November 05, 2008

Boys' Latin razes another city treasure

Driving by my alma mater recently, I was stunned to notice something missing: The Boys' Latin Middle School building had been razed.

I didn't think of personal memories of the building but of the irony that in a year when a Laurence Hall Fowler-designed residence, Castalia, was landmarked by the city ("Calvert School prevented from razing house," March 12), another house he designed was demolished with nary a whimper.

When Castalia was landmarked, I thought perhaps we had turned the corner in recognizing Mr. Fowler's importance as a residential architect in Baltimore.

Even though the War Memorial, the old Maryland Hall of Records and the library at Evergreen, all designed by Mr. Fowler, are surely spared the threat of the wrecking ball, his Abel Wolman House has still not been landmarked.

And what does the future hold for the many and widely varied Fowler works?

One hopes it doesn't mirror the fate of the Ascot House, the only other city-landmarked house built by Mr. Fowler, which was razed in 1981 after a protracted court battle. But when an arrogant private school can proudly show off photographs of the demolition of a historic house, the prospects for preservation seem bleak.

Frederic C. Chalfant, Baltimore

No way to know what Mencken would do

It has been more than 60 years since H. L. Mencken covered his last political convention and wrote his final article for The Evening Sun.

Since just about every friend, relative and associate of Mr. Mencken's has passed beyond this vale, it has become a cottage industry for Mencken aficionados to write essays and give speeches that supposedly show insights on what the "Sage of Hollins Street" would think of the current happenings and noteworthy personalities of our day. Usually, it turns out that that the opinions of Mr. Mencken's ghost closely match those of the writer or speaker.

Now comes distinguished Mencken scholar Marion Elizabeth Rodgers with an essay purporting to give the views of Mr. Mencken's shade on the 2008 election ("If Mencken were here ..." Commentary, Nov. 2).

I think that this is a task more fit for necromancers, spirit mediums, tarot-card readers and Ouija-board operators than for a scholar.

James Genthner, Timonium

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