State to mark 362nd birthday at statue steeped in local lore Lord Baltimore's likeness based on Hollywood actor

March 22, 1996|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Officials high and low will honor the man who started it all today, placing a magnolia wreath at a statue of Cecilius Calvert in downtown Baltimore to mark the 1634 founding of the Maryland colony.

Few observers who watch the Maryland Day ceremony three days before the official March 25 anniversary will realize that the sculptor's model for the second Lord Baltimore had strong local connections as a former altar boy who became a titan of Hollywood before World War I.

Francis Xavier Bushman, the Baltimorean whose muscular body and profile made him one of the highest-paid screen actors of his time, modeled for sculptor Albert Weinert in 1907. The 17-foot-high statue and stone pedestal, unveiled a year later, stands just outside the western entrance to the Clarence Mitchell Court House, on St. Paul Street.

Bushman, who as a youth lived on Argyle Avenue in Northwest Baltimore, went on to build a mansion in Riderwood called Bush Manor, where he kept his kennel of Great Danes and a 23-foot, custom-built purple Marmon auto fitted with gold-plated trim and his name across the door in solid-gold letters.

As a young man, he picked up pocket change as a model at the Maryland Institute College of Art. His parents wanted him to become a doctor or priest. He was an altar boy at what was then the Cathedral of the Assumption for James Cardinal Gibbons. In later life, he often spoke with affection of his years attired in an acolyte's cassock and surplice.

L Francis X. Bushman's name was at one time on the marquee of

nearly every film theater in the country. His most famous role was that of the Roman Massala, fellow film star Ramon Novarro's rival in the 1926 silent classic "Ben-Hur," which is still widely circulated on videotape. Bushman died in 1966.

The Maryland Colonial Society's commemoration of the 362nd founding of Maryland includes the naming of Cardinal William Keeler as the recipient of the group's Marylander of the Year Award, an honor initiated in 1973.

Also to be honored are the society's essay contest winners: Amy Kirkley, a ninth-grader at the Severn School, Severna Park; Abraham Kuruvilla, an 11th-grader at Loyola High School, Blakefield; and Christina Monkres, an 11th-grader at High Point High School in Beltsville. This year's essay topic was "The Sharing Way Native American Tribes of Early Maryland." State archivist Edward C. Papenfuse selected the winners.

The day's events will also include a keynote speech by Cardinal Keeler and remarks by W. Bruce Quackenbush Jr., executive director of the Pride of Baltimore Inc. The Pride II is slated to convey a new memorial plaque to London, where Cecilius Calvert is buried at the Church of St. Giles-in-the-Fields.

The original church near Covent Garden burned some years after the Maryland founder was buried within its walls and a new building was constructed on the site long ago. The new grave marker, made of American slate, is framed by the white limestone used in Baltimore's white "marble" steps.

The inscription on the new tombstone reads in part:

"Cecilius Calvert, second Lord Baltimore, 1606-1675, first proprietor of Maryland by charter from King Charles I. [Born] 20 June 1632 Buried here on 7 December 1675. The colony of Maryland was established on the 25th of March 1634 by the arrival in the Potomac River of the vessels, the Ark and the Dove, with 200 colonists led by Leonard Calvert, brother of Lord Baltimore."

Pub Date: 3/22/96

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