Tag: Guest Posts

“The whole place is good” – Edward L. Palmer and the architecture of Guilford

Our latest post in our ongoing series on the 100 year history of Guilford is by Walter Schamu FAIA on the role of Edward L. Palmer. Enjoy Walter’s thoughtful history of Palmer and his firm Palmer & Lamdin:

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

It would be impossible to discuss the history of Baltimore’s Guilford community without serious attention being given to the architect Edward L. Palmer. Palmer and his firm of Palmer and Lamdin designed many of the significant residences in Guilford, as well as Roland Park, Homeland and Gibson Island.

Edward L. Palmer was an 1899 graduate of Johns Hopkins and, in 1903, the University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture. He began his career in architecture as the in-house architect to the Roland Park Company working for Edward Bouton, the developer of the new planned Roland Park community and Guilford. During the time as architect for the Roland Park Company he designed some of the first Guilford homes including the greatly admired Tudor Revival Bretton Place and Chancery Square (1913).

It was once reported by Palmer’s daughter, Ann Sinclair-Smith, that Bouton sent young Mr. Palmer to Switzerland to see, first hand, how houses can be constructed on steep slopes. No doubt this was to prepare him for the “unbuildable” terrain of much of northern Roland Park. In 1911 Palmer and Bouton traveled to Europe together looking for ideas and studying domestic architecture. In 1917 he left the Roland Park Company and began his firm as “Edward L. Palmer Jr. Architect.”At this point begins the story of a truly remarkable architectural firm which, through its many iterations, designed over 200 residences and hundreds of institutional, religious and corporate buildings in the Maryland region and beyond.

As quoted in Mr. Palmer’s obituary in the Baltimore Sun, October 27, 1945:

“It was during the period from 1907 to 1917, when he served as architect and a member of the Committee on Approval of Plans for the Roland Park Company, that Mr. Palmer’s work in residential development earned him national recognition among architects and real-estate developers. For under his guidance, the Roland Park Company was one of the first in the United States to employ competent landscape architects and engineers for site development, to require standards of excellence in design, to impose restrictions on land use and make adequate provisions for maintenance of streets, plantings and parks after completion of the initial development. As architects for the company, Mr. Palmer successfully demonstrated—by designing and supervising the construction of several hundred individual residences—that the insistence of high architectural standards was economically feasible.”

Early in his practice his work focused on two large housing developments. The first was for workers housing for the Bethlehem Steel Corporation in Dundalk, Maryland and the second was for the Dupont Company in Wilmington, Delaware. These were multi-unit, rowhouse type structures of a modest scale, but clearly with distinctive architectural character. But it was his private residential work in the still emerging neighborhoods north of Baltimore City that some of his best work can still be seen and enjoyed. This is especially true when, after 1920, William B. Lamdin joined the firm. In 1925, the firm name was changed by adding new partners to become “Palmer, Willis and Lamdin.” Again in 1929 it changed to simply “Palmer and Lamdin” which had it offices at 513 North Charles Street, in downtown Baltimore.

4001 Greenway, courtesy Tom Hobbs
4001 Greenway, courtesy Tom Hobbs

In the early years of his practice, Palmer set the course for his firm to eventually flourish in Baltimore. One of his first commissions in 1915, seemingly undertaken while he was still with the Roland Park Company, was a house for C. Braxton Dallam at 4001 Greenway. This house was constructed on the site of the original Guilford estate of A.S. Abell. Referred to by local architectural historian, Peter Kurtze, as a “baronial Jacobean mansion” the house is an imposing display of brick arches and steeply pitched roofs, ornate chimneys and other refinements that must have been the hot topic of its day.

Bill Landin, courtesy the Guilford Association
William D. Lamdin (1883–1945) joined the firm in 1923, courtesy the Guilford Association

Later on, in his work with partner Bill Lamdin, the firm began to develop a definite style, especially in the houses that recall English or French country architecture. Bill Lamdin, who joined the firm in 1923, had served as an Army artillery officer in France in World War I and must have seen and possibly sketched the vernacular architecture of rural France, as so much of its design characteristics are seen in their work.

