Allen P. Golden, 79, business owner, activist for Mount Vernon Place

May 13, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Allen P. Golden, who owned a New York greeting card business and became a Mount Vernon Place civic activist after moving to Baltimore 11 years ago, died of an apparent stroke Saturday at Union Memorial Hospital. He was 79 and lived in the Tuscany-Canterbury neighborhood.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Golden attended the Yale University School of Architecture and later studied with architect Frank Lloyd Wright at his Taliesin East and West studios. He later worked with architect Philip Johnson and was part of the design team that created the modernistic Glass House built in 1949 in New Canaan, Conn.

He subsequently left architecture and joined his father, Samuel Golden, who owned Art Craft Litho, a firm that printed posters and display advertising for New York theaters and concert halls.

Friends said that during the Depression in the 1930s, the elder Mr. Golden founded a second company, American Artists Group, that printed Christmas and other greeting cards featuring the work of underemployed artists.

The son was vice president of American Artists Group for 40 years. He was also an art collector, particularly of Witold Gordon, who designed pavilions at the 1939 World's Fair as well as posters for the Broadway musicals Oklahoma! and Carousel.

In 1993, Mr. Golden and his life partner of 45 years, Richard Upton, moved from North Salem, N.Y., to a corner apartment in Baltimore at 700 Washington Place, facing the Washington Monument. Mr. Golden soon became active in the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Improvement Association and was elected its president in 1995.

"It's a testament to Allen's leadership that he was able to win the support of the neighbors and prod the city into making significant improvements, all within just a few years of arriving here," said George W. Johnston, a neighbor and an attorney with the firm of Venable Baetjer Howard.

"The man arrives in Baltimore and a year or so later he's the head of a major community group. He was focused and maintained a strict discipline in how he ran meetings. He wouldn't let people get too far afield in their observations," Mr. Johnston said.

When the city announced a project to refurbish the Charles Street Bridge over Interstate 83, he initiated a letter-writing campaign to City Hall.

"He demanded to know why the project was to last three years when the entire Empire State Building was built in just one," said Mike Field, a Johns Hopkins University staff member and friend.

Friends said that Mr. Golden, with his passion for art and architecture, soon became an advocate for Mount Vernon Place, which he considered one of America's most beautiful urban settings.

Among the projects he championed were the return of two-way traffic on the east and west squares and the repair and restoration of its bronze and marble statues. He also helped set up the Concerts in the Park with George free summertime music series.

Mr. Golden, who moved to Tuscany-Canterbury two years ago, delighted in taking out-of-town guests on tours of Baltimore's architecture, including stops at the Basilica of the Assumption and the George Peabody Library.

Plans for a private memorial service were incomplete.

In addition to Mr. Upton, he is survived by a daughter, Glynnis Golden Ortiz of Pasadena, Calif.; a sister, Irene Dash of New York City; and a grandson. Another daughter, Gera Golden, died in 1984. His 1947 marriage to the former Gloria Goldsmith ended in divorce.

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