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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University September 26, 2005 | Vol. 35 No. 4
Exhibitions Celebrate Architectural Splendor of Homewood

In 1939, 'Good Housekeeping' offered plans for three versions of Homewood House, including this 'inexpensive' one.

By Abby Lattes
Historic Houses

Details, details, details. Over the past two years, every inch of Homewood, inside and out, has been photographed, measured, documented and drawn as part of an exhaustive Historic American Buildings Survey. The findings about this National Historic landmark on the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus will be shared with the public in the recently opened exhibition Portico, Passage, to Privy: HABS Records Homewood, which will be on display through Nov. 27.

Homewood, built beginning in 1801, was home to Charles Carroll Jr., the son of a Maryland signer of the Declaration of Independence, and his family from 1802 until 1816. Although filled with outstanding period furnishings, the house itself is by far more historically important. Built on a Palladian-inspired five-part plan, Homewood is renowned for its elegant proportions, fine workmanship and materials, and the extravagant detail in all aspects of its construction — from its intricately carved woodwork to its ornate plaster ceiling medallions and cornices. Now considered one of the nation's finest examples of Federal-period architecture, Homewood was opened as a museum by Johns Hopkins in 1987.

Catherine Rogers Arthur, curator of Homewood and the current exhibition, said, "Given Homewood's architectural and historical significance, it is appropriate and important that Homewood be documented to the fullest and by the most exacting standards possible."

Portico, Passage, to Privy: HABS Records Homewood shares the survey's critical findings in ways that convey the building's unique beauty and its elegant yet functional architecture while also addressing contemporary issues of historic preservation and the recording process.

The exhibition showcases many of the drawings produced by the recording team, including cross sections that make clear for the first time the sophistication of Homewood's plan and some of the complex relationships between rooms. The elevations illustrate the innovation of the story-and-a-half raised central block flanked by hyphens and wings, a style that in modern terms is best understood as a "split level." The HABS photographs, shot in archival large format, are corrected for perspective and capture astonishing details that encourage the viewer to question and understand how the craftsmen designed, carved and constructed the house. Approximately 40 of the more than 170 photographs taken by HABS photographer James Rosenthal are displayed in the reception hall, and additional prints of overall room views are installed throughout the house, allowing visitors the chance to see Homewood's rooms from new perspectives and get glimpses of the second floor.

A hands-on "tools of the architect" section allows visitors the chance to understand the types of instruments and processes the HABS team used to record the structure. Guests can measure and draw details of the house at a modern architect's table and, using tools such as a pin-type measuring gauge, can analyze reproductions of the moldings without inflicting damage to the original woodwork.

Homewood was documented by HABS to a lesser degree in 1936, when architect John Scarff assembled a team of draftsmen, a secretary and a stenographer under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration to record historic buildings in and around Baltimore, Arthur said. At that time, HABS created a record of 17 photographs and excerpts from early-19th-century letters detailing Homewood's design and construction. Arthur said that this earlier account, although a fascinating start, is far from complete. "These records do not reflect Homewood's restoration; include no floor plans, sections or drawings; and do not illustrate the physical relationships between rooms or the manner in which the Carrolls may have used them," she said.

The new records, far more thorough, provide a baseline for an informed long-range preservation plan for Homewood's ongoing care and stewardship and record the property in sufficient detail that should a catastrophic event occur, necessitating reconstruction of any portion of the structure, restoration efforts could be as accurate as possible. The completed HABS study of Homewood will serve as a model for other research and documentation projects on the state and national level.

All original records produced by HABS are transmitted to the HABS/HAER collection at the Library of Congress and are accessible from Homewood's Web site at

A concurrent exhibition in Homewood's downstairs hall, Homewood: Icon of the Colonial Revival, examines Homewood's influence on institutional and residential architecture, including the design of the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus, over the last century.

Visitors to Homewood frequently remark on how livable the house seems, and some individuals and architects have even gone to great lengths to construct a Homewood of their own. The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, for example, replicated Homewood for their president's and alumni houses, respectively. As early as 1907, copies of Homewood were selected as the official Maryland Building at a World's Fair and expositions such as the Jamestown Tercentenary in Norfolk, Va., and the Pan-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. Museums, including the Salem (Mass.) Athenaeum and the Mercer (Penn.) Museum have used Homewood as the prototype for buildings. In June 1939, Good Housekeeping magazine advertised architectural plans for sale for three versions of "Homewood," to suit three different budgets. The most recent known residential copy of the house, Homewood West, was built in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2001-2002.

