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Parren Mitchell and 1805 Madison Avenue: A landmark witness to Baltimore’s fight for Civil Rights

Parren MitchellToday marks 93 years since Parren James Mitchell was born here in Baltimore on April 29, 1922. While well-known to a generation of Baltimore voters, Morgan State students and fellow activists, some might not recognize the name of the former Congressman. Parren Mitchell is remembered as the first black graduate student to receive a degree from the University of Maryland, College Park and the first black congressman from any Southern state since Reconstruction. Mitchell died nearly eight years ago but left an indelible legacy of service and advocacy.

One historic place stands out in Parren Mitchell’s story as an important reminder of the history of Baltimore’s Civil Rights movement and the struggle for justice: 1805 Madison Avenue where then Congressman Mitchell lived from 1974 up until his retirement in 1988. This is the story of that house and Parren Mitchell’s own fight for justice.


Parren Mitchell before 1974

Born in Baltimore on April 29, 1922, Parren James Mitchell moved around as a child. Early on his family lived on Stockton Street near Presstman Street just south of Saint Peter Claver Church which had been stood on North Fremont Avenue since September 9, 1888.

He was seven years old when his family moved into a new home at 712 Carrollton Avenue. The new neighborhood had started life as an elite suburb built between the 1870s and 1880s within a short walk of Lafayette Square or Harlem Park. Prior to the 1910s and 1920s, the population of the neighborhood was largely segregated white (although many African American households lived in smaller alley dwellings on the interior of the district’s large blocks). Segregation in the Harlem Park neighborhood was enforced through deed restrictions, local legislation and even physical attacks on black families that attempted to move into the neighborhood.

Parren’s father, Clarence M. Mitchell, Sr., was a musician who worked as a waiter at the Rennert Hotel located about a mile and a half east at the corner of Cathedral and Saratoga Streets. The hotel was demolished in 1941 and today hotel is the site of a parking lot adjacent to the residential towers of Two Charles Center. Mitchell’s mother Elsie Davis Mitchell took in laundry and boarders to support the family. Parren’s brother Clarence Mitchell, Jr. later recalled his mother as a woman who “believed in neatness, honesty and… keeping your word. I would say that my mother and father always felt that if you have your word, you ought to keep it.”

Parren Mitchell and his family sat around a table at their Carrollton Avenue rowhouse one evening in 1933, listening to Clarence Mitchell, Jr., then employed as a reporter for the Afro-American Newspaper, share his experiences in Princess Anne just a few days after the brutal lynching of George Armwood, a 22-year-old African American man, by a crowd of local white residents on October 18, 1933. In 1976, Parren Mitchell recorded his reflections on the significance of this moment in a conversation with interviewer Susan Conwell for the McKeldin-Jackson Oral History Project:

Parren Mitchell started attending Frederick Douglass High School at a large building located at Calhoun and Baker Streets. Still standing today, this  structure was the third location for the institution which had previously been located at the corner of Dolphin Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. When it opened in 1925, the new Douglass High School gave Baltimore’s African American public school students access to gymnasium, a library, and cafeteria for the first time.

After Mitchell graduated from high school in 1940 he enlisted in the Army, serving in World War II, winning a Purple Heart for wounds suffered in Italy. He graduated from what is now Morgan State University and applied to enter the graduate program of the University of Maryland at College Park. He worked as a professor of sociology at Morgan State between 1953 and 1954 and then as a supervisor of probation work for the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City from 1954 to 1957. From 1963 to 1965 he was executive secretary of the Maryland Human Relations Commission, overseeing implementation of the state’s public accommodations law.

Mitchell then became director of the Baltimore Community Action Agency, an anti-poverty program, from 1965 to 1968, when he resigned and returned to Morgan State as a professor of sociology and assistant director of its Urban Affairs Institute. After his resignation, Mitchell was interviewed on WMAR-TV News made available by the University of Baltimore, Langsdale Library:

In 1969, he became the President of Baltimore Neighborhoods, Inc. where he continued through 1970. Parren Mitchell was elected as a Democrat to the 92nd and to the seven succeeding Congresses serving from January 3, 1971 through January 3, 1987. Three years later, Parren Mitchell purchased a 90-year-old rowhouse at 1805 Madison Avenue.

