Tag: Palmer and Lamdin

“Reasonably in accordance with the canons of good taste” – Development of houses in Guilford

We are glad to share this last post in the series from Tom Hobbs, President of the Guilford Association highlighting 100 years of history in Guilford.

By 1912, construction of the roads and infrastructure was well underway in Guilford and marketing of building sites began in earnest. The sales office was initially located in an original house of the Guilford estate close to Chancery Road. Prospective residents were directed into the community from the southern beginnings of Greenway along a sycamore tree-lined Chancery Road to the sales office and then to the Company-developed Chancery Square.

The Roland Park Company built other model homes, many of them designed by Edward Palmer, scattered throughout the development to further the marketing efforts. The success of the garden suburb of Roland Park and the established aesthetic and social value of the community as a desirable area was extended to and enhanced in Guilford. The Roland Park Company marketed the Roland Park-Guilford connection and the desirability of the area as Baltimore’s prestigious location. The prospects for Guilford were made even greater by the move of Johns Hopkins University to the Homewood campus, the decision of the Maryland Episcopal Diocese to purchase the southern tip of Guilford with the intention of building a huge, twin-towered cathedral, and the access to downtown that was direct by extended trolley lines.. These houses were intended to influence the architecture in that particular section but most of the lots were sold to be developed by the buyer and their selected architect. While the Roland Park Company prided itself on planning Guilford for residents with a range of incomes accommodating cottages to mansions, as James Waesche observes in Crowning the Gravelly Hill, “ its intent in Guilford was clear— plenty of room for Baltimore’s biggest spenders.”

The gently rolling and forested character of the land of the Guilford estate presented an opportunity for a variety of lot sizes. Olmsted’s plan accommodated that intent and further preserved the natural setting in three community parks and private parks spotted in the center of 10 blocks. (Only one of the private inner block parks remains as commonly held by surrounding residents—the block bounded by Northway, Greenway and Stratford Road but in other blocks the areas remain open and undeveloped.)

Along the three boulevard-like spine roads of Charles Street, St. Paul Street and Greenway and in locations adjacent to them sites were divided for the development of large homes, many of which when built have been called “little short of baronial.” J. William Hill, the realtor whose company represented property transfers in the community, commented that “Guilford won almost immediate acceptance as the place to buy, and lawyers, bankers and a number of Hopkins and University physicians set the standard.”

The Roland Park Company’s architectural review committee had to approve all design proposals but allowed development of a number of architectural styles so long as they were skillfully executed, built of fine materials, compatible with the surroundings and “reasonably in accordance with the canons of good taste.” Within fourteen months of the start of sales, 38 houses had been erected and 54 were under construction.

New highly sought after commission opportunities were created for the finest architects to demonstrate their skills. The houses that resulted were to be an expression of the owner’s social status and taste. As Egon Verheyen states in the book Laurence Hall Fowler, Architect, “he was a society architect and the documents assembled in the file on individual commissions attests to his role and the function architecture played in the circles which he frequented.” Styles of Guilford homes were typically based on classic colonial American architecture or European models but the Arts and Crafts influence is also seen particularly in cottage designs. The community thrives on the variety of styles in harmonious relationship.

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

A previous article in this series has discussed the great influence Palmer and Lamdin had on Guilford architecture through the design of many of the community’s most admired homes. Also particularly Palmer was a significant force as the architect for the Roland Park Company and later during the development of Guilford as a key member of the Company’s architectural review committee. The Company retained a list of recommended architects that had demonstrated their residential design skills. The inclusion on this list was highly sought after. Interestingly in the Roland Park files there is a 1913 letter from Mattu & White to Edward Bouton that attests to the value of being on the approved list. They state in the letter:

“. . . as we think our past work compairs (sic) favorably with the work of many of the thirteen Architects on your list, we respectfully request you add our name to your list of Architects which you recommend in connection with the development of Guilford. . . . The discrimination against us is not only harmful to our practice, but most damaging to our reputation. . . .”

Mattu & White ultimately met the screening test and went on to design many of Guilford’s impressive homes.

The core group of architects that molded Guilford, in addition to Palmer and Lamdin, include Laurence Hall Fowler, Howard Sill, John Russell Pope, Mattu & White, Bayard Turnbull and several other designers who had multiple commissions for Guilford homes.

