The story behind a landmark

ARCHITECTURE

Celebration will examine Homewood House construction

September 16, 2002|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,SUN ARCHITECTURE CRITIC

Homewood House, a museum and National Historic Landmark on the campus of the Johns Hopkins University, will celebrate its 200th anniversary with a commemorative exhibit called Building Homewood: Vision for a Villa, as well as a building-trades fair and lectures.

The programs are designed to shed light on how Homewood was designed and built, how the house was used and the relationship between the building and its landscape.

"We're extraordinarily fortunate at Johns Hopkins to have Homewood House as the centerpiece and architectural inspiration for our Homewood campus," said university spokesman Dennis O'Shea.

"Now, 200 years after it was built and 100 years after the campus was established, is a wonderful time to celebrate that centerpiece. ... Learning more about why and how it was built 200 years ago tells us so much about Johns Hopkins and Baltimore today."

Inspired by the Italian villas of Andrea Palladio, Homewood was constructed beginning in 1801 on a 130-acre farm 2 miles from the center of Baltimore. It opened as a museum in 1987, after years of meticulous restoration, and is widely admired for its symmetry and its carved and plaster details.

Historical records indicate that Charles Carroll, one of the four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence, gave the house and property to his son, Charles Carroll Jr., and a daughter-in-law, Harriet Chew Carroll, as a wedding present. According to exhibit curator Judith Proffitt, the house, land and furnishings cost approximately $40,000.

Because questions still remain about how Homewood House was designed and constructed, its history was examined during the past year by Damie Stillman, professor emeritus of American architecture at the University of Delaware; M. Edward Shull, landscape architect and founding member of the Southern Garden History Society; and Bernard Herman, professor of art history at the University of Delaware.

Their findings form the basis of Building Homewood, which will be on display from Sept. 28 to Dec. 29 at the Homewood House Museum, 3400 N. Charles St.

The exhibit features 18th-century design books from private institutions, artifacts from earlier archaeological investigations (including a chisel used in the original construction of the house), rare images of Baltimore villas of the same time period and historical building tools on loan from Colonial Williamsburg.

A daylong celebration on Sept. 28 will mark the start of Building Homewood. Billed as the 19th-Century Building Trades Fair, it will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the lawn at Homewood House.

Visitors to the trades fair will be encouraged to try their hand at brickmaking, faux finishing, blacksmithing, making cedar shakes, shaping quarried stone and forming columns. Craftsmen who will be demonstrating historic trades include:

Henry Cersley, who has restored masonry at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home in Charlottesville, Va. Cersley will demonstrate brick-making techniques and three types of brick bonds -- Flemish, English and running bonds.

Tom Haas, door and sash maker and an interpretive craftsman for the Daniel Boone Homestead. Haas will show the use of planes and chisels in the creation of decorative millwork.

Ornamental plasterers from Hayles & Howe Inc., whose award-winning restoration work can be seen at Buckingham Palace, Washington's Warner Theatre and the Maryland Club, at Charles and Eager. The plasterers will show techniques used to make plaster moldings and medallions.

Local architect Sean Mackey, who will share the pattern books, quill pens and drafting instruments used by early 19th-century architects to produce building drawings.

Chris Ohstrom, a nationally known historic paint and wallpaper authority. Ohstrom will demonstrate the hand-grinding of pigments and discuss how they were used to make paint.

For $5, adults and children 10 and older can apprentice themselves to a craftsman for a half-hour.

On Sept. 28, admission to Homewood's 200th anniversary celebration and the Building Homewood exhibit is free. After opening day, admission to the Building Homewood exhibit will cost $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for students. The museum is open Tuesday- Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.

Information: 410-516-8639.

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