1805 Madison Avenue before 1974

1805 Madison Avenue was built around 1886, when the property was first advertised in the Baltimore Sun as available to for rent for $35 per month. In July 1888, Benjamin and Rosetta Rosenheim purchased the home and moved in with their two young children.  Benjamin was a Drug Charges Defense Lawyer in Las Vegas with an office at 19 East Fayette Street. When Rosetta needed help at home in January 1889, the Rosenheim household placed an advertisement in the Sun seeking a “White Girl, from 15 to 17 years to nurse two children, aged 2 ½ and 4.” Similar advertisements appeared again in June 1889 and March 1890 seeking a caretaker for the two children. The family didn’t stay long, however, and on May 29, 1893 Benjamin and Rosetta Rosenheim sold the home to Julia Gusdorff.

Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Synagogue built at 1901 Madison Avenue in 1890. Courtesy Jewish Museum of Maryland.
Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Synagogue built at 1901 Madison Avenue in 1890. Courtesy Jewish Museum of Maryland.

The home sold again in 1902 and 1914. In the late 1910s and early 1920s, many of the German Jewish immigrants who had occupied the Madison Avenue homes for the past couple decades began moving northwest into new neighborhoods like Park Circle northwest of Druid Hill Park. Replacing these residents were African Americans home-owners and tenants. In 1923, Keiffer Jackson, husband of the well known civil rights activist Lille Mae Carol Jackson, purchased 1805 Madison Avenue for $3200.

Sharp Street Church, 2010 October 9
Sharp Street Church, 2010 October 9

Born August 20, 1884 in Carrollton, Mississippi, Keiffer Jackson worked as a Methodist evangelist and promoter of religious films traveling throughout the United States. Jackson met Lillie Mae Carroll at the Sharp Street Church while she was performing as a soprano in the church choir. The two married in 1910 and began to acquire the rental properties that helped to support the family while Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson dedicated herself to church and community activities.

In 1931, Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson and her daughter Juanita Jackson organized the City-Wide Young People’s Forum to advocate for youth in West Baltimore and, in 1935, Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson took leadership of the city’s NAACP chapter. With her daughter’s help she turned a once-floundering group into a powerful force for civil rights by supporting early legal challenges against the state’s discriminatory policies. In 1950, Juanita became the first African-American woman to graduate from the University of Maryland School of Law and the first admitted to the bar, adding her own efforts to the legal fight for civil rights in Baltimore.

Throughout these years, Lillie Mae Carroll and Kieffer Jackson never lived at 1805 Madison Avenue but rented the property to African American tenants from a wide range of backgrounds. In February 1928, Frank H. Berryman, the manager of William “K.O.” Smith and K.O. Martin, publicly sought to “arrange either local or out-of-town bouts for one or both of his fighters” noting managers could reach him at 1805 Madison Avenue. Mrs. Lizzie Futz lived at the house in 1931 when she was quoted in the Afro American criticizing a move by the Baltimore school superintendent to segregate white and black children on a recent field trip to Fort McHenry:

“I honestly think that the principal was unquestionably wrong in asking that the two groups be separated. There was no reason for the separation. School children of today get along better than their elders. It’s such segregation acts that breeds prejudice in the future.”

Parren Mitchell and 1805 Madison Avenue

Parren Mitchell’s move to the house on Madison Avenue came at an important moment in the nation’s relationship to struggling cities in the wake of the riots in Baltimore and cities around the country in 1968. The home was a source of pride and provided Mitchell with a perspective on city life that few other representatives in Congress could match. In June 1974, during a discussion of “urban homesteading,” Parren Mitchell shared the success of the city’s new homesteading program (established in 1973) seen from his own front stoop, remarking:

“Come to my house at 1805 Madison Avenue in the heart of a ghetto in Baltimore City and look at the home across the street which was sold for $1 under the Homestead Act. If you do you will see a beautiful and decent residence for a family.”

