Tess McNew reluctantly glances out her bedroom window in the stately mansion known as Rainbow Hall.
Below her second-floor window is one of two gnarled ming trees Japanese Emperor Hirohito gave to then-Brigadier Gen. Douglas MacArthur 75 years ago, when the World War I hero and his wife lived in this elegant Georgian-style home just above the rim of the Green Spring Valley.
A soft-spoken lady with snow-white hair, McNew is preparing to leave the Baptist Home, the retirement community that took up residence in Rainbow Hall in 1963, and now is closing because of financial problems.
By Monday, McNew, an 83-year-old widow and retired school teacher from Anne Arundel County, will be gone, along with her stuffed animals, her encyclopedia, the painting of the "Last Supper" that hangs above her bed, her daughter's art work and her African violet.
She's moving to a retirement home in Mount Washington that seems nice enough, she says, "but I really don't want to leave here. Everything is so beautiful."
When staff members learned of the closing late last month, they were shocked, said administrator Andrea Baird. But by yesterday, there was more sadness than anger as workers helped the 10 remaining residents pack up their belongings.
"This is home," says housekeeping supervisor Julia Costallanos, 58, a Mexican immigrant who has worked there for 26 years.
Catherine Ricker, an avid reader at 80, moved to the Baptist Home six months ago. She, too, will be leaving on Monday.
"Everybody thought they would be here forever," she says, "and this happened. I thought I'd finish up here. I sold my house and don't have a home to go to."
Even as the building was being emptied, County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger announced yesterday that he has "directed a historic consultant to review the historic value" of Rainbow Hall - built in 1917 - to see if it should be protected by the county's Historic Landmarks Commission.
The future of the building and the surrounding 21 acres was put into doubt when the owner of the Baptist Home announced that it could not completely repay a $1.6 million loan and would have to close the home March 31, spelling an end to one of the oldest retirement communities in Baltimore.
Allfirst Bank, the lender, has not said what it will do with the estate once known as Rainbow Hill and home to the retirement community for the last 38 years.
Yesterday, as snow approached, Rainbow Hall's staff helped residents prepare for their moves to new homes. But it was also a day of memories for many of those connected to the historic house.
Hugh McCormick Jr. showed up to reclaim a portrait of his uncle, Willoughby M. McCormick of the Baltimore spice company, who founded the Baptist Home in 1915 to help widows of Baptist ministers and poor women.
"I'm getting extremely upset," said McCormick, a Baptist Home trustee for 30 years, as he took away the portrait by artist Joseph Sheppard.
Henry Cronhardt Jr. brought his camera to record childhood memories so that his family "will believe some of the stories I've been telling them."
His father, Henry Cronhardt Sr., worked as caretaker at Rainbow Hall as MacArthur was moving out. The younger Cronhardt, now a 69-year-old retired building inspector, lived on the grounds in a caretaker's house until he was 7.
The residents of Rainbow Hall, in the 10700 block of Park Heights Ave., dined under the original crystal chandeliers and slept in bedrooms with ornate marble fireplaces. Yesterday, Keith Bryan, Baptist Home's marketing and public relations director, toured the mansion, pointing to inlaid plaster designs in the ceilings, and Ionic columns in the entrance that were made to look like marble, but really are wood.
At the top of the main staircase - just outside Tess McNew's bedroom - hangs a huge portrait of the woman residents and staff simply call "Louise."
This home was built for Louise Cromwell Brooks before she married MacArthur. They were divorced in 1929 after she was criticized for her extravagant "roaring 20s" socializing. She later remarried and sold the estate to the Rosenberg family in 1940.
Her portrait, the paint chipped, shows her posing with ruby-red lips and one red toenail peaking out from under her dressing gown.
Down the hall is Eunice James' immaculate bedroom. Above the white marble fireplace is a painting of man in a rowboat that the 88-year-old former cook says reminds her of Oregon, where she once lived. James, a widow, moved to the Baptist Home to be near a daughter in Germantown.
Mattie Sudell Attaway, an 86-year-old retired federal civil servant from Berwyn Heights, a Washington suburb, has spent two years at the Baptist Home. On Monday, she will start a new life at Pickersgill Retirement Community in Towson.
"If I'd known this was going to happen I might not have moved here," says Attaway, a former supervisor with the Veterans Administration who suffers from spinal problems. "It's hard when you thought you'd be here for the rest of your life.'