Old houses, new museums

Architecture Column

August 27, 2007|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun architecture critic

When is a house not a house?

When it becomes a museum.

That's what happened this summer to two historic structures that the Johns Hopkins University owns and operates as public attractions in North Baltimore, the Homewood mansion at 3400 N. Charles St. and Evergreen House at 4545 N. Charles St.

No longer are Homewood and Evergreen called the Historic Houses of Johns Hopkins; they're now part of a new campus organization called the Johns Hopkins University Museums. Homewood House Museum has been renamed Homewood Museum, and Evergreen House has been renamed Evergreen Museum & Library.

Hopkins changed the names in an effort to increase public awareness of the buildings, which contain collections of American decorative arts and are used for a variety of purposes.

"The new names personify Homewood and Evergreen as mission-driven organizations integral to the Johns Hopkins University community," said Winston Tabb, director of the museums, dean of university libraries and vice provost for the arts. They "reflect our wish to attract new audiences by encouraging people to view the museums in a new light."

Along with housing fine and decorative arts, Homewood and Evergreen provide settings for temporary exhibitions, lectures, concerts, films, artist residency programs, family activities and school programming, as well as museum shops.

Homewood was built between 1801 and 1803 by Charles Carroll Jr., the son of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the richest men in America. In 1800, the elder Carroll gave a 130-acre tract known as the Homewood Farm to his son and his daughter-in-law as a wedding present and offered to pay for construction of the residence, considered one of the nation's best surviving examples of Federal-style architecture.

Homewood was occupied by Charles Carroll III from 1825 to 1833 and then sold to Samuel Wyman, a successful Baltimore merchant. In 1897, after standing vacant for years, the house was rented to the Country Day School, predecessor of the Gilman School. In 1902, it was donated to Hopkins, which initially used it as home for the Johns Hopkins Club and, later, offices of the university's president. In 1973, former university trustee Robert Merrick donated funds to restore the building, and it reopened in September 1987. Mendel, Mesick, Cohen, Waite and Hall was the restoration architect.

Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, Homewood is open for guided tours on the half-hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and from noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Hopkins will mark the museum's 20th anniversary with a party from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 21. It will include free tours and refreshments.

Built in the 1850s and surrounded by Italian-style gardens, Evergreen was donated to Hopkins by former owner John Work Garrett, grandson of the railroad magnate with the same name, upon his death in 1942. Garrett's widow, Alice Warder Garrett, established the Evergreen House Foundation and bequeathed to it her collection of early 20th- century paintings and an endowment that helps pay for its maintenance.

Evergreen was restored in the late 1980s and opened to the public in 1990. The John Work Garrett Library, containing rare books and manuscripts, is also there. Evergreen is open for guided tours on the hour from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays (last tour at 3 p.m.).

General admission to either Homewood or Evergreen costs $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $3 for students and children age 6 and older. Members are admitted free, and annual memberships start at $50. Admission to Homewood will be free in October as part of Free Fall Baltimore .

In addition, Hopkins is promoting a Historic Homewood ArtWalk this fall between the Homewood Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art on Art Museum Drive. Tour information is available at www.museums.jhu.edu/home wood/events/artwalk. The Web site includes a podcast for visitors who want to take a self-guided tour.

The university's Archaeological Collection, currently closed to the public, will become a third Hopkins museum when it reopens after the renovation of Gilman Hall on the Homewood campus. The collection was founded in the 19th century through the interest of the university's first president, Daniel Coit Gilman, and contains a wide range of ancient Greco-Roman and Near Eastern artifacts that extend from pre-dynastic Egypt into the Byzantine and Islamic periods.

The collection is scheduled to be reinstalled and to reopen with the rest of Gilman Hall by the fall of 2010.ed.gunts@baltsun.com

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