Category: History

“The place to live in the city” – Edward H. Bouton’s visionary plan for the Roland Park-Guilford District

Roland Park Company's Guilford Sales Office, ourtesy the Guilford Association
Roland Park Company’s Guilford Sales Office, courtesy the Guilford Association

We’re excited to share our latest guest blog post from Tom Hobbs, President of the Guilford Association in a series on Guilford’s 100 years of history. The Guilford Association is planning many great events this year to recognize the centennial anniversary which you can find on their website or on the Guilford Centennial Facebook page. 

When the Guilford Park Company merged with the Roland Park Company in 1911, Roland Park had been under development for 20 years. The venture to develop the 800 acres that originally constituted Roland Park was made possible by a syndicate of the Lands Trust Company of London, the source of most of the initial capital, Jarvis and Conklin, their agents in a Kansas City trust company, and a group of Baltimore land owners and investors. Following the market crash of 1893 Jarvis and Conklin filed receivership and shortly after local Baltimore investors bought out the interest of the Lands Trust Company.

Through the restructure of the Roland Park Company and the change in ownership and directors, Edward H. Bouton, the secretary of the original syndicate and overseer and planner of the development, remained the visionary force. He became the general manager, developed Roland Park plat by plat, laid out the streets, installed the water, sewer and electric lines, devised the controls on development and sold property lots.

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Edward H. Bouton, courtesy Guilford Association

He engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., son of the preeminent landscape architect, to design the plat west of Roland Avenue, and was the force behind the extensive planning and innovative ideas that had gained for Roland Park the reputation as a premier example of site design, land use and architectural controls that were modeled in the growing garden suburb movement in America. As observed in the Roland Park History, the planners “were less than innovative in the social dimensions of development, advocating the deliberate exclusion of economic and racial diversity.” Born in Kansas City, Bouton had a varied career before his focus on Baltimore land development. He was in the grocery business after high school and studied law at night. He moved to Colorado to raise sheep and cattle. He returned to Kansas City to marry and there became involved in land development.

How Bouton was selected to steer the development of Roland Park is unclear. His vision for the area evolved as he better understood the Baltimore market, the great attractiveness of the land north of the City and as he interacted with the designers the company had engaged. “Our land is the most fashionable, as well as, naturally the most beautiful part of the suburbs of Baltimore,” he wrote. Clearly Bouton saw the potential of the Guilford estate and the directors of the Guilford Park Company no doubt were impressed with the success of Roland Park. Bouton wrote to Olmsted, asking for a map to be prepared showing the consolidation of the lands of Roland Park and Guilford before it was decided to merge the developments.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., courtesy U.S. Commission of Fine Arts
Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., courtesy U.S. Commission of Fine Arts

The Guilford Park Company had started planning for development of the Abell estate by hiring T. T. Tongue, a real estate expert, but Tongue died before much progress was made. They then hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to prepare the master plan and landscape plans. Obviously Bouton had established a relationship with Olmsted and likely was fully familiar with the Guilford proposals. When the consolidation of the Guilford and Roland Park Companies took place in 1911 the plans were available and development could shortly begin. Site work started in the spring of 1912.

The directors of the new entity were a formidable force of Baltimore influence: Henry F. Baker, Charles C. Fawcett and Robert Garrett, all members of Robert Garrett & Sons; Douglas H. Gordon, president of the Baltimore Trust Company; William H. Grafflin, business man and investor; George Miller, president of the Mar-Del Mobile Company; and Edward H. Bouton, the visionary planner. Bouton was at the helm as president.

Bouton determined to market Guilford as an extension of Roland Park and ads generally referred to this desirable swath of north Baltimore as the Roland Park-Guilford District. While Guilford was to be developed with housing of various sizes Bouton and the company envisioned a community of the highest architectural style and quality. The restrictions developed in Roland Park were expanded by strengthening the design review process, giving the company the right to reject plans “for aesthetic and other reasons” and to take into account whether the proposed house was in “harmony” with its surroundings.

Guilford Association
Boulton Memorial , courtesy Guilford Association

Bouton and Edward L. Palmer, the Roland Park Company’s architect and later designer of many of Guilford’s most noteworthy homes, traveled to Europe in 1911 looking for ideas and studying the domestic architecture. Together they designed a community that was to become the most desirable suburb in Baltimore, “filled with impressive Georgian revival, Spanish colonial, Tudor and Jacobean revival mansions,” as well as romantic cottages “making it the place to live in the city.”