Homewood also has been used to advertise bricks, Steiff silver flatware, Esskay hot dogs and Mitsubishi cars, and it was a regular subject for 20th-century Baltimore artists and printmakers whose works were both framed and reproduced on ceramic trivets, plates and glassware.

Photographs of its many incarnations are included in the exhibition.

The project and exhibition were made possible through the support of the Richard C. von Hess Foundation.

Throughout the fall, educational programs and special tours are planned to further explore themes addressed in the exhibition (see below).


'Portico, Passage, to Privy: HABS Records Homewood'
Special Programs

Saturday, Oct. 1, 1 and 3 p.m.
Special tours: Homewood Upstairs and Downstairs. Free with museum admission. Due to limited space, advance registration is required; call 410-516-5589.

Specialized tours of Homewood allow visitors access to places and architectural details not usually seen by the public. These guided tours examine some of the remarkable architectural features for which the house and its restoration have gained national acclaim, from the carved moldings and elaborate plasterwork to the original second floor "skylight" and the Madeira garret tucked into the pediment of the portico. Other highlights for visitors are an exploration of early-19th-century storage solutions and the chance to peek through trap doors that reveal the structure's innovative roof-line designed for water collection. These tours even provide the rare opportunity to visit Homewood's original privy — and the chance to examine the 100-plus years of history recorded on its walls.

Mondays, Oct. 10 to Nov. 21, 6:30 to 8 p.m.
Odyssey Class: Investigating Historic Architecture: Homewood and the HABS. Seven sessions; $210 (JHU employees may be eligible for tuition remission and should contact Odyssey). Enrollment is limited to 20. To register, contact the JHU Odyssey Program at 410-516-8516 or go to

Curator Catherine Rogers Arthur and a team of architects, historians and other preservation specialists provide an in-depth exploration of the process and practice of architectural preservation and the work of the Historic American Buildings Survey. Topics include the architectural histories of Homewood House and other Baltimore structures recorded by HABS, a hands-on introduction to architectural drawing, CAD and large format and measured photography.

Tuesday, Oct. 11, noon
Walking tour of the Homewood campus: Dormers, Fanlights and Columns. Free with museum admission. Due to limited space, advance registration is required; call 410-516-5589.

Meet at Homewood House for a tour of Portico, Passage, to Privy: HABS Records Homewood and then take a guided tour to discover how Homewood's Federal style and architectural details have influenced the campus's architecture and aesthetic.

Saturday, Nov. 5, noon
Walking tour of the Homewood campus: Dormers, Fanlights and Columns. See Oct. 11.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 1 and 3 p.m.
Special Tours: Homewood Upstairs and Downstairs. See Oct. 1.

Friday, Nov. 11, 5 to 8 p.m., followed by a Madeira reception
Talks: "The West and East of Homewood's De-sign: Palladianism and Feng Shui Considered." $20/person. Advance registration is required; call 410-516-5589.

Much of Homewood's design, from its room dimensions to its door and window placements, is derived from architectural pattern books, the most influential being those of the 16th-century architect Andrea Palladio. But how closely does Homewood's plan follow Palladio's system of ratios? Is the feeling of intimate grandeur inspired by the rooms a result of the geometric relationships he describes? Jeffry Klee, an architectural historian with Colonial Williamsburg, provides a Palladian analysis of Homewood in an illustrated lecture followed by a house tour allowing visitors to consider Palladio's theories in situ.
   Following Klee's talk, Hope Karan Gerecht, author of Healing Design, provides an even more ancient perspective on Homewood through a feng shui analysis of the house. In an illustrated lecture and house tour, Gerecht examines how feng shui, the 5,000-year-old Chinese principle of spatial organization, relates to the Palladian-inspired Federal-era house and provides an overview of the ancient Eastern system of philosophy, science and art.

Saturday, Nov. 12, 1 to 3 p.m., followed by a Madeira reception
Talks: "The West and East of Homewood's Design: Palladianism and Feng Shui Considered." See Nov. 11.


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