Preserving and promoting Baltimore's historic buildings and neighborhoods.
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The women’s suffrage movement. Cast-in-place concrete. Katherine Hepburn. What do these three things have in common? The Roosevelt Park Recreation Center, of course! In this installment of Virtual Histories, BAF board member Jackson Gilman-Forlini will present his ongoing research into the origins and architecture of Baltimore’s first rec center.
Completed in 1911, the Roosevelt Park Recreation Center was the culmination of a years-long campaign by a tenacious group of Progressive Era reformers who, despite skeptics, believed they could improve the lives of working-class people through recreation. This initiative was led by Edith Houghton Hooker, one of the most influential of Maryland suffragists and later the maternal aunt of actor Katherine Hepburn. The unlikely story behind the center’s creation is matched only by its architecture: an unusually modern design for Baltimore at the time and a wholly forgotten work by local architect J.B. Noel Wyatt.
Despite modifications over the years, the building retains a high degree of historical integrity and state of preservation. As a testament to the vision of its founders, the center has remained an important community focal point for the Hampden neighborhood throughout its century-long history and served as a model for recreation centers throughout the city.
About the Presenter
Jackson Gilman-Forlini is the Historic Preservation Officer for the Baltimore City Department of General Services, where he manages the preservation of city-owned historic landmarks. He holds a B.A. and M.A. in Historic Preservation from Goucher College, where his thesis dealt with the adaptive reuse of monuments and memorials. He is frequently quoted in The Baltimore Sun and has written for Maryland Historical Magazine and the architecture blog McMansion Hell.