During hearings on the Community Reinvestment Act, Mitchell repeated the offer:

“I will take part of my 5-minute time to extend an invitation to visit my home in Baltimore, Md. I live at 1805 Madison Avenue, which is deep in the bowels of the city. It is the ghetto. Four years ago, I purchased a home in the 1800 block of Madison Avenue at 1805, using conventional financing. I have rehabilitated the home, and I think it’s attractive enough for you to come to visit me on a Saturday morning in the 1800 block of Madison Avenue.”

The renovation to the house cost $32,000 and combined the first and second floor of the building with a new staircase returning the stories into a single unit. He rebuilt the third floor as a rental apartment, a configuration that remains in use at the building today.

If he brought his home to Congress, his work also followed him home to Baltimore with a phone that rang constantly with requests from constituents. The house often hosted political meetings and legislative strategy session between the Congressman and a nine-member “Goon Squad” (a name the group gave itself) including civil rights activist Rev. Vernon Dobson. A September 1979 profile published in Ebony Magazine gives a picture of a driven and hard-working activist:

“[the] 57-year-old man’s fidgety, chain-smoking, workaholic lifestyle, his hectic, 14-hour-a-day pace that leaves little room for rest and relaxation, his conscientiousness that drives him, for example, to take home stacks of mail and laboriously answer each letter by hand… Mitchell, a bachelor who insists on doing his own housekeeping and cooking, is sometimes too busy to do his laundry and, having run out of clean underwear, must hurry and purchase more… The phone rings so incessantly at his Baltimore home–a restored, inner city row house laden with books, antique furniture, and African wood carvings–he long since has ceased taping his messages because the tape playbacks often consumed hours. Instead, he simply handles complaints as they come in from around his 85-percent-Black District.”


Parren Mitchell and 14 other members of the Congressional Black Caucus posed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, 1977. Courtesy  National Archives and Records Administration/U.S. House of Representatives.
Parren Mitchell and 14 other members of the Congressional Black Caucus posed on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, 1977. Courtesy National Archives and Records Administration/U.S. House of Representatives.

The home may have been a source of pride and a sign of his strong commitment to Baltimore but it was also a site conflict between Congressman Mitchell, the Baltimore City Police Department, and even the Ku Klux Klan. Between 1968 and 1974, before Mitchell’s move to 1805 Madison, the Baltimore Police Department Inspectional Services Division (ISD) kept his home under twenty-four-hour surveillance, illegally bugged his home and office telephones for eight months, and placed paid informers in his congressional campaigns. Beginning in 1971, Mitchell began calling for the resignation of Baltimore Police Commissioner Donald Pomerleau. When the ISD surveillance program (and its close ties to the FBI) were revealed, Congressman Mitchell extended his criticism to the ISD. After Pomerleau’s death in 1992, journalist Michael Olesker shared a memory of how the Police Commissioner tried to explain away the program and encourage Olesker to drop his investigation in a 1974 conversation:

“…Pomerleau sitting behind his big desk, his head cocked to one side, and he said: ”I know you’ve been told we’re collecting personal information on…” and he named several prominent politicians. ”Forget it,” he said. ‘We’re not doing that.’

‘Wait a minute,’ I said. ‘Are you telling me you’re not collecting personal information on any politicians?’

And here is precisely what Donald Pomerleau replied: ‘Just the blacks. Just the blacks. Just the blacks.’

Olesker continued his recollection: “I sat there not believing my ears: Not merely because he was verifying these acts but because, in his arrogance, he would assume he could tell me about it because we shared a skin tone. It was a lie, by the way. His minions were collecting stuff on all sorts of community leaders, and skin color didn’t much matter.”

In 1975, a Baltimore City police officer arrested Mitchell’s godson, McLeod Townes, at 1805 Madison Avenue. Townes, then 23 years old, had been living at the house before the arrest. In interviews with the Baltimore Sun, the Afro American and the Washington Post, Parren Mitchell argued that the arrest constituted, in his words, “retaliation for what I’m doing on the ISD investigation. If you can’t hurt me, hurt somebody close to me. That appears to be the police tactic.”

