This past weekend, the Friends of St. Vincent’s Cemetery held a successful spring clean up day in Clifton Park with support from a great group of volunteers. Thanks to Stephanie Town for sharing a few photos from the event!
Special thanks to AOH-3 Towson, Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Police Emerald Society, and Maryland Irish Charities for their hard work. Thank you Terry Nolan for bringing and operating the bush hog and Ed Crawford and Tom Kelleher for recruiting and advocating for this project.
Even before St. Vincent’s Cemetery in Clifton Park closed in the 1980s, the grounds had suffered from decades of neglect and vandalism. Over the past 30 years, the cemetery nearly disappeared under the thick weeds and five tons of trash and debris illegal dumped on the grounds. Fortunately, for the last three years, the volunteer-led Friends of St. Vincent’s Cemetery have been slowly taking the cemetery back. Baltimore Heritage recognized their efforts with a 2012 Preservation Award and you can join this group of descendants and Clifton Park neighbors restoration efforts at a cemetery clean-up day this fall.
Friends of St. Vincent Cemetery’s Clean-Up Day
Saturday, October 5, 2013, 9:00am to 1:00pm
St. Vincent’s Cemetery, 2401 N. Rose Street, Baltimore, MD
Wear appropriate work clothes and shoes (no sandals or flip flops!) and bring a shovel or rake. Water and light snacks will be provided. For questions or to RSVP for the clean-up day, please contact Stephanie Town at 610-368-1910 or Rakeleafs@yahoo.com.
St. Vincent de Paul Church purchased five acres of land for the cemetery from Robert Purviance and Miles White on April 1, 1853. The land was located just outside the city on Mine Bank Lane (now known as Rose Street) just west of Bel Air Road and remained outside the city until the annexation in 1888. On May 19, 1853, Rev. Leonard Ambrose Obermyer blessed the cemetery and led the church in transferring earlier burials from a cemetery the congregation had shared with St. James the Less Church along Harford Road.
Over 2,000 people were buried in the cemetery before 1965 including many Irish, Italian and German Catholic immigrants. With no endowment for maintenance, unfortunately, St. Vincent’s Cemetery suffered from repeated vandalism in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s damaging markers and, most disturbingly, removing bodies from their plots. Ultimately, the church decided to remove all of the existing markers and demolish the mausoleum in an attempt to protect the cemetery further disturbance and desecration.
A group of descendants came together in 2010 and with support from St. Vincent de Paul Church launched their ongoing effort to reclaim the cemetery from the weeds and trash making news in the Baltimore Sun and Catholic Review along the way. Join the Friends of St. Vincent Cemetery in cleaning up this unique historic cemetery in Clifton Park! If you’d like to learn more about conservation and historic cemeteries, join us in Druid Hill Park on October 2 for our tour of the Rogers Buchanan Cemetery with conservation expert Howard Wellman and local historian and Rogers family descendant Ed Johnson.
Contained on a little less than three acres across from Clifton Park in northeast Baltimore, the Friends Burial Ground tells the stories of generations Baltimore’s Quaker families across their 300 years of rich history in our city. Established in 1713 on a tract of land known as Darley Hall when the Friendship Meetinghouse was built on what is today Harford Road, the cemetery has been in continuous use ever since. While small, and a bit unassuming, the Friends Burial Ground has approximately 1,800 graves with the earliest legible marker dating from 1802 and many undoubtably date from the 1700s. The stone wall around the grounds and the Sexton’s House both date back to the 1860s and, in 1926, 122 graves were moved from a Friends cemetery at at the Aisquith Street Meeting House in Old Town.
The many notable internments include Louisa Swain, who made history in Wyoming in 1880 as the first woman to legally vote in the United States at age 69, and Dr. Thomas Edmondson who lived in a grand estate that eventually became Harlem Park in West Baltimore. Dr. Edmondson recently resurfaced in the public light: it is his collection of Richard Caton Woodville’s artwork that is currently on exhibit at the Walters Art Museum.
Please join us on a tour of the site with long-time caretaker Adrian Bishop, who will share his knowledge of the cemetery and the Sexton House on the grounds that he and his wife call home, together with Ms. Frances Ferguson, who has been digging graves by hand at the cemetery for over 40 years.
On January 7, the nonprofit youth training organization Civic Works announced that it has met its fundraising goal and is launching a $7 million restoration campaign for Clifton Mansion. The Mansion was home to Henry Thompson, a War of 1812 hero, and the summer home of philanthropist Johns Hopkins. It is now owned by Baltimore City with Civic Works as a long-term tenant.
For me as the executive director of Baltimore Heritage and a board member of Civic Works, and, yes, with a name strongly associated with Clifton, one great part of this project is the tie between the past and the future. Hopkins – the philanthropist – gave his fortune to start the college and hospital that bear his name based on his belief that the future of Baltimore lay in educating our youth and providing basic services for all. Civic Works today carries out that same vision by educating and training Baltimore youth and working to improve our neighborhoods. In fact, a number of young Baltimore apprentice carpenters from Civic Works will have the opportunity to work alongside master carpenters as part of the Clifton renovation project. What better place to bring past, present, and future together than Clifton?
The restoration work, which will take place over the next year, is a whole building project. It will include fully rebuilding the signature porches that surround the house, putting the main front stairs leading to the building back to their location in the mid-1800s, and renovating the interior throughout. And, thankfully, there is no talk of turning the building into another house museum. At the end, the Mansion will continue its dual role as office space for Civic Works and public space open for all of Baltimore. Stay tuned for a tour of this grand place as soon as the construction work allows.