Robert L. Jackson, 85, developer, harbor advocate

May 23, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Robert L. Jackson, a former developer who once leased Fort Carroll in the outer harbor with an eye toward making it a tourist destination, died Thursday of kidney and liver failure at North Ridge Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 85 and lived in Fort Lauderdale.

In 1964, he leased Fort Carroll, a man-made island in the Patapsco River and had a hydrofoil, the Baltimore Clipper, ferry guests there. He wanted to make the 1848 limestone island into a picnic park, but the idea did not catch on. For a few months in the summer of 1964, his hydrofoil shuttled passengers around the harbor.

Mr. Jackson, who maintained a 101-foot Trumpy yacht, the Governor's Lady, was an early advocate of using the Inner Harbor for recreational purposes. His ideas, about 10 years ahead of their time, included marinas and water taxis.

"He had quite an insight into developing places that other people thought were a waste of time," said his daughter Joan Jackson, who lives in Roland Park.

Mr. Jackson was more successful in his effort to build housing in the years after World War II. He acquired two former streetcar barns, one behind the Roland Park Shopping Center in Roland Park and the other on Falls Road near what is today the Village of Cross Keys.

He took these run-down buildings and converted them in apartments.

Mr. Jackson was born in the 200 block of W. Madison St. in Baltimore, where his father had a construction business. He was a 1935 graduate of Loyola High School. In 1939, he received a certificate in architectural construction from the University of Maryland.

He began his building career by hand-carrying bricks to the union bricklayers. As a young man, he helped his father construct the Little Tavern chain, an early fast-food operation that sold 5-cent hamburgers on many city street corners.

In 1953, he purchased the old Cecil Apartments on Eutaw Place and renovated the building for offices. It was best known as the home of the Governors Club, a restaurant and bar that flourished from the 1950s through the 1980s.

In 1962, Gov. J. Millard Tawes named Mr. Jackson to a five-member panel that planned Maryland's participation in the New York World's Fair of 1964-1965.

He built a small anchorage, the Governor's Yacht Club Marina, off Key Highway near the site of what is now the Rusty Scupper restaurant, in 1964, anticipating the growth of recreational marinas in the harbor by 15 years.

Also that year, he leased Fort Carroll, the 19th-century fortification whose construction was partially supervised by Robert E. Lee when he was an officer in the Army Corps of Engineers.

In 1940, he married Betty Obrecht, who died in 1992. In 1994, he married Vicki DuChastel, who survives him.

Funeral services were held Saturday in Fort Lauderdale. Besides his wife and daughter, he is survived by a son, Robert L. Jackson Jr. of Miami; two other daughters, Lynn J. Ludwig of Miami and Anika Jackson of Fort Lauderdale; and two granddaughters.

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