Great Estates: Homewood Museum in Baltimore, Maryland
September 10, 2009 | Homewood Museum, a National Historic Landmark on the campus of John Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is one of the country's finest Federal period houses. Based on a Palladian five part plan, it was built beginning in the summer of 1800, when Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the wealthiest men in America, purchased a 130-acre tract of land as a wedding present for his son Charles Carroll Jr. and his new daughter-in-law Harriet Chew Carroll. Without a known architect ascribed to the design, it is believed that Charles Jr. acted as gentleman-architect of the estate with builders Robert and William Edwards. The couple moved into the country estate a year later, though construction and improvements continued until around 1806, by which time they had decided to live there year-round. From the beginning, plans for Homewood were strained—building costs totaled over $40,000 (four times what Carroll had intended)—and just as Charles Jr. was unable to rein in his expenditures, he was unable to restrain his predilection for alcohol, and in 1816 Charles Sr. arranged for Harriet and the five children to move into a house in Philadelphia. Charles Jr. continued to live at Homewood intermittently until his death in 1825.
Homewood was inherited by Charles Carroll III, Charles Jr.'s only surviving son, who lived there until 1832. In 1839 it was sold to Samuel Wyman, who in 1897 leased it to the Gilman Country School for Boys. In 1902 Wyman's son William and cousin Samuel Keyser presented the estate to John Hopkins University, which used the house for a variety of campus functions including faculty offices. In 1973 funds were secured through the generosity of university trustee Robert G. Merrick to endow the building as a museum, and in the 1980s an extensive restoration project was undertaken by the architectural firm Mendel, Mesick, Cohen, White, Hall and the Homewood Restoration Advisory Committee, which transformed Homewood back to its original grandeur.
The main block of the house, which contains three principal entertaining rooms (Reception Hall, Dining Room, and Drawing Room), is unusual in being only a single story high, but it is flanked on either side by a hyphen and wing, one for the kitchen and service functions and the other for private family use. Although only one piece of furniture is original to the house—a black-painted and gilded armchair in the back parlor—extensive research went into choosing correct furnishings and decorative objects for each room. There is, for instance, 18th-century English silver by Paul Storr and Paul De Lamerie, painted fancy chairs from a Baltimore estate, a portrait of George Washington attributed to Gilbert Stuart, and a replica Brussels carpet that all match original descriptions provided in surviving family papers and an 1825 inventory. Where available furnishings with a Carroll family provenance have been included. The vivid color palette of Homewood's painted interiors, such as the bright green pigment of the Reception Hall, was also reinstated. The decorative details of the house are truly dazzling: the bold tumbling-block pattern painted floorcloth in the Dressing Room; the yellow faux Sienna marble-painted baseboard in the Dining Room; and the vaulted ceiling accented with an acanthus and bellflower plaster medallion in the Green Chamber (master bedroom).
Homewood has been open to the public since 1987, and today, in addition to daily tours, is host to numerous special events, concerts, and symposia. This fall, to coincide with the installation of new textile furnishings in the Best Guest Chamber, on November 4, 11, and 18 Homewood will present a trio of talks by textile specialists. Exploring the design and composition of upholstery, bed and window treatments, and floor coverings between 1775 and 1825, there will be presentations by Linda Eaton, Curator of Textiles, Winterthur Museum & Country Estate (Nov. 4); Anita Jones, Curator of Textiles, Baltimore Museum of Art, and Louise Wheatley, artist, weaver, and independent textile conservator (Nov. 11); and Clarissa Barnes deMuzio, independent textile fabrication specialist, and Catherine Rogers Arthur, Director and Curator, Homewood Museum. Advance registration is required for the lectures, which begin at 6 pm, and are followed by Q&A and a reception. For a full schedule, and to register e-mail contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Homewood Museum is located on the John Hopkins University campus at3400 North Charles Street in Baltimore, Maryland. It is open Tuesday through Friday 11 am to 4 pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 4 pm. Tours are scheduled every hour on the half hour. Admission: $6 adults, $5 seniors, and $3 students and children. For more information, call 410-516-5589, or visit www.museums.jhu.edu/homewood.