The Baltimore Police Department contested Congressman Mitchell’s characterization of the arrest, arguing that “The officers didn’t even know who the congressman was until after [the incident]. Mr. Mitchell will continue to get whatever police protection he asks for, just like any other citizen.” However, reflecting on this period in the late 1970s, Mitchell described the “psychological impact” of the surveillance and intimidation as “surrealistic.”


Parren Mitchell’s prominent role in advocating for reinvestment in African American communities continued to draw violent responses. In 1979, three Klansmen in Maryland were arrested and charged with possession of explosive devices in connection with a scheme to bomb 1805 Madison Avenue. Reports from the arrest observed that Parren Mitchell’s home is “said to have been under surveillance by a special unit of the Klan for eight months with the intent of burning a cross in his yard and detonating a bomb.”

In 1984, Parren Mitchell helped to organize a boycott of Coors beer together with along with some local chapters of the NAACP and the California Package Store and Tavern Owners Association (CAL-PAC). The boycott was launched in response to racist remarks by Coor’s Brewery executive William L. Coors at a minority business conference in February of that year. Within weeks, Coors supporters had stopped by Mitchell’s home and stuck posters to his house, as he wrote in the Afro-American in March 1884:

“He commands a very small army of followers whose campaign tactics are thoroughly, completely despicable. During one of my congressional campaigns, his Baltimore satraps harassed me on my home telephone nightly, and when they threatened to kill me, I notified the F.B.I. thereby winning their undying hatred. The front of my home at 1805 Madison, still has paste marks on the brick where the LaRouche people in Baltimore smeared propaganda junk.”


Sticker from 1976 campaign. Courtesy Digital Commons @ UM Carey Law, Larry Gibson Collection.
Sticker from 1976 campaign. Courtesy Digital Commons @ UM Carey Law, Larry Gibson Collection.

In 1977, Parren Mitchell and his neighbors secured Madison Park designation by the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation as a local historic district – the first in an African American neighborhood. The lead champion of the historic district was Michael B. Lipscomb, an aide to Parren Mitchell and office manager at the Congressman’s Bloomingdale Road office.

Lipscomb was a resident in Madison Park and the vice-president of the Madison Park Improvement Association. In his testimony before CHAP, Lipscomb observed that the district was the “city’s first all black historic district,” continuing:

“I came here because I love the house. I love the size of the house, the rooms, the old architecture, the high ceilings, the 10-foot high solid wood doors, the marble fireplaces, the stained glass windows. To get a house built like this would be astronomically expensive.”

Other residents in Madison Park were also active in the city’s civic organizations, including John R. Burleigh, II, a resident of 1829 Madison Avenue and director of Baltimore’s Equal Opportunity program and Delegate Lena K. Lee who lived at 1818 Madison Avenue. Delegate Lee also supported the historic district designation, testifying:

“We have been working in this area since 1940 to clean it up and keep the intruders out, to keep it from being overrun by bars, sweatshops and storefront churches that stay a little while and then pack up and go. We want to make it purely residential by getting out all business.”

Parren Mitchell sold the property to Sarah Holley in 1986 and moved just a few blocks away to 1239 Druid Avenue. He remained at that location until 1993 when he returned to Harlem Park and lived at 828 North Carolton Avenue where he remained until 2001. This property was recently featured on our tour of Lafayette Square and is now used as offices for the Upton Planning Council. Sarah Holley lived at the 1805 Madison Avenue from 1986 through 1989 and, since 1989, the property has been maintained as a rental property.


1805 Madison Avenue

Today, Baltimore Heritage is working with current owner Sarah Holley and the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation to secure individual landmark designation for 1805 Madison Avenue. Landmark status will honor the role of this rowhouse played in the larger story of Parren Mitchell’s service to Baltimore and Baltimore’s long history of Civil Rights activism. While Madison Park remains a vital historic neighborhood, other blocks within the Old West Baltimore historic district are at risk from neglect and disinvestment. We hope our ongoing work around Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage can continue to focus attention on the opportunity for places like 1805 Madison Avenue to serve as a source of pride and economic opportunity for residents in Baltimore today and in the future.