For an article in the Baltimore News in April 1916, Edward L. Palmer is asked directly “What do you think to be the significance of the houses of Guilford from your point of view?” Palmer responded in his predictably modest manner:

“I can’t give a finished essay off hand on the subject but I can tell you in plain talk what I think it means for us. The main thing about the houses in Guilford, it seems to me, is that they show a serious attempt on the part of the architects to design stuff that is in ‘good grammar.’ That may sound queer, but it is the best simile I can think of. The architecture there is more comparable to correct English than anywhere else . . . Roland Park and Guilford are now really developments that we can be proud of. They possess some splendid houses and many more that are very good. For instance, it isn’t as if Guilford were a place you could find one or two examples of good architecture—the whole place is good.”

3700 Greenway, courtesy Greg Pease
3700 Greenway, courtesy Greg Pease

Charles M. Nes (who became a partner in the firm with L. McLane Fisher in 1945, after World War II, when the firm became “Palmer, Lamdin, Fisher, Nes”) said that once Bill Lamdin completed the “Gateway Houses” at Greenway and St. Paul Street in 1925, the firm’s future was secure.These two houses, 3701 St. Paul Street and 3700 Greenway, are not identical or mirror images, but rather complementary in design and present a classic example of the best of Palmer and Lamdin’s work. Bill Lamdin was the designer and his talents are on full display—all the trademark elements are handled with tremendous skill including the steeply pitched roof, the variegated and rusticated slate, decorative masonry, ironwork and ornate chimneys and cornices.These elements will occur again and again in the firm’s work with other touches often added such as stair tower turrets, dovecotes, stone and brick facade interplay.

Other notable and classic examples of their work can be seen throughout Guilford and include 14 St. Martins Road (1929), 3707 Greenway (1929), 4014 Greenway (1914), 4201 and 4205 Underwood Road (1926), 212 Wendover Road (1922), 219 Northway (1925), 4200 Greenway (1914). 101 Wendover Road (1929), 28 Charlcote Place (1929), 210 E. Highfield Road (1926), 7 Stratford Road (1928), The Roland Park Apartments (1925), Second Presbyterian Church (1924). The streets of Roland Park, Guilford and Homeland are rich with the architectural works of this firm. The architectural files of the Roland Park Company retained at the Langsdale Library of the University of Baltimore, document that Edward Palmer and Palmer and Lamdin designed more than 150 Guilford homes, many of them iconic examples of domestic architecture and displaying a mastery of many styles.

This piece was originally published in the Summer 2012 issue of The Guilford News. Walter Schamu FAIA, is president and founder of SMG Architects. He is respected throughout the region for his expertise in historic architecture, and is the founder of Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

“Unusual care” – Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and the plan for Guilford

After a bit of a summer break, we have our latest guest blog post by Tom Hobbs, President of the Guilford Association from his series on Guilford’s 100 years of history. Find out more about upcoming events in Guilford on the Guilford Centennial Facebook page including our September house tour with historian Ann Giroux!

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

The Directors of the Guilford Park Company, determined to create a garden suburb of the highest quality, engaged the Olmsted Brothers to prepare the plan for development of the Guilford community. The Olmsted Brothers company was the foremost landscape firm in the country. Its principals were Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. and John Charles Olmsted, the son and stepson of the late Frederick Law Olmsted, the dean of American landscape architects and founder of the firm, designer of Central Park, numerous other city park systems, great estates and plans for many noted institutions.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. was the principal who primarily worked on the Guilford plan and landscape design. He was a highly respected designer, widely regarded as the intellectual leader of the American city planning movement in the early twentieth century. In 1901, he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as a member of the McMillan Commission to plan for the restoration of the Washington Mall and other aspects of the L’Enfant plan for Washington. He had a lifetime commitment to national parks and planned many of them; he designed park systems for many cities, including Baltimore and he designed a number of planned communities.

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, NPS
Illustration comparing a 1908 map projecting the Baltimore City grid through the Guilford area with an early street plan prepared by Olmsted for the Guilford Park Company prior to 1911 when it merged with the Roland Park Company, courtesy the Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, NPS/Guilford Association.

