Charles Edward Scarlett Jr., 88, shipper restored Whitehall

September 27, 1997|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Charles Edward Scarlett Jr., retired chairman of Ramsay, Scarlett & Co. Inc., whose 40-year avocation was the painstaking restoration of Whitehall, a historic home built for one of Colonial Maryland's last governors, died of a stroke Sunday at Anne Arundel Medical Center. He was 88.

The Scarlett family's maritime roots date to the 1840s, when English ancestor William Patterson built the famous steam passenger vessels Great Western and Great Britain.

The venerable Baltimore steamship agency's predecessor firm of Patterson, Ramsay & Co. was founded in 1880 by Mr. Scarlett's grandfather. His father, Charles E. Scarlett Sr., was company president from 1926 until his death in 1940.

Mr. Scarlett was born and raised in Guilford, graduated from the Gilman School in 1927 and earned his bachelor's degree from Princeton University in 1931.

He began his waterfront career in 1935 as a timekeeper for Baltimore Stevedoring Co., a subsidiary of Ramsay, Scarlett.

He later shared management of Ramsay, Scarlett with a brother, William D. G. Scarlett, who retired in 1970 as president and died in 1974.

Mr. Scarlett ended his 53-year career in 1988, when he retired as chairman of the board.

"Charles was a very influential port figure who could be very tough," said Helen Delich Bentley, a former congresswoman and federal maritime commissioner who described him as a "decent and highly respected individual."

Mrs. Bentley recalled that during the 1950s, when Mr. Scarlett was president of the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore, he challenged New York's domination of the shipping business.

"He worked hard to try and preserve Baltimore's advantages, especially when the shots in those days were being called from New York and all Baltimore was getting was pieces of business. He fought some very difficult and tough battles for the port."

As a leader of the Citizens Committee for Saving the Constellation, he played a pivotal role in the historic vessel's return to Baltimore in 1955.

But it was his purchase in 1946 of Whitehall, a Colonial masterpiece on 115 acres between Meredith and Whitehall creeks near Annapolis, that became an overwhelming lifelong interest.

"For Maryland, it is a treasure of immense historical and cultural value," said Joseph M. Coale III, a trustee of the Maryland Historical Trust and former president of Historic Annapolis Foundation. "It was a wonderful example of historic preservation before restoration earned the national credibility that it now enjoys."

The mansion, an outstanding example of Palladian architecture, was constructed between 1764 and 1765 and enlarged in 1769 for provincial governor Horatio Sharpe.

In 1773, Sharpe returned to England. At his death in 1790, he bequeathed the house to John Rid-out, his secretary and friend whose descendants lived there until 1929.

"He first fell in love with Whitehall when he saw a picture in a newspaper while a student at Princeton," said Mr. Scarlett's daughter Kathleen S. Burnett of the Woodbrook section of Baltimore County. "It eventually became his mistress."

"Sifting through debris in the basement, he found fragments of moldings which he took to England and had hand-carved in 18th-century wood," she said.

He brought back period locks and matched chips of original paint in repainting rooms. The research was of such a magnitude that it encompassed resources on both sides of the Atlantic.

It was not until the mid-1960s that Mr. Scarlett's family was able to occupy the mansion, which he furnished with 18th-century antiques. Gardens followed the original landscaping plan.

He also removed a second-story addition, returning the house to its 1769 appearance.

Other interests included Edgar Allan Poe, about whom Mr. Scarlett wrote a number of scholarly articles. He helped establish the Poe Museum in Richmond, Va.

A vigorous man and avid horseman, he continued riding Muddy Run, his favorite hunter, daily until he was in his mid-80s.

Mr. Scarlett was Swedish consul in Maryland from 1954 to 1983. He was a member of the Elkridge Club, Ivy Club, Maryland Historical Society, Bachelors Cotillon, Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club and Marlborough Hunt Club.

Mr. Scarlett's 1934 marriage to the former Kathleen Staige Davis ended in divorce. In 1959, he married Marie E. duPont-Levering.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Charles E. Scarlett III of Wheaton, Ill.; two other daughters, Patterson S. Swindell of Roland Park and Lucy Landon Scarlett of Brentwood, Tenn.; a stepson, Ernest D. Levering of Upperco; a stepdaughter, Elise D. Hensen of Camden, S.C.; eight grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Services are private.

Katherine J. Thompson, 39, computer consultant

Katherine J. Thompson, a former Baltimorean and computer consultant, died Wednesday of hepatitis at Good Samaritan Hospital in Johnstown, Pa. She was 39.

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