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.
And you’ll get to help us give away four micro-grants to help great projects in Baltimore. Over light fare and drinks inside the world-class restoration project that at Clifton, you will help us choose to give grants from these six finalists:
Ernie Dimler, Baltimore Artifacts at the Bromo Seltzer Tower Adam Fracchia, Northampton Furnace Archaeology Friends of St. Vincent Cemetery, St. Vincent Cemetery Memorial Project Homewood Museum, “Naturally Beautiful: Uncovering Nature in the Nineteenth Century Home” Exhibit Matthew J. Hood, History of the Squeegee Kids Project Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, Arches & Access Project
It’s happening! On October 8, the Commission on Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) will be holding the first hearing on establishing a Woodberry Local Historic District.
Baltimore Heritage’s Executive Director, Johns Hopkins, will join others in testifying at the hearing in support of the additional designation.
Woodberry holds an indelible place in Baltimore’s history and needs to be protected for current and future generations. While already designated as a National Register Historic District, that primarily honorary designation offers very little protection from thoughtless demolition and development. By designating Woodberry as a CHAP District, we can help safeguard the important historic fabric in this neighborhood.
You can also attend the hearing in person October 8, 2019 at 2 p.m. (Plan to arrive by 1:45). Location: 417 East Fayette Street, Eighth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21202. The more supporters we have in the room the better our chances!
Earlier this week the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a multi-million dollar contract clearing the way for the state Division of Corrections to move forward with the demolition of a large part of the Baltimore City Correctional Complex located just east of the Jones Falls Expressway. For now, the scope of demolition doesnot include the historic Warden’s House, the per-Civil War “castle” on Madison Street.
Thanks to an agreement between the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the Maryland Historical Trust, the state will wait to make a final decision on the Warden’s House and a small portion of the west wing of the former Maryland Penitentiary along Eager Street. The plan does preserve the Penitentiary’s iconic central tower which has never been considered for demolition.
The Board of Public Works’ recent approval comes four years after Governor Hogan closed the facility and two years after the General Assembly allocated funds for the demolition of the complex. Since the state allocated those funds, the Corrections Department developed a plan that includes the demolition of over a dozen buildings on the site. Work under the new contract will begin soon.
The Warden’s House and small portion of the west wing of the Maryland Penitentiary are not included in this round of demolition but they are also not yet relieved from the threat of being razed. The Division of Corrections has only agreed to defer a decision on the demolition of these structures and consult with the Maryland Historical Trust on the future of these buildings.
While the demolition of the historic buildings within this complex is a loss for the city’s architectural heritage, our advocacy, along with Preservation Maryland, AIA Baltimore, and the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, helped to secure more time to seek the preservation of the Warden’s House and a portion of the West Wing. We and our partners will continue to push for permanently preserving the these two historic buildings and better incorporate the Maryland Penitentiary into whatever new plans are eventually adopted.