This piece was originally published in the Fall 2011 issue of The Guilford News. Fourteen years after Bouton’s death in 1941, the Guilford community dedicated a memorial at the Gateway Park to the planner and developer who contributed so much to the development of the neighborhood. Look out for our next guest post from Tom on the history of Guilford soon!

Exploring the Guilford Mansion & Estate – “Billy” McDonald’s 52-room mansion and A.S. Abell’s family home

We’re excited to share a guest blog post from Tom Hobbs, President of the Guilford Association highlighting 100 years of history in Guilford. The Guilford Association is planning many great events this year to recognize the centennial anniversary which you can find on their website or on the Guilford Centennial Facebook page. Today’s post features the early history of the Guilford Mansion – home to “Billy” McDonald and Arunah S. Abell:

guilfdb4[1].source Charles Hall Abell album.
Image courtesy Charles Hall/Guilford Association.
What we now identify as Guilford initially comprised ten land patents granted to British citizens from the mid 1600’s through the 1700’s. The entire region was sold in 1780 as confiscated property to Revolutionary War veteran Lieutenant-Colonel William McDonald. McDonald gave Guilford its name to commemorate the battle of Guilford Court House, North Carolina His son William, better known as “Billy,” inherited the estate and in 1852 built the Guilford Mansion.

The Italianate design of the mansion was a collaboration of British architect Edmond Lind and American William T. Murdock. According to Baltimore: Its History and Its People, the 52-room wood house was built over walls of masonry and was imposing in size and rich finishes. A solid walnut staircase rose with a grand sweep in a spiral ascent to the square turret. The drawing-room, library, billiard and reception rooms and great dining room all opened on to a main hall and had exposure to wide verandas shadowed by magnolia trees and draped in wisteria. The main hall itself was as wide as the driveway, paved in marble and lighted with stained-glass windows.

The mansion once stood where Wendover Road now meets Greenway. The entrances of the 300 acre Guilford estate were marked by imposing gates that were guarded by stone lions, reported to be copies of the lions of the Louvre. Frescoes on either side of the drive entrance depicted knights ready for conflict. Gates stood at York Road near present-day Underwood Road, Charles Street at University Parkway and Charles Street just south of Cold Spring Lane. Billy McDonald was an enthusiastic horseman and at Guilford he stabled his renowned mare, “Flora Temple.” The mare was housed at the Guilford estate in stalls that were kept in magnificent style as a suite of four apartments. Above her head was a stained glass window with her portrait.

Flora Temple and her colt, courtesy the Library of Congress
Flora Temple and her colt, courtesy the Library of Congress
Arunah S. Abell, courtesy the Guilford Association
Arunah S. Abell, courtesy the Guilford Association

In 1872, Arunah S. Abell, founder of The Sun, purchased Guilford from McDonald’s heirs. A.S. Abell had a home in the City and several country estates but he spent much time at Guilford living there for 35 years. On August 12, 1887, the New York Times reported that A. S. Abell celebrated his 81st birthday. “Mr. Abell passed the day quietly and pleasantly at his country seat, Guilford, surrounded by his children and grandchildren, who had tastefully arranged in the rooms of the beautiful mansion, particularly Mr. Abell’s private room, many lovely flowers.” Eight months later Arunah S. Abell died.

Arunah S. Abell had 12 children and three sons and five daughters were still living at the time of A.S.’s death. The Sun newspaper was left entirely to the three surviving sons and they managed the considerable estate, a significant income from which was to be distributed to the daughters. The Guilford estate remained in the Abell family holdings for another 35 years but sat vacant during much of that time. Prior to 1888, the northern boundary of Baltimore City was essentially what is known today as North Avenue. The area north of the city was heavily wooded, sparsely settled and largely held in country estates. In 1888, the city annexed 2 miles to the north of the existing city limit and urban expansion was inevitable. With the urban development advancing north from the center of Baltimore the decision was made to sell the Abell property.

With this prospect,a group of Baltimore’s most influential citizens, including Robert Garrett, William H. Grafflin, William Marburg, Thomas J. Hayward and H. Carroll Brown formed the Guilford Park Company. The motive for the organizers was both profit as well as preserving the beautiful piece of property from being sold in small parcels for speculative building. They were determined that the property should be developed as a whole following the best modern city planning practices. The Guilford Park Company raised funds through stock sales and in 1907 the Guilford estate was sold to the Guilford Park Company for one million dollars.

