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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University October 25, 2004 | Vol. 34 No. 9
Homewood House Takes a Star Turn in New Book

Curator and co-author Catherine Rogers Arthur in Homewood's drawing room, which was designed for entertaining.

200-year-old landmark examined in scholarly and lush new JHU Press title

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Homewood House, the landmark Federal-period home whose grounds eventually became the Johns Hopkins University campus, has now been captured in full detail in a handsome hardcover book to be released early next month.

The lavishly illustrated and scholarly study of this historic American residence explores Homewood's entire history, detailing its construction, use as a residence and the multiyear restoration effort that preserved the structure, which today is a museum. It includes more than 100 full-color photographs of the house's exterior and interior, capturing its elegant rooms, furnishings and many architectural details.

Catherine Rogers Arthur, curator of Homewood House, and Cindy Kelly, JHU's former director of historic houses, co-wrote the book, simply titled Homewood House ( JHU Press, $35). To celebrate its release, the two authors will appear at a lecture and book-signing event at noon on Wednesday in Shriver Hall, Homewood campus.

Homewood House was built beginning in 1801 for Charles Carroll Jr. and his bride, Harriet Chew Carroll. The land and funds to construct and furnish the house were a wedding present from Charles' father, Charles Carroll of Carollton, a Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Built on 130 acres of rolling meadow and forest, the "country house" afforded picturesque views to the harbor. It exemplified the work of the most skilled Baltimore craftsmen of the Federal period, its construction incorporating a classical five-part Palladian plan, with two "hyphens" flanking the main block and connecting it to two wings.

The light-filled back parlor.

Homewood is considered one of the finest examples of Federal-period domestic architecture in the United States, and its design elements can be seen repeated throughout the buildings on the Homewood campus. The house has also spawned several imitations, including a new home in Salt Lake City, Utah, aptly named "Homewood West."

Arthur, who became curator in 1997, said that the book's narrative and many illustrations and photos will make it possible for somebody who hasn't been to Homewood to get a real sense of the house's history and "sparkle." Principal photography was by Jay VanRensselaer of Homewood Photographic Services, with supplementary images by Will Kirk, also of Homewood Photographic Services, and by Carl Schnepple.

"I think one of the things that will really come through is that the reader will be able to imagine what it was like to live at Homewood," said Arthur, who holds a master's degree from the Winterthur Program in Early American Culture at the University of Delaware. "Visitors to the house are often struck by the feeling that even though Homewood is grand, there is a certain intimacy about it. People feel very comfortable at Homewood and can imagine living here. I think that is the mark of its excellent design and craftsmanship, its sort of enduring beauty."

The book is divided into three main parts, Building Homewood, Living at Homewood and Restoring Homewood. Its appendices include samples of primary research documents and sources for the paint colors and textiles used throughout the house, in addition to a catalog of Carroll family objects.

The master dressing room.

"The focus of the second chapter, Living at Homewood, is much more about how people would have lived in this house in the time period and what we know of the Carroll family," Arthur said, "while Building Homewood really puts the house in context of early 19th-century Baltimore history. And the third chapter tells the story of its restoration, and a little bit as well of its use after the Carroll family held it."

Samuel Wyman bought the house and property from the Carrolls in 1839. In 1902, Homewood and its surrounding land were bequeathed to Hopkins as the site of the university's new campus. The donation was made by William Wyman, who inherited the property from his father, and William Keyser, his first cousin. According to Keyser's letters, the family donated the property out of concern that the encroaching city would eventually claim their beloved Homewood. They knew that with Johns Hopkins as its guardian, the building would be both protected and preserved.

Homewood was used as administrative offices for the university throughout much of the 20th century. Previously, it had served as home for the Country School for Boys, now the Gilman School; the Johns Hopkins Club; and graduate student housing. It also had a brief stint as a museum in the 1930s.

In 1973, Robert G. Merrick, an alumnus and university trustee, established an endowment to help restore Homewood as a permanent historic house museum. The building was opened to the public in 1987 after several years of research, archaeological investigation and restoration by the university.

Merrick had lived in Homewood House when he was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins, and the concept for the book arose from Anne Pinkard, his daughter.

"That turned out to be very lucky for us," Arthur said. "What fixed in his mind was that Homewood should be a museum, and it was the endowment provided by him that paid for the restoration of the house. And it's an endowment that forms a large part of our operating revenue each year. So it was always Anne Pinkard's desire to have a book that would record the importance of Homewood on an architectural level, the quality of the restoration effort and also to honor her father and his love of Homewood House."

A first look at the book.

Pinkard said that her father would regularly recount stories about his time at Homewood. One oft-repeated vignette was of a fellow housemate, a young man studying at Peabody, who would sing his way home as he walked up North Charles Street. With the windows open, Merrick said he could hear the song from a half-mile away.

"I know my father would very pleased with this book and all it represents. He cared so much about the preservation of Homewood," Pinkard said. "He loved his time at Johns Hopkins and was so in love with the house."

To piece together the narrative, the book's authors culled primary sources, including family letters and probate inventories, and and also brought together previously unpublished research on the family, the house and its furnishings. Some of the research discoveries highlighted as part of the 200th anniversary exhibition in 2002, Building Homewood, have also been included and expounded upon.

"This is really the first time when all the little tidbits of daily life at Homewood have been brought together in accessible and footnoted form," Arthur said. "There are wonderful moments recounted here, including details on the construction and furnishing of the house."

Cindy Kelly said that in many ways the house is quintessential Hopkins, and the book celebrates its enduring position on the Homewood campus.

"This book gave us the opportunity to talk about what a vital role this house can play in the larger JHU community," Kelly said. "It really demonstrates how much research is ongoing here, work being done by students and our current visiting scholar. We are learning more and more about not only the house's history but that of early 19th-century Baltimore. While many homes of its kind have been lost forever, the footprint of Homewood House has remained virtually unchanged and its interior preserved for generations to come."


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