Guilford residence on Whitehead designed by Laurence Hall Fowler. Courtesy UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library Digital Collections, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection, P75-54-N1038g.
Guilford residence on Whitehead designed by Laurence Hall Fowler. Courtesy UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library Digital Collections, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection, P75-54-N1038g.

Laurence Hall Fowler was classically trained as an architect. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University and Columbia, traveled through Italy and after a brief apprenticeship in two New York architectural firms he left for Paris in 1904 and was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. He returned to Baltimore and worked briefly at the firm of Wyatt and Nolting. In 1906 he opened his own office making his name designing the homes for those who could afford the luxury of fine taste in Guilford, Blythewood, Gibson Island and the Greenspring Valley. The Garretts were long-time clients and he redesigned the interior of Evergreen House, including the addition of the library. Fowler designed 15 Guilford homes. Examples can be seen 105 and 107 Charlcote Road, 24 and 26 Whitfield Road, and 205 and 207 Wendover Roads. At 33 Warrenton Road there is a particularly fine Tudor revival home that Fowler designed for Harry C. Block. Fowler designed his own home on a Highfield Road site in Tuscany Canterbury— the property currently owned by John Waters.

Howard Sill was a student of colonial American architecture and his designs were focused primarily on modern adaptations of colonial homes. He had carefully studied and measured details and proportions of 18th century Maryland and Virginia buildings and he executed his designs with great care to capture authenticity. In Roland Park he had designed homes on Overhill and Somerset Roads, Merryman Court and Northfield Place and University Parkway. He was well known to Bouton and he like Palmer and Fowler participated on the Architectural Review Committee. He designed at least 13 Guilford homes. Examples can be seen at 204 E. Highfield Road (the Sherwood House), 4405 and 4214 Greenway, 36 Charlcote Place and 3901 St. Paul Street.

John Russell Pope, 1910. Courtesy the Library of Congress, cph.3b15402.
John Russell Pope, 1910. Courtesy the Library of Congress, cph.3b15402.

In 1914, New York based architect John Russell Pope was selected by James Swan Frick to design Charlcote House on the site in the center of Charlcote Place. Pope studied architecture at Columbia, won the Rome Prize and attended the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His designs were considered part of the American Renaissance expressed through revival and adaptation of classic styles. He designed homes for the Vanderbilts and many public buildings including the National Archives, the National Gallery, the Jefferson Memorial and the Baltimore Museum of Art where he worked with Howard Sill. While Charlcote House is the only Pope designed house in Guilford, its impact has been great. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Drawing by Mottu & White. Courtesy UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library Digital Collections, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection, P75-54-1611g.
Drawing by Mattu & White. Courtesy UMBC Albin O. Kuhn Library Digital Collections, Hughes Company Glass Negatives Collection, P75-54-1611g.

Mattu & White designed 19 Guilford homes – after protesting to Bouton about their exclusion from the Roland Park Company list of approved architects! They proved to be talented in interpreting a number of architectural styles. Their designs can be seen at 3907, 4402 and 4110 Greenway, 3, 16 and 34 Whitfield Road and 40, 42 and 43 Warrenton Road, 229 Lambeth Road and 6 Wendover Road.

Photograph of the “Turnbull House” at 223 Chancery Road, former home of noted artist Grace Hill Turnbull by Greg Pease. Courtesy the Guilford Association.
Photograph of the “Turnbull House” at 223 Chancery Road, former home of noted artist Grace Hill Turnbull by Greg Pease. Courtesy the Guilford Association.

Bayard Turnbull is perhaps best known for the design of his artist sister’s home at 223 Chancery Road and for renting a cottage on his Towson property to F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The Grace Turnbull house is distinguished by its architectural style, an eclectic mix of Spanish Mission and Arts and Crafts elements— a unique structure in Guilford. Turnbull in architectural circles is also noted for designing the Italianate mansion at 4101 Greenway and 4105 Greenway.

This group of architects because of their stature, their skill in interpreting classic designs and their influence within the Roland Park Company are in large part responsible for setting the stage for the architectural quality found in Guilford. A number of other skilled architects contributed to the community whole through their commissions adding significant designs to the harmonious blend of consistently high design standards. The quality of design and construction and the Roland Park Company’s planning, standards and controls together with the provision for continuing oversight have left a legacy that ensures that Guilford will endure as one of the region’s prime places to live.

Thank you again to Tom Hobbs for sharing his writing and research. This piece was originally published in the Spring 2013 issue of The Guilford News.

“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.