Loudon Park: A resting place of peace and beauty

JACQUES KELLY

November 02, 1992|By JACQUES KELLY

Behind Loudon Park Cemetery's iron gates and fence lies a city of 300,000, where limestone markers list whole neighborhoods of sleeping stove makers, brewers and soldiers.

The 1853 burial ground -- the largest in Baltimore -- resembles a well landscaped country estate full of mature maple, tulip poplar and oak trees. Only a mansion house is missing.

It is nearly 500 acres and extends from the 3800 block of Frederick Avenue in Irvington (Southwest Baltimore) to Wilkens and Beechfield avenues. Maiden Choice Run cuts through the hilly property.

The cemetery remains extremely busy. One day last week there were eight burials. Nearly every hour visitors drop by the gate house (it is marked by a winged hour glass) to get directions to the grave of family members. One New Yorker unpacked a prodigious amount of photographic equipment to shoot the limestone tablet of Evening Sun columnist H. L. Mencken and other family members.

German names predominate on the rises and falls of the very orderly and neatly trimmed landscape here. The stones read like membership rolls in an old West Baltimore German Lutheran church -- May krantz, Yaeger, Dietz, Hohman, Lehnert, Willhide, Scharnagle and dozens of Bauers and Hoffs.

The Wiessner family's limestone tribute looks more like a fancy war memorial. It's nearly four stories tall and is graced by classical female fig

ures and bundles of barley.

Could this be a sculptural reference to the beer the family brewed at their celebrated Gay Street brew house? The monument is so elaborate it would be not be out of place in a large Victorian park or square. Like so many Loudon Park tombs, it remains in an excellent state of preservation.

The Weiskittles were known in Baltimore for their iron stoves. Appropriately, their mausoleum, a tomb built into the side of a small hill, is faced with cast iron, painted silver.

Elizabeth Kiel went to her eternal rest with a grave that permitted her mourners and friends to sit and contemplate her passing. Her grave marker takes the form of a rustic bench composed of carved stone pieces imitating the branches of a tree.

Some 75 years ago families spent their Sundays at cemeteries such as Loudon Park. They arrived in carriages or via the Frederick Avenue streetcar, the old No. 8 line.

Loudon Park made national news by having its own private streetcars that ran within the expansive grounds from 1905 to 1931. Two electric vehicles, the Loudon and the Linden, carried mourners and caskets on a mile-long circuit.

Some people brought picnic lunches. Others purchased bouquets of flowers from cemetery greenhouses once maintained on the property. The hothouse frames are gone. Many of the kneeling stones remain where mourners knelt down before the resting spots of their families and friends.

Some of the family grave sites are encircled with iron fences. Some stones have ivy trailing over them.

Loudon Park is appropriately quiet. The silence is broken only by the cawing of crows and the long low whistle of the railroad passenger trains which still roar past a flank of the property.

Nearly all the tombs and cemetery plots reflect the lives of long gone Baltimoreans. Generations of mothers, fathers, and their children found their way to these hills overlooking the Gwynns Falls Valley.

Occasionally, however, there's a marker which tells a different story.

Five young Evening Sun delivery boys never came back from a summer 1924 outing aboard the Chesapeake Bay steamer Three Rivers. The boat caught fire and the young men, part of a band sponsored by the paper, perished.

Their graves are marked with a bronze tablet inscribed: "They have moved a little closer to the Master of all Music."

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