Mystery wall no puzzle to Hampdenites

August 08, 1994|By JACQUES KELLY

There is absolutely no mystery among longtime Hampden residents about a curious structure that stood in the 3200 block BTC of Keswick Road some 50 years ago.

A large sign, constructed of wood and designed to resemble George Washington's home, Mount Vernon, was an elaborate memorial to World War II servicemen from the Hampden, Remington and Woodberry neighborhoods.

I asked readers if they could identify the structure from a newspaper photograph of that era. Dozens of people wrote, called and shared their recollections of a neighborhood tribute to its boys in military service.

"It was a memorial to the whole neighborhood. Those who were killed in action had a gold star next to their names, but all the names of people in the service from the neighborhood were listed," says Bob Ott, a retired Pennsylvania Railroad employee who lives in the 3100 block of Crittenton Place.

The monument was the sole reason the Mount Vernon Neighborhood Association was formed in 1943. Neighborhood leaders such as Mary Reedy, Hilda Eckenrode, Bertha Kidd, Paul Nevin, William Christopher and Christian Jantz began collecting small donations for a local memorial. At first they considered a flagpole.

"Hampden is a patriotic neighborhood. The thing grew and grew," says Bernadette Sauerwald Beares, who now lives in Parkville.

In the 1940s, she was an editor of a small mimeographed local newspaper that listed the whereabouts of the men in military service. These sheets were often distributed at neighborhood patriotic ceremonies and parades staged at the Mount Vernon memorial.

The monument attracted such attention that the grounds around it were spruced up.

"Everyone wanted to do something. A carpenter in the vicinity, who has two sons in the service, asked to be allowed to build a picket fence. A greenskeeper at the Baltimore Country Club who has one son in service, asked to plant the grass. Another proud father now takes care of the grass and bushes planted around the building. Fifteen of the smaller children in the community painted the picket fence white," wrote Evening Sun reporter Margaret Dempsey in a July 7, 1943, article, when the tribute was complete.

And the monument proved so popular it brought others. "I can recall ones at 36th Street and Falls Road, at 34th Street and Roland Avenue and at Weldon Place," says Richard Nevin, who was present at the original memorial's dedication and whose father was on the first committee to build it.

The wood Mount Vernon memorial stood until about 1948, when it was taken down and a permanent masonry marker with the names only of those killed in action was erected.

Many readers called to fill in the details of the memorial. Thanks to Jack Gosnell, Monkton; Ernest Grill, Hampden; Bob Montgomery, Cockeysville; Claude Gregory, Timonium; Leonard Lewis, Parkville; Jack Marsh, Hampden; Tom Sauerwald, Upper Cross Roads; Betty Starnes, Hampden; Louise Hessenauer, Rockdale; Dorothy Thornberry, Hampden; William Buchta, Relay; and Mike Butler, Hampden.

Information about the sign also came in from Jack Stidham, Woodlawn; Bill Jeffries, Fallston; Gordon Wheeler, Parkville; Idabelle Price, Arcadia; Martin Van Horn, Medfield; Sam Johnston, Woodberry; Edgar (Pete) Pfaff, Lutherville.

Also, Gene Rene, Hampden; Oda Martin, Hampden; Marvin Hackley, Hampden; Paul Wirtz, Roland Park; Jack Sullivan, Medfield; Ronald Sass, Pasadena; John Warehime, Parkville; James Wollon, Havre de Grace; and Len Marston, Parkville.

Each had something to say about Hampden's very own memorial.

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