When the Guilford Park Company acquired the Abell estate, the City already had on paper a plan to continue the grid street system north throughout the estate property. Such a plan would have disregarded the topography and devastated the lush forested areas. The Directors rejected such a plan and were determined that there should be a green garden suburb reflecting the value of the countryside supplied with urban conveniences but removed from the city’s “congestion, noise, crime and vice.”

Illustration of Ebenezer Howard's Garden City plan, Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies
Illustration of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City plan, Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

Olmsted was a proponent of garden suburbs in America where people live harmoniously together with nature, a concept advocated by Ebenezer Howard in England. The Guilford site was surveyed and existing trees and vegetation were inventoried in detail. He laid out streets to follow contours of the land, preserve stately trees and valued vegetation and generally enhance the natural beauty. Traffic was to be concentrated on a few wide streets with pedestrian walks along well planted areas. Most roadways were to be quiet and safe with traffic channeled to the thoroughfares.

When the Guilford Park Company merged with the Roland Park Company there was no question that Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. would continue as planner and landscape designer. He had designed the western portion of Roland Park and he and Edward Bouton, now the president of the Roland Park Company, had consistent ideas about the development of the garden suburb and specifically the objectives for Guilford. They also were working together on Forest Hills Gardens, the Russell Sage Foundation developed planned community, outside of New York City. There Bouton was general manager, concurrent with his role as president of the Roland Park Company, and Olmsted was the planner and landscape designer. Olmsted also was engaged in other Baltimore projects, including the design for the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, the Charles Street approach to Guilford and a plan for the Baltimore park system.

Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, NPS
Detail from the Olmsted Plan, courtesy Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site, NPS

When the Roland Park Company took over the development of Guilford in 1911 plans were sufficiently prepared for the company’s engineers to design the infrastructure systems and begin detailed designs for the roadways. Olmsted continued to refine the design and prepared road and landscape designs for each block of Guilford. As the Roland Park Company information brochure for potential buyers indicates: “The planting of trees and shrubs in the parks and sidewalk lawns, along slopes and in other unoccupied spaces, has been made a distinctive feature of Guilford. The plans for this planting have been developed by Mr. Olmsted in the form of a carefully studied unified design for the whole property… Unusual care has been taken in the designation of the trees and shrubs to be used.”

Of great importance to Olmsted in his designs for new communities was “the separateness and internal integrity that would promote tranquility and give rise to the development of a sense of ‘shared community’ among their residents.” In addition to the general lush planting and walkway system, three community parks were planned (the Sunken Park, Stratford Green and the Little Park). In addition, Olmsted introduced private parks, little parcels of land spotted in the centers of many Guilford blocks as further evocations of “natural” land.

There were other conditions unique to the Guilford site that required careful consideration by Olmsted and Bouton. The Episcopal Diocese had purchased a site at the southwest edge of Guilford on which it planned to build a large, twin-towered cathedral, requiring Olmsted to plan options for both the cathedral site and the important southern entrance to Guilford. All along the eastern edge of the site on the east side of Greenmount Avenue/York Road was the grid street pattern and unplanned development; on the north was Cold Spring Lane and uncertain development. To address the issue of the north edge of the site that abutted Cold Spring Lane, Olmsted used “back-turning” streets at Whitfield Road, Bedford Place and Charlcote Place. English cottage houses were built along the eastern end surrounding a private “close.”

Roland Park Company Magazine
Courtesy Sheridan Libraries JHU

The eastern edge of the Guilford site presented a greater challenge. It was here that the Roland Park Company undertook initial development, building the architecturally admired Tudoresque houses of Bretton Place and Chancery Square, creating an internally focused English village-like environment. Handsome and setback row houses were built along Greenmount Avenue to the south and the homes of York Courts surrounding private green spaces were built to the north. At the Olmsted National Historic Site in Brookline, Massachusetts there are over 500 drawings and records covering the Guilford plans. In addition there are relevant Olmsted records at the Smithsonian and many additional records related to the planning among the Roland Park Company files now at the Johns Hopkins Library. These all are being searched for the planned book on Guilford.

