their white-tie banquet that includes satirical skits directed at politicians and journalists. Some of the costumes for this event have been worn by John Glenn, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and news reporter Bob Schieffer.

A.T. Jones began by renting costumes for parades, pageants, and theatrical productions, as well as formal wear to young men who could not afford to purchase them. Through the next century and a half, his descendants and successors have adapted to the times and changing demands. From A.T., the shop went to his son, Walter Jones, Sr., then Walter’s widow, Lena, then their son, Walter “Tubby” Jones, Jr. The shop was eventually purchased by a long-time employee, George Goebel. His son Ehrich joined the business and has expanded the market to include opera and theatre companies throughout the United States. The inventory now includes everything from Aida to Elf the Musical.

The one costume that is of great demand every year is for Santa Claus. Ever since the first department store version of the fat, jolly, white-bearded old man made its appearance in the 19th century, there has been a run on large red suits with white trim every December. A.T. Jones is always ready to meet the demand from department stores and charitable organizations for Santa costumes.

By Richard Messick

Suffrage in the Spotlight: Heritage Talks and Tours this Holiday Season

Before we turn all of our attention to holiday planning, check out our upcoming heritage talks and tours to get to know even more about Baltimore’s history this winter season.

On December 15, join author Elaine Weiss for a lecture on her book, The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, which chronicles the struggle for American female suffrage. Ms. Weiss’s book is so compelling that Steven Spielberg and Hillary Clinton are teaming up to turn it into a movie! This Thanksgiving, we are especially grateful for the women and men who fought for voting rights over a century ago.

On December 14, catch our last Lexington Market tour of the year. See behind-the-scenes at what Ralph Waldo Emerson dubbed “the gastronomic capital of the world” and the catacombs under the marketplace. Be sure to stock up on the candies and baked goods at the market for your holiday sweet tooth!

Finally, with Thanksgiving around the corner, we at Baltimore Heritage have a lot to be thankful for, starting with the kind volunteers who lead our tours, research and write about historic places for Explore Baltimore Heritage, join us in fighting for threatened historic landmarks, and so much more. You make our work possible. Thank you all!

— Johns Hopkins, Executive Director

PS: It’s the time of year when we both give thanks and look forward to the year ahead. It is also the time of year when we ask you to join or renew your membership support for Baltimore Heritage. Your gift makes our work possible.

The Arches & Access Project: An Update from One of Our Micro-Grant Recipients

At our annual preservation micro-grant event in October, Baltimore Heritage gave the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council $500 to support its Light City Baltimore community party, Arches and Access, at Druid Hill Park. It was a huge success and absolutely brightened the neighborhood! Please enjoy our guest blog post by co-organizer Graham Coreil-Allen. 

The organizers (left to right): Graham Coreil-Allen, Jessy DeSantis, and Courtney Bettle (Photo by Graham Coreil-Allen) 

Showcasing the cherished connections between Druid Hill Park and surrounding neighborhoods, the Arches & Access project illuminated and activated the historic Druid Hill Park Gate at Madison Avenue, Druid Hill Park, and the Rawlings Conservatory with colorful lights, a community parade, and a public party. On the evening of November 3rd, 2019, over three hundred residents, artists, and performers transformed Madison Avenue and Druid Park Lake Drive into a spectacular, roving block party. Neighbors collectively created a place to march, dance, and perform in celebration of our West Baltimore communities united in green space and creating safe streets for people. The Neighborhood Lights Project was presented as part of the Brilliant Baltimore festival of light and literature and organized by Reservoir Hill residents Jessy DeSantis and Courtney Bettle, and Auchentoroly Terrace public artist Graham Coreil-Allen.

The colorful Rawlings Conservatory (Photo by Graham Coreil-Allen) 

The project was made possible with help from community organizer Kate Jennings and the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, 7th District Councilman Leon F. Pinkett, a grant from Baltimore Heritage, volunteers from Beth Am Synagogue’s IFO organization, and numerous local youth. The Baltimore Heritage Microgrant help fund multicolored flashlights and a free photo booth at the after party.

101 Years at 3704 Greenmount Avenue: The Wernig/Kohlhepp Family in Guilford

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.

1897, Wedding day photo of Joseph S. Wernig and Caroline C. Hauhn, the 1918 owners of the 3704 Greenmount Avenue house

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.

Edmond’s grandmother, M. Evelyn Wernig, with Edmond’s mother, Mary E., as an infant in 1923

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 Kohlhepp, 1 years old, with his mother, Mary E. Kohlhepp

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.

On November 11, 2019, Baltimore Heritage mounted a Centennial Homes plaque on the Wernig/Kohlhepp house. From right to left, siblings Ed Kohlhepp, Mary Ann Kohlhepp Bacon and Harry Kohlhepp

 

Summary of material compiled by Lisa Doyle. For the full house and family history, please see Lisa Doyle’s The Wernig and Kohlhepp Family

Celebrations in the City: A Baltimore Christmas Talk with Historian Wayne Schaumburg, a Holiday Tour of Evergreen, and Author Elaine Weiss on Winning the Women’s Vote

As we head into the holiday season, we have much to remember and celebrate here in Baltimore. We hope you can spend a slice of it with us at some of final talks and tours of the year.

On November 17, Baltimore historian Wayne Schaumburg will illuminate some of the city’s winter traditions going back to the 1940s with a talk on Christmas in Old Baltimore. If have you ever wondered which Baltimore holiday traditions have changed over the years and which have stayed the same, join us to find out.

Stay in the holiday spirit on December 11 as we tour Evergreen Museum & Library, a Gilded Age mansion that will be adorned for the holidays. Baltimore Heritage volunteer and Evergreen docent Richard Messick will help us take in this tremendous estate’s seasonal decorations while learning about its rich history.

Want more to celebrate? On December 15, come rejoice in the history of the women who fought for the right to vote with a talk by author Elaine Weiss on her book, The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote. Join us to travel back in time to an extraordinary period in American history when suffragists had to push against countless barriers in their quest for the vote. We think that is something worth celebrating.

Bring a loved one. Bring a friend. And join us to learn a little and celebrate a lot of Baltimore’s heritage.