FRITZ Gutheim, living to be 85, took part in any number of...

Salmagundi

December 01, 1993

FRITZ Gutheim, living to be 85, took part in any number of acrimonies. He shuddered at what the demolitionists proposed for Washington Square in Manhattan, he repulsed the developers from Sugarloaf Mountain in Montgomery County, he held his nose at the Potomac River. If he'd only lived, written, broadcast a little longer, he could have voiced an opinion about the newly projected Disney's America theme park, over in Virginia.

Frederick A. Gutheim (he was Fritz only to fellow-writers, critics, planners, professors and preservationists) went to college in Wisconsin, where Frank Lloyd Wright shoved him into the world of ideas. The Army introduced him to Maryland, in WWII, via the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie. Then he and his wife Mary settled down in a house called Mount Ephraim, near Dickerson.

Are office life and payroll slavery so necessary? No, thought Mr. Gutheim, passing 40. He became available instead for spot jobs: 10 books, three university faculties, uncounted consultant reports. Here, a study to direct; there, an anniversary program. For awhile, at the New York Herald Tribune, he was the country's first formal architecture critic. Formidable energies, these: worth lines in Who's Who in America, plus the Maryland Historical Trust's Calvert Prize.

Around here, bay and ocean rank first and second; river's only third. Yet what a river, that Potomac. Fritz Gutheim's book "The Potomac," published 44 years ago, is still in print. He lived to see most of the river once again swimmable, fishable. And the formal parts of its biggest city, Washington, very viewable.

The Disney people find that Washington's scenic attractions are "static." Their huge historical theme park, and triumph of the reproducer's guile, will be "interactive." Maybe it's as well that no opinion will be forthcoming from Fritz Gutheim.

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