Recalling journalists' favorite haunts

WAY BACK WHEN

Demise of taverns prompts memories of popular saloons

January 31, 2004|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

This week's Sun article on the decline of the neighborhood tavern got me thinking about those near the newspaper's North Calvert Street building.

In addition to welcoming newspaper folk, the bars also served as a destination for young doctors and nurses from Mercy Medical Center and workers from nearby City Hall.

Since The Sunpapers moved in 1950 from its stately home in what was then called Sun Square, at Baltimore and Charles streets, to its present building, generations of newsfolk have sought solace and comfort in these convenient establishments at day's end, sometimes even midday.

In the early decades, times were different and there was also a different level of tolerance. A drink at lunch or a glass of beer with a sandwich didn't mean a referral slip for addiction counseling from a supervisor. After all, your supervisor or editor may have been sitting next to you enjoying one, too.

Newspaper staffers from The Sun's competition, the News American, hung their hats and slaked their thirsts at Burke's Cafe at Light and Lombard streets. Even though the newspaper is sadly a memory, Burke's soldiers on, still serving well-made drinks and old-fashioned comfort food.

Logistically, the two closest to The Sun were the Calvert House on North Calvert Street and, for those interested in going a little more afield, the House of Welsh, at Guilford Avenue and Saratoga Street.

The House of Welsh, which served respectable enough drinks and food, always reminded me of a joint out of a 1940s Hollywood film or a John O'Hara novel.

Historically speaking, when the 1904 Baltimore Fire destroyed the city's telegraph offices, a wire affixed to the House of Welsh allowed busy telegraphers to keep the news coming from the beleaguered city.

Since its closing in 1998, it has been added onto and transformed into a swinging nightclub.

At the Calvert House, the ever-pleasant Rose M. Herrin was always willing to lend a sympathetic ear to a troubled customer. She worked as a waitress there for several years before buying the establishment in 1964. She sold it and retired in 1999.

Even though the brown awning still announces the place as the Calvert House, it is actually the Alphomega Lounge.

And as far as I know, none of my newsroom colleagues warm its stools for post-newspaper dissections on the vagaries of the day's news or the quirks of particularly bothersome editors.

A favorite of The Evening Sun crowd during the 1980s was the establishment run by the colorful Philip C. Dypsky Sr. in Canton.

Dypsky opened Dypsky's Turn of the Century Museum Saloon, at the corner of Linwood and O'Donnell streets, overlooking O'Donnell Square, in 1979. It quickly became something of a curiosity in those long-ago times before the yuppies invaded the quiet southeast Baltimore neighborhood.

Dypsky sold used clothing and furniture from the bar, as well as drinks, and managed to fill the place with a pretty good collection of Baltimore memorabilia.

The saloon sprawled between two rooms, and its centerpiece was a carved oak bar. Other decorative touches included painted lamp globes, a giant mirror that had formerly done duty in a ballet studio, and stained-glass windows. Two ceiling fans right out of the movie Casablanca attempted to keep the voluminous clouds of tobacco smoke moving.

"I wanted the Gay Nineties effect," he told The Evening Sun in 1982. "I'm gonna make a landmark outta the place before I kick the bucket."

However, Dypsky was something of an erratic barkeep. If he felt like opening for business, he did. If not, the place remained locked. And it was always advisable to call Dypsky before going to Canton, to make sure that he was up and running.

Dypsky, who sold his bar in 1988 and died in 1997, would be amazed at what has happened not only to his former saloon, which is now Looney's Pub, but to the surrounding neighborhood.

Recently, I ventured over to O'Donnell Square on a cold afternoon to take a head count of restaurants and taverns in the post-Dypsky era. There are 10 ringing the square proper, with the latest addition being Mama's on the Half-Shell.

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