Guilford estate and nearby properties, 1889 Thompson Atlas, courtesy the Baltimore City Archives
Guilford estate and nearby properties, 1889 Thompson Atlas, courtesy the Baltimore City Archives

However, several years after the property purchase the Guilford Park Company had failed to carry out its 1907 intention to develop the 296-acre country estate and Guilford-the-suburb had remained an “on paper” venture. At the same time in an area west of Guilford the development of the planned community of Roland Park was well underway. In 1891 a syndicate of English capitalists, Midwestern promoters and Baltimore investors came together and incorporated the Roland Park Company. The company had initially purchased 800 acres of land for the purpose of developing a suburban town to the north of Baltimore. The principal members of the Guilford Park Company were impressed by the quality and success of the Roland Park undertaking.

Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.
Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., courtesy the National Association for Olmsted Parks

Edward H. Bouton, the Roland Park Company’s general manager, had engaged Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. to design a “splendid green suburb.” Bouton also had his eye on the Guilford property development. On February 14, 1911 he wrote to Olmsted: “All of the future suburban growth of Baltimore of the character of Roland Park, is going to be confined in the comparatively narrow space lying between York and Falls Roads.” Later in July, he wrote: “I think it’s more than likely that the consolidation of Guilford with Roland Park is going to be consummated and that this will be determined within the next two weeks. If it goes through I want to consult with you about it as early as possible.”

The country estate of Guilford was acquired by the Roland Park Company on November 20, 1911 from the Guilford Park Company. Bouton, the community planner and builder, would direct the development of this prized parcel of land.

Thanks again to Tom Hobbs for sharing his writing and research. The Guilford Mansion survived up until 1914 when, after several years of standing vacant, the Roland Park Company demolished the structure. You can join in Guilford’s Centennial Celebration with the Centennial Tulip Dig coming up on May 25, 2013 from 7:00am to 11:00am at Sherwood Gardens. This piece was originally published in the Fall 2010 and Winter 2011 issues of The Guilford News. Look out for our next guest post from Tom on the history of Guilford later this year!

Finding architecture in the archives with the Roland Park Company collection at JHU

Thanks to Jordon Steele, University Archivist at Johns Hopkins University, Sheridan Libraries for this guest blog post on the Roland Park Company records and an upcoming panel discussion on the  Roland Park Company’s lasting legacy in architecture, planning and society. Discover more about this archival adventure through monthly posts by Jordon and his colleagues on the Sheridan Libraries blog.

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JHU Sheridan Libraries

The Roland Park Company Records were donated to Johns Hopkins University’s Sheridan Libraries in 2010. This rich and diverse collection of correspondence, photographs, architectural drawings, and related corporate records provides a window into one of the most important development companies of the 20th century. Upwards of 400 cubic feet, upon arrival only a small portion of the Roland Park Company Records were fully processed and therefore accessible to researchers. Responding to overwhelming research demand from audiences ranging from the local community to international scholars, the Sheridan Libraries successfully applied for a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources to hire a full-time, professional project archivist to arrange and describe this collection according to archival best practice.  The collection will reopen to researchers, fully processed and accessible, in March 2014.

Please join us for an exciting program featuring the only two scholars that have published research based on the collection: Professor Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan and Paige Glotzer, PhD Candidate, Department of History, Johns Hopkins University. They will be joined by Garrett Power, Professor Emeritus of Law, University of Maryland School of Law and the panel chair, Mary Ryan, John Martin Vincent Professor of History, Department of History

The Roland Park Company: Building History in Baltimore and Beyond

Tuesday, April 9, 2013, 5:30 pm to 6:30pm
Mason Hall Auditorium, Johns Hopkins University
Find more information on the event from JHU or on Facebook.

Turnbirdge Avenue, JHU Sheridan Libraries
Turnbirdge Avenue, JHU Sheridan Libraries

This panel will convene urban studies and land planning scholars to discuss the impact of the Roland Park Company’s projects on urban and suburban development, housing policy, race and ethnic relations, and architectural tradition.  From the company’s start in 1891 through the mid-20th century, Baltimore’s Roland Park Company made a major impact on the city’s built environment, played a major role in defining the characteristics of suburbs and suburban life that are now second nature, and left behind a checkered legacy that endures to this day.

