Kennedy collection moves from Catonsville to Florida

This Just In...

April 23, 1999|By DAN RODRICKS

A YEAR after his publicized dispute with government archivists and the children of John F. Kennedy, Rob White has found a new and possibly permanent home for what is believed to be the largest private collection of Kennedy memorabilia in the world -- the Florida International Museum in St. Petersburg.

(The what? Yeah, there is such a thing.)

White, a Catonsville resident at the time, made national news last year when he offered items from his collection for auction in New York. The Kennedy children threatened legal action to stop the sale and were able to save several personal items from the auction block and have them installed in the Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.

Since then, White has made a deal with the 4-year-old Florida International Museum for the rest of his collection, which includes a Kennedy rocking chair, the wristwatch Kennedy wore to his inauguration and the flags that flew on JFK's car in Dallas. The items, which filled the basement of White's mother's home in Catonsville and were once proposed for a museum in Annapolis, go on display in November. According to a museum official, White's collection may become a permanent exhibit after May 2000.

White, who is at work on the exhibition in Florida, did not return phone calls yesterday.

Mansion for sale

Remember Richard M. Schlesinger, the Florida real estate baron whose Riverdale Apartments in Essex were condemned by Baltimore County? He's selling his 18,000-square-foot Palm Beach mansion -- for $16 million. (He bought it for $5.1 million 10 years ago.)

Maybe Schlesinger is selling the place to pay some bills -- at one time, $600,000 for Baltimore Gas and Electric, $300,000 in fines for violations of county codes. He might also be worried about a $1 million suit brought by federal authorities in connection with his financing of the 598-unit Riverdale complex. Built for defense plant workers during World War II, Riverdale deteriorated into boarded-up buildings often used by drug dealers and the homeless. It was condemned last summer and slated for demolition.

If you want to take a virtual tour of Schlesinger's waterfront palace in Florida -- five bedrooms, seven baths, wine vault -- try www.palmbeachproperty.com. Click on 801 South County Road, and be grossed out. Former Riverdale residents should get a real kick out of it.

That vision thing

I see where Mayor Schmoke has a vision for Baltimore for the next 20 years. Too bad he didn't have one for the last 12.

A sad lottery

More than 20,000 Baltimore families, representing about 44 percent of children who were eligible, threw their names into a national lottery for scholarships to private schools. Percentage wise, the response to this offer, from the Children's Scholarship Fund, was higher here than in any other city. What a sad and stunning repudiation of the city school system.

Brigadier Beulah

Determination, thy name is Beulah.

Beulah Wilbur.

She's the 71-year-old school crossing guard whose uninsured West Baltimore rowhouse was ruined by fire in 1995 and stripped of its pipes by vandals. Beulah was so determined to keep her charred Gilmor Street home out of Dan Henson's demolition derby that she launched a campaign to drum up volunteers and contributions -- and get a certain newspaper columnist to make her crusade public. She succeeded, too. Beulah enlisted the help of contractors, college students and church groups. Browning-Ferris Industries donated more than $30,000 to purchase a furnace, cabinets, windows and plumbing. A few days after Christmas, and more than three years after the fire, Beulah moved back into her house.

Because work on several rooms of the three-story rowhouse was unfinished, Beulah and a mentally retarded nephew could live only on the first floor. Tomorrow, more than 60 Christmas in April volunteers are expected to finish the interior and exterior work begun by an earlier Beulah Brigade.

Beulah, grateful as ever for all the attention and help, has been recovering from a January operation in which surgeons at University of Maryland Medical Center removed a cyst from her brain. Despite some problems -- "A side of my face is paralyzed and I can't hear out of my right ear" -- Beulah says she's feeling better, and hoping to return to work in the fall.

Netters, spitters and critics

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