Maryland Traditions honors Baltimore’s famous painted screens with a 2014 ALTA Award

Earlier this month, Maryland Traditions recognized Baltimore’s famous painted screens and the stewards of this unique rowhouse art at the 2014 ALTA Awards. Please enjoy a few photographs from the evening by Edwin Remsberg Photographs and join us in congratulations Elaine Eff and all of the screen painters who sustain this tradition today! Read on for more details about this essential Baltimore tradition.

Photograph by Edwin Remsberg, 6 December 2014.
Photograph by Edwin Remsberg, 6 December 2014.
Photograph by Edwin Remsberg, 6 December 2014.
Photograph by Edwin Remsberg, 6 December 2014.

The Painted Screens of Baltimore is one of the most iconic and well-known living traditions unique to Baltimore City, celebrating its 101st birthday this year. Rooted in the vibrant neighborhoods of early 20th century East Baltimore, where they dotted the streets of endless row homes, the screens provided a decorative means of ensuring privacy: the painted exteriors “trapped” the vision of onlookers, preventing them from seeing inside. Such privacy was especially important during the warmer months when open windows provided much-needed ventilation. This clever invention is credited to William Oktavec, a storeowner on the East side from the Czech Republic (as it is known now).

Photograph by Edwin Remsberg, 6 December 2014.
Photograph by Edwin Remsberg, 6 December 2014.
Photograph by Edwin Remsberg, 6 December 2014.
Photograph by Edwin Remsberg, 6 December 2014.

While Oktavec painted his first screen in 1913, the tradition continues today through a variety of forms – from window screens to fly swatters and outdoor patio furniture – that reflect an evolution of innovations and tastes. Roughly a dozen screen painters, many of who have learned from the older generation, including John Oktavec, William’s grandson, are active in teaching the skills and meanings to younger enthusiasts.

In 1985, the Painted Screen Society was founded by folklorist Elaine Eff, co-founder of Maryland Traditions and author of The Painted Screens of Baltimore: an Urban Folk Art Revealed, and Dee Herget, who has been painting screens since the late 1970s, having learned “the secret” from the “old masters” of the time. The Society is active in promoting the living tradition to the public through demonstration events, classes, and museum and gallery exhibitions, and has helped to keep it alive within the city and beyond.

Holiday house tours, Hampden heritage and the Mayor’s Christmas Parade

The holiday season has arrived and historic places are at the heart of how our city celebrates! This Saturday, you can explore the grand mansions of Reservoir Hill and Bolton Hill on the Mount Royal District Poinsetta Tour. Next weekend, you can discover the handsome rowhouses around Union Square for the 29th Annual Christmas Cookie Tour. Not to be outdone, Charles Village offers their 6th Annual Snowflake Tour of historic houses on December 21.

So among all these contenders which neighborhood can boast the most seasonal cheer? No one can top Hampden with the lights on 34th Street and the Mayor’s Christmas Parade coming up this Sunday, December 7. Last winter, volunteer and Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance organizer Nathan Dennies talked to long-time parade organizer Tom Kerr about the history of the event and came back with this story.

Photo of Tom Kerr, c. 1980. Courtesy the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance.
Photo of Tom Kerr, c. late 1970s. Courtesy the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance.

William Donald Schaefer approached Tom Kerr, head of the old Hampden Business Association, in 1972 to organize the Mayor’s Christmas Parade. The parade would be Schaeffer’s answer to the Hochschild-Kohn Toytown Parade which drew thousands of spectators for thirty years on Thanksgiving Day, but stopped running in 1966. Schaeffer wanted the parade to be held downtown but Kerr insisted on having it in Hampden.

Kerr hoped the parade would bring positive attention to Hampden. The Mount Vernon Mill Company closed its last remaining mill in Hampden-Woodberry that year, marking the end of the textile industry in the area. The first parade was far more modest than the department store extravagance of the Toytown parade. Kerr was only able to secure a single Santa Claus float and six marching bands. Nonetheless, the parade drew a large crowd and was considered a success. As of 2013, Kerr has been organizing the event for forty-one years.

