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.
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 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.
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.
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.
In the month ahead, we are remembering the bustling days of years past in and around Baltimore. Please join us on Nov. 23 as we slip over the county line with a walking tour in our northern neighbor, Towson. If you are feeling festive, on Nov. 17 Baltimore historian Wayne Schaumburg will the second talk in our fall series at the Garrett Jacobs Mansion on Christmas in Charm City. Finally, if you have not yet joined us, head over to Lexington Market on Nov. 9 for a tour of the market and underground catacombs.
On Saturday, November 23, Towson’s own history buff, Ms. Brenda Carl, will take us back through the town’s wonderful history and notable characters, including Divine of John Waters fame. See how places like Prospect Hill Cemetery, Loch Raven Reservoir, and East Towson, founded by African Americans formerly enslaved at Hampton Mansion, helped make Towson into the vibrant college town it is today.
On Sunday, November 17, join Baltimore historian and educator Wayne R. Schaumburg for a talk on “Christmas In Old Baltimore.” Mr. Schaumburg will focus on some of Baltimore’s great holiday customs from the 1940s to the 1960s, including downtown shopping, visiting Santa, the Toytown Parade, firehouse train gardens, and even our favorite holiday topic to quibble over: aluminum trees.
Finally, on Saturday, November 9, catch our next Lexington Market tour to see behind-the-scenes at what Ralph Waldo Emerson dubbed “the gastronomic capital of the world.” We will also explore the catacombs under the marketplace. Rediscovered in 1951, the origins of these tunnels and vaults are mysterious…perfect for the post-Halloween enthusiasts.
We hope to see you at some or all of the above events and tours. It’s going to be a great month of heritage and history!
Thank you to everyone who came last night to our micro-grant party and helped select the four new ideas to advance preservation in Baltimore! We hope you enjoyed the fantastic restoration projects going on at Clifton Mansion. Here are the four projects that received funding:
Friends of St. Vincent Cemetery: The micro-grant will help them develop a master plan in their ongoing efforts to clean-up and stabilize the formerly neglected St. Vincent Cemetery in Clifton Park.
Reservoir Hill Improvement Council: The micro-grant will help the community party, Arches and Access, illuminate the historic arched entrance to Druid Hill Park and the Rawlings Conservatory as part of Light City Baltimore.
Ernie Dimler: The micro-grant will help Mr. Dimler conserve and display Baltimore City archival material in his expanding public collections at the Bromo Seltzer Tower.
Adam Fracchia: The micro-grant will help Dr. Fracchia with his archaeological exploration of the lives of enslaved people and convict labor at the ruins of the former Northampton furnace iron foundry.
We will keep you posted as these projects move along and, again, thank you!!