Rouse papers going to archives 1939-1982 collection to open next year

November 12, 1996|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

Whether he was writing speeches about saving American cities or calculating how to make millions developing Columbia, James W. Rouse generated a lot of paperwork.

And here's the good news for historians, graduate students and urban planners:

"It looks like he saved just about everything," Columbia Association (CA) archivist Barbara Kellner said yesterday, standing next to 200 boxes of Rouse's papers from 1939 to 1982 that are stacked inside CA's headquarters.

The CA, essentially a huge homeowners association with headquarters in Columbia's Town Center, plans to open a Rouse archives collection next year that will be open to the public.

MA Rouse, who died in April, developed Columbia, suburban shop-

ping malls and inner-city retail projects such as Baltimore's Harborplace. His wife, Patty, recently donated the papers to the CA.

Under a proposal expected to be approved by the CA's board Thursday night, the homeowners association will raise $30,000 for display shelves, archival consultations and other services, said CA spokeswoman Pam Mack.

CA then would spend about $6,600 annually to maintain the collection.

"This is a phenomenal body of work created by a phenomenal man," said Mark Burneko, a spokesman for the Enterprise

Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that Rouse founded 1982 to finance and rehabilitate housing for low-income people in more than 30 cities.

The Rouse archives collection contains speeches, letters from the White House, business correspondence, economic forecasts, newspaper articles and photo albums.

Rouse's large, modest desk -- which he used in the 1940s in his Baltimore office -- is part of the collection.

So is a shovel he used in 1972 at the ceremonial groundbreaking of the Rouse Co. headquarters in Columbia.

The collection is considered valuable even by those who say that not all of Rouse's endeavors were good for cities. During the 1960s, he developed shopping malls that helped pull consumers from inner cities.

Karen Lewand, executive director of the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said such a "very interesting dichotomy" will make the archives collection even more valuable.

David Rusk, an urban poverty expert and author of "Baltimore Unbound: A Strategy for Regional Renewal," said, "It seems to me there is a significant book to be written on the trajectory of Jim Rouse."

Rouse's papers document how well he understood suburban sprawl in the late 1940s and 1950s. At the time, the government was building thousands of miles of interstate highway and encouraging home construction.

In Columbia, Rouse tried to contain sprawl. And, compared with what happened in suburbs, he succeeded, Rusk said. Rouse mixed residential and business areas in Columbia -- land management that he explained in a 1963 speech to the University of California at Berkeley:

"Will we provide new communities sensitively designed to meet the real needs of people? Communities in which people feel important and uplifted -- where there is some hope of matching growth in numbers with growth in human personality, character and creativity."

The archive collection also includes "The Green Book," Rouse's initial economic model for Columbia. In the book, he noted the huge suburban growth from 1950 to 1960 around Washington and Baltimore.

Washington's growth was second in the nation and Baltimore's was fifth, according to Rouse's book.

Rouse calculated that his company could make $83.1 million in "proceeds from resale of land" in Columbia's first 12 years.

The planned community has been profitable. Since 1967, when the first residents moved to Columbia, the Rouse Co. has grossed about $600 million in land sales, primarily in Columbia, according to Rouse annual reports.

And since 1985, the company has earned more than $100 million in profits on land sales -- which take place primarily in Columbia -- according to company financial statements. That year, the Rouse Co. acquired CIGNA Corp.'s 80 percent interest in Howard Research and Development Corp., a subsidiary formed by Rouse to develop Columbia.

Although Columbia was financially successful, the archives collection also clearly shows Rouse's early concern for cities. In 1959, as president of the American Committee to Improve Our Neighborhoods (ACTION), he spoke in Boston and warned that no U.S. city had an effective program for checking the spread of slums.

"He was a visionary," said Kellner, the CA archivist. "He saw these problems" that are overwhelming cities today.

Kellner will make a presentation of part of the Rouse papers from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 7 at the Columbia Welcome Center. For information, call 715-3103.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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