Lawrence T. Mullen, 87, architect

March 20, 2003|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Lawrence Trainor Mullen, a retired architect and activist who played a role in the physical transformation of aging city harborside neighborhoods, died Monday of a heart attack at Roland Park Place Retirement Community. The former Glyndon and Federal Hill resident was 87.

A past president of the Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fells Point, Mr. Mullen took a lively interest in the city. He fought interstate highway construction in the 1960s and was later among the founders of Leakin Park's Baltimore Herb Festival.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Ashburton, he was a graduate of Loyola High School and earned a degree at Loyola College. He served in the Navy in World War II and participated in the Normandy invasion and, after the war, served in the Naval Reserve, retiring as a captain in 1966.

In 1947, he joined an architectural firm known as the Office of James R. Edmunds Jr., later Edmunds and Hyde, and retired in 1985. He designed Glyndon's Fire House, the Sacred Heart Convent and Parochial School. He also oversaw renovations at the Johns Hopkins, Children's, Kernan and Bon Secours hospitals.

Mr. Mullen, who moved to Warren Avenue in Federal Hill in 1972, opposed construction of an interstate highway from Leakin Park on Baltimore's west side, through Rosemont, Federal Hill, Fells Point and Canton. He became president of one of the city's activist organizations, the Preservation Society, in 1976. He served two terms.

"Larry was characterized by total commitment to preservation values in Baltimore and to the city of Baltimore. He had a lot of backbone," said Geoffrey Mitchell, an attorney and fellow preservationist who lives in Annapolis. "I can remember being in meetings with Mayor [William Donald] Schaefer and Larry would not back down. He stood up when preservation was not broadly supported within the South Baltimore community. He took some heat in those days. Larry did it willingly. He had no hidden agenda. He was all for preservation."

After the highway fight died down, Mr. Mullen led informal tours of Baltimore's older neighborhoods. Family members said he would say, "Look up," to observe cornices and architectural embellishments at the roofline. He also boosted attendance as chairman of the annual fall Fells Point Fun Festival.

"He was a dynamo. He rejuvenated the Fun Festival in the early 1980s when the event was running out of steam," said Bob Eney, a fellow preservationist. "He was a laid-back guy but he could get very enthusiastic. He knew everybody in town."

Mr. Mullen was a former member of the Court House and Law Museum Foundation, a group concerned with the preservation of the 1899 Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse.

"He was one of our mainstays," said Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan, chief judge of the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. "He was most helpful in reviewing plans and leading us in the right direction. He was soft-spoken, a real gentleman, so knowledgeable in architectural and engineering matters."

In 1987, Mr. Mullen joined fellow activists who fought highways two decades earlier to found the Baltimore Herb Festival, an event held in Leakin Park, where the highway was once planned.

"Larry was the voice of calm, a moderating influence," said Jane Lewis, a Dickeyville resident and former Baltimore Herb Festival president. "He was a multifaceted man with so many interests."

As a college student, Mr. Mullen was a Lyric Opera House usher. There he developed an affection for opera.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 2 p.m. April 11 at Roland Park Place, 830 W. 40th St.

Survivors include his three daughters, Sherry M. Trabert, Mary Eileen Mullen and Molly L. Mullen, all of Baltimore; and a granddaughter. His marriage to Nancy Abrams ended in divorce.

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