William H. Brown, 56, guide at historic homes

March 07, 1995|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

William H. Brown, a curatorial specialist and guide at Evergreen House and Homewood House, died Saturday of pneumonia at the home of a friend in Upperco. The Glen Rock, Pa., resident was 56.

He had been an antiques dealer and furniture restorer before coming to the Homewood House during its restoration in 1986. At the time of his death, he was working at Evergreen House.

"He really had a good grasp of antiques and historical materials," said Lili Ott, director of the Historic Houses of the Johns Hopkins University.

"He was one of those people who had incredible skills. He went from restoring floors at Homewood to Evergreen, where he gave tours."

Evergreen, an Italianate mansion on North Charles Street with classical revival additions, was built in the 1850s by the Broadbent family. John W. Garrett, president of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, bought it in 1878 for his son T. Harrison Garrett.

Later, the mansion was the home of John Work Garrett and his wife, Alice Warder, who expanded it to 48 rooms. Before her death in 1952, Mrs. Garrett created the Evergreen House Foundation, and today the mansion functions as the Rare Book Library and Fine Arts Museum of the Johns Hopkins University.

Mr. Brown's tours were defined by his sense of irreverence and the depth of his historical knowledge about the objects in the collection and the people who had lived at Evergreen.

"He was a jack-of-all-trades and knew more about the Garrett family than anyone else. He would intersperse his rather straightforward tour with lively details about the family that visitors found fascinating," said William Voss Elder III, consultant-curator of decorative arts at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

"He made the Garretts come alive and was able to explain how Evergreen and the family fit into Baltimore, East Coast and American history. He had a sense of perspective on their contributions," Mrs. Ott said. "Visitors from throughout the world wrote in praise of his gifts as a storyteller and historical interpreter."

Reared in Baltimore, Mr. Brown attended Loyola High School and graduated from Calvert Hall College. He earned a bachelor's degree in history from the Johns Hopkins University in 1974.

He was a member of St. John Roman Catholic Church on Monroe Street in Westminster, where a Mass of Christian burial was to be offered at 10 a.m. today .

He is survived by his parents, Horace N. and Mary Brown of Baltimore; and six brothers, Barry L. Brown of Baltimore, Timothy W. Brown of Boring, David P. Brown of Monkton, Michael F. Brown of Reisterstown, John D. Brown of Lutherville and Robert J. Brown of Wyomissing, Pa.

Memorial donations may be made to Evergreen House or Homewood House, 4545 N. Charles St., Baltimore 21210.

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