New self-guided tour highlights the history of Baltimore’s Clarence Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse

Thanks to William M. Dunn, Master in Chancery of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City for contributing a guest post on the history of Baltimore’s Clarence Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse. William Dunn and a generous group of volunteers welcome visitors to the Courthouse most weekdays from noon to 1:00pm at the Museum of Baltimore Legal History. Stop in and pick up the museum’s new self-guided walking tour brochure (also available to check out on Facebook or at the Baltimore Bar Library) by Master Dunn and his colleague James Schneider, Judge for the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Maryland. Small group tours may be available on request – contact William Dunn at 410.396.3304 or william.dunn@mdcourts.gov for more information.

419295_382626811836418_781478833_nIn 1885, Baltimore City set out to build the most beautiful Courthouse in the country. Fifteen years, and $2.2 million later ($56 million adjusted for inflation), that goal was realized. On January 6, 1900, the Baltimore Sun reported that the City of Baltimore had built a “temple of justice, second to no other in the world.” The building, which is a magnificent exemplification of Renaissance Revival architecture, continues to stand as a monument to the progress of the great city of Baltimore, and to the importance of the rule of law.

Today, this main building in the Baltimore City Circuit Court complex is referred to as the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse in honor of the local lawyer and nationally respected civil rights leader. Most of the original splendor of this massive building can still be enjoyed, including the granite foundation, marble facades, huge brass doors, mosaic tiled floors, mahogany paneling, two of the world’s most beautiful courtrooms, domed art skylights, gigantic marble columns, and beautifully painted murals. In addition, the Courthouse is home to one of the oldest private law libraries in the country, and to the Museum of Baltimore Legal History.

Library of Congress, LC-D4-16517
Library of Congress, LC-D4-16517

The exterior foundation of the Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. Courthouse was built from granite quarried in Howard County, while the exterior walls are crafted from white marble quarried in Baltimore County. The Calvert Street exterior façade is especially outstanding, as it displays eight of the largest monolithic columns in the world, each weighing over 35 tons and measuring over 35 feet in height. The interior of the building is even more impressive. Among the many historic spaces, the Supreme Bench Courtroom is one of the finest. The circular courtroom is like no other in the world. It is surmounted by a coffered dome resting upon sixteen columns of Sienna marble from the Vatican Quarry in Rome. Inscribed upon the frieze around the base of the dome are the names of Maryland’s early legal legends.

Other fascinating rooms include the Old Orphans Courtroom (which houses the Museum of Baltimore Legal History); the Ceremonial Courtroom, and the Bar Library (described as one of the most elegant interior spaces in Baltimore, with its paneled English oak walls and barrel-vault ceiling punctuated by forty art glass skylights).

MSA SC 5590
Washington Surrenders His Commission, MSA SC 5590

Also noteworthy for its artistic beauty are the two domed stained-glass skylights above the stairs in Kaplan Court which depict the goddesses of Justice, Mercy, Religion, Truth, Courage, Literature, Logic and Peace. In addition, the courthouse has six original murals from world renowned artists depicting various civic and religious scenes. Those murals include: Calvert’s Treaty with the Indians; The Burning of the Peggy Stewart; Washington Surrenders His Commission; Religious Toleration; The Ancient Lawgivers; and The British Surrender at Yorktown.

Baltimore Building of the Week: Roland Park Shopping Center

This week’s featured Baltimore Building is the Roland Park Shopping Center. Read more about the history of the Roland Park neighborhood on the Roland Park website.

Image courtesy Jack Breihan

Around 1900 the curving streets and extensive landscaping of the “garden suburb” provided an attractive alternative to the stately rows and squares that had long housed Baltimore’s elites. Roland Park was by no means the first garden suburb, even in Baltimore (see Sudbrook Park), but it was the most fully realized, with its streetcar line, parkway entrance, country club, architectural (and racial) covenants, and innovative shopping center. Built in 1895, the half-timbered shopping center with its flamboyant Flemish gable, housed essential neighborhood shops below and doctors’ and dentists’ offices above. What was new is that all this was set back from the street – to give parking space for the automobiles that were soon to choke the old gridded city. A dentist has decided to restore this to it’s previous glory and it will be used to house his practice and other medical offices. It will take some time for the restoration since everything has to be approved by the historical board but he is up for the challenge. This is why I moved here he has told the neighbors.

Under the leadership of Edward H. Bouton, the Roland Park Company not only built Guilford, Homeland, and Original Northwood for Baltimore’s upper middle class, but participated in plans for worker housing during the two world wars, planning more modest garden suburbs at Dundalk and Cherry Hill.