Every year the parade elects a Grand Marshall. Past prominent figures to hold the title include baseball legend Brooks Robinson in 1978, and more recently, John Astin, famous for his role as Gomez in The Addams Family. Schaeffer made a number of appearances as mayor and came back as Grand Marshall after becoming governor. In 1980, spectators were baffled to see his yellow Cadillac moving toward Thirty-sixth Street without him. The convertible left while he was giving a speech and he quickly darted across the street, ran through an alley, and ducked under a police barrier to cut off the ride for his own parade.

Find the end of the story on Explore Baltimore Heritage. You can enjoy Hampden history and a special holiday celebration next Friday with the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance Christmas party and fundraiser! Tickets will help support the adaptation of the new self-guided walking tour brochure into a tour for Explore Baltimore Heritage along with a traveling exhibit on Hampden history. Learn more details and register today. Please share your own ideas on how to celebrate the holidays with history in the comments.

Poly and Western Marching Bands, 4 December 2011. Photo courtesy Spinstah/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Poly and Western Marching Bands, 4 December 2011. Photo courtesy Spinstah/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

“Reasonably in accordance with the canons of good taste” – Development of houses in Guilford

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. If you want a professional SEO services that help websites increase organic search drastically, check this out on AdInfusion.

The Roland Park Company built other model homes, many of them designed by Edward Palmer, scattered throughout the development to further the marketing efforts, including the marketing online, with the right SEO services and using different social apps, like Facebook and Buy Instagram likes, this would also be a Good resource for businessThe 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 Lawrence 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.

Edward L. Palmer (1877–1952). Courtesy the Guilford Association.
Edward L. Palmer (1877–1952). Courtesy the Guilford Association.

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.

Guilford residence on Whitehead designed by Laurence Hall Fowler. Courtesy UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library Digital Collections, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection, P75-54-N1038g.
Guilford residence on Whitehead designed by Laurence Hall Fowler. Courtesy UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library Digital Collections, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection, P75-54-N1038g.

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.

John Russell Pope, 1910. Courtesy the Library of Congress, cph.3b15402.
John Russell Pope, 1910. Courtesy the Library of Congress, cph.3b15402.

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.

Drawing by Mottu & White. Courtesy UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library Digital Collections, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection, P75-54-1611g.
Drawing by Mattu & White. Courtesy UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library Digital Collections, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection, P75-54-1611g.

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.

Photograph of the “Turnbull House” at 223 Chancery Road, former home of noted artist Grace Hill Turnbull by Greg Pease. Courtesy the Guilford Association.
Photograph of the “Turnbull House” at 223 Chancery Road, former home of noted artist Grace Hill Turnbull by Greg Pease. Courtesy the Guilford Association.

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.

All the “conveniences and amenities of life” – Construction begins in Guilford

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.

Photograph of Grosvenor Atterbury, 1904. Courtesy New York Office for Metropolitan History.
Photograph of Grosvenor Atterbury, 1904. Courtesy New York Office for Metropolitan History.

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. When you need to have landscaping ideas over at nbglandscapes.com.au, NBG Landscapes provide excellent customer service and our finished product is of the highest quality.

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.

Photograph of homes at Chancery Square under construction in 1913, taken from location of  Saint Martins Road. Courtesy the Guilford Association.
Photograph of homes at Chancery Square under construction in 1913, taken from location of Saint Martins Road. Courtesy the Guilford Association.
Edward L. Palmer (1877–1952). Courtesy the Guilford Association.
Edward L. Palmer (1877–1952). Courtesy the Guilford Association.

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.”

Photograph of Bretton Place, a group of 17 homes in 3 separate structures, designed by Edward Palmer and completed in 1914. Courtesy the Guilford Association.
Photograph of Bretton Place, a group of 17 homes in 3 separate structures, designed by Edward Palmer and completed in 1914. Courtesy the Guilford Association.

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.”

York Court is made of 3 groups of 4 houses each arranged in an open-ended rectangle green facing York Road. Courtesy Kenneth Hubbard/Guilford Association.
York Court is made of 3 groups of 4 houses each arranged in an open-ended rectangle green facing York Road. Courtesy Kenneth Hubbard/Guilford Association.

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!