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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University June 7, 2004 | Vol. 33 No. 37
Now That's Architecture, Hon

Mary Ellen Hayward in front of one of Baltimore's architectural treasures — the Mount Vernon Place Methodist Church, designed by Dixon & Carson, 1872.

New JHU Press book examines Baltimore's buildings, then and now

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Mary Ellen Hayward called it a void. She refers to the scores of architecture books she had read, studied and taught that all but ignored Charm City. Sure, many works featured edifices in New York, Chicago and Boston, even New Orleans and Washington, D.C. But where was Baltimore?

Ten years ago she, Frank Shivers and a few other regional historians who had formed the Dead Architects Society, a group within the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, set out to remedy the affront and put Baltimore more firmly on the architectural map. Working with the Johns Hopkins University Press, the group assembled a coterie of scholars, writers and critics to provide a fresh account of the city's architectural heritage.

The result is The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History, released this month by the JHU Press (456 pages; $55). Hayward, an architectural historian and co-author of The Baltimore Rowhouse, edited the book along with Shivers, a Baltimore historian and instructor at the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education.

The book begins with Baltimore in the last half of the 18th century, with its open fields and rolling hills interspersed with grand Georgian buildings. The first chapter, in fact, includes a striking 1752 John Moale sketch that depicts a green Inner Harbor area ever-so-lightly sprinkled with one- and two-story white houses: a time when fields of crops led all the way to the water's edge, and men cast out fishing nets from the harbor's banks. Chapter two moves on to the port city's Federal-period achievements, including "country" houses such as Montebello and Homewood House. The late 19th century brings such landmarks as The Johns Hopkins Hospital and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Mount Royal Station. Other stops along the way include Romantic stylings, American neoclassical design, Greek and Gothic revivals, industrial buildings and churches both grand and humble.

The Architecture of Baltimore also addresses the rise of modernism in the city and the years between 1955 and 2000, a "renaissance period" that witnessed the construction of Charles Center, Harborplace and the two sports stadiums at Camden Yards.

Walter Schamu, former president of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation, says that Hayward and Shivers' book profoundly builds upon the scholarship of Richard H. Howland and Eleanor P. Spencer, who co-edited the 1953 work The Architecture of Baltimore: A Pictorial History, also published by the JHU Press.

"The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History expands coverage of the 18th and 19th centuries and completes the 20th century," Schamu says. "It takes a comprehensive historical overview of the social and economic forces that allowed the architects of Baltimore to produce some of the best buildings in America. Baltimore has a rich architectural heritage, and this new book tells the story."

At the recent launch party at Evergreen House for "The Architecture of Baltimore," co-editor Frank Shivers autographs a book for architect David Gleason.

The book is illustrated with nearly 600 photographs, architectural plans, maps and details. It also offers a narrative of the history of Baltimore and the men and women who shaped the city, both building it up and tearing parts of it down, Hayward says.

"I always say that talking about architecture is really talking about the growth of a city, both its geographic growth and physical growth," she says. "We tried to give that sense of what Baltimore was like in the early days, what was here as opposed to what we are looking at now."

Prominent architects featured in the work include Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Robert Mills, Maximilian Godefroy and Richard Upjohn. The book also recognizes the work of lesser known architects and local artists such as Robert Cary Long Sr. and Jr., E. Francis Baldwin, Josias Pennington and Laurence Hall Fowler.

"I hope we do shed some interesting lights on the architects who painted this landscape, offering up their backgrounds and what they did here," Hayward says.

The book's contributors include the late University of Iowa architectural historian Robert L. Alexander; author and former Baltimore Sun arts critic John Dorsey; Sun architecture critic Edward Gunts and Phoebe B. Stanton, a renowned guardian of Baltimore's architecture and an art history professor emerita at Johns Hopkins, who died in 2003.

Hayward characterizes the book's creation as a hike, not a stroll. Research begat more research, she says, and the scope of the book grew in scale as time went on.

"As more people got interested, the more people wanted to share. That led into doing more research," Hayward says. "In the end it was worth all the 10 years of effort. We really wanted to do this right."

Robert J. Brugger, history/regional book editor at the JHU Press and a contributor to The Architecture of Baltimore, said that this book synthesizes existing scholarship, adds new insight to how Baltimore was built and delivers it all in a broadly accessible form.

"We feel this book will acquaint general readers with the richness of this city's building stock and the enduring legacy of the architects, artists, skilled workers and others who built Baltimore," Brugger says. "We also hope it will draw attention to what is being done here in terms of preservation."

Shivers, the author of Walking in Baltimore: An Intimate Guide to the Old City and other works, sets the historical scene for the architecture of each period in the book by means of social-history preludes. He says that for the past 300 years, wealth and cultural traditions have shaped Baltimore's buildings and how they looked.

"Today, for instance, it is easy to see the architectural conservatism in Johns Hopkins buildings, on both the Homewood and East Baltimore campuses, and in the style of Oriole Park," he says, referring to their Georgian-style use of red brick and white trim. "What I hope the book does is aid people who want to keep what they like about Baltimore by learning all they can about how and why this architecture came about."

The book mentions many buildings that no longer stand, including the Academy of Music on North Howard Street and the Gail and Ax warehouse, which is now the site of the Harbor Court Hotel. In the margins next to photos and illustrations of demolished and reused buildings — excluding those lost in the Great Baltimore Fire — the book details what became of the structure, or what replaced it.

Brugger describes several of the buildings included in the book as being "at risk." He mentions the Church of St. John the Evangelist, an Italianate structure built in 1855 and located on East Eager Street.

"I drove by it for this book. I thought it was gone by the wayside, but it was still there. Yet, it's really in a shambles, not used for anything," he says. "We knew if you write about these places still standing, you can give readers a sense of what they looked like, and what maybe they can one day look like again."

Hayward said she only wishes that Chicago-native-turned-Baltimorean Phoebe Stanton were here to celebrate the book's release. In the last paragraph of the book's acknowledgments, the editors write about the late historian, "Phoebe always demanded that we create a book worthy of Baltimore and its underappreciated treasures. We hope the sum of all our efforts will live as a memorial to her and to her scholarly dedication to her adopted city."


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