Both Olmsted and Bouton were committed to the importance of protective covenants as the best means for assuring “stability” and “permanence.” Without control on development, they had observed high quality single family communities transformed by conversion to multi-dwelling and commercial uses and value change and character loss. Nuisance laws and design guidelines had proven to be insufficient protection against decline and change. Deed restricted covenants, including design controls, they argued protect purchasers against unwanted change that might “destroy the setting and they assure long-term well-being.” The collaborative work of Bouton and Olmsted in refining protective covenants became a model for similar provisions that are still widely used.

At the presentation of the Pugsley Gold Medal Award in 1953 honoring champions of parks and conservation, it was observed:

“Carrying on the ideals of his father, and with many of his father’s special qualities and characteristics, Olmsted was an outstanding leader in advancing landscape architecture to a status of honor and recognition among the professions. Indeed, for over a half-century Olmsted was the preeminent practitioner and spokesman for landscape architecture and comprehensive planning both interested in the interrelationship of people and their environment.”

Olmsted summarized his philosophy about landscape architecture in the following terms:

“In dealing with existing real landscapes, I have been guided by an injunction impressed on me by my distinguished father: namely, that when one becomes responsible for what is to happen to such a landscape his prime duty is to protect and perpetuate whatever of beauty and inspirational value, inherent in that landscape, is due to nature and to circumstances not of one’s contriving, and to humbly subordinate to that purpose any impulse to exercise upon it one’s own skill as a creative designer.”

Guilford residents and the City of Baltimore are the fortunate beneficiaries of Olmsted’s insight and design skills, living in and with one of the country’s most admired and lasting communities.

This piece was originally published in the Winter 2012 issue of The Guilford News. Thanks again to Tom Hobbs for sharing his research – take a look at Tom’s previous posts on the early history of the A.S. Abell estate and developer Edward Bouton.

“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.

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!

Laser Scanning the “Two Sisters” Historic Wooden Homes in Fell’s Point for The Preservation Society

We are glad to share a guest post from Joe Nicoli, Heritage Scanning Specialist with Direct Dimensions, Inc. – a local technology company that specializes in 3D laser scanning and modelling. Their past work has included scanning the interior of the Maryland State House and documenting cracks in the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery in precise detail. Direct Dimensions is now working with The Preservation Society and the Dell Corporation to document the Two Sisters Houses at 612 and 614 Wolfe Street – two of only a handful of Baltimore’s wooden houses that have survived since the late 18th and early 19th centuries:

612-614 S. Wolfe Street
612-614 S. Wolfe Street, 2012

Over the winter, Bryan Blundell from Dell Corporation had approached Direct Dimensions with a project to completely laser scan the Two Sisters Houses in Fell’s Point. On a sunny afternoon in March, myself and another technician with Direct Dimensions took our laser scanning equipment down to Fell’s Point and in just 30 minutes created a perfectly accurate 3D digital model of the exterior of the property.

The Two Sisters are two of just a handful of remaining wooden houses in Baltimore’s Fell’s Point. These buildings were donated to the Preservation Society by the Dashiell-Marine family. The name, The Two Sisters, recognizes the efforts of the Dashiell sisters, Mary and Eleanor, to save these and other buildings in Fell’s Point. Since that time, the Society has worked steadily to develop a plan for the saving and utilization of these significant architectural examples of early life in Fell’s Point.

3D scanning is one of the many modern technologies that can be used to help reveal some of the secrets and stories that are part of these amazing structures. The scanning can provide a baseline documentation of the building’s current state, allowing the planning team to design necessary structural supports, and to also serve as a 3D, “as-built” blue print for documenting current conditions and future preservation efforts.

What is 3D scanning?

Laser scanning is the process of collecting millions of individual measurements using laser light. Think of a range finder. A laser beam leaves the scanner on a specific orientation and the time it takes to reflect off a surface and return to the scanner establishes the distance. This happens thousands of times per second. By moving the equipment to various positions and perspectives, an entire site can be “scanned” in 3D. Once the data is merged, the resulting “point cloud” can be used to create traditional drawings, 3D models, and virtual reconstructions & walkthroughs.

So far, Direct Dimensions has only scanned the exterior on Wolfe Street, and will complete the project with funds provided to The Preservation Society by an African American Heritage Preservation Program Grant from the Maryland Historical Trust. This initial scan effort is also valuable as an archived “3D snapshot”, a record of the state of the structure in the spring of 2013.

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.

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.