If Walls Could Talk: A History of Homewood House

Homewood House

Homewood House is the iconic building right next door to the Eisenhower Library - its design and style influenced and in some way defined the architecture of the entire Homewood campus. It has stood for 211 years, with its solid brick walls unchanged.

Harriet Chew

But who has occupied the house? It turns out a wide variety of people have lived and worked in the building. If walls could talk, they would begin with the original owners – Charles Carroll, Jr. and his wife Harriett Chew – who received the land and money to build the house as a wedding present. Even before moving in, the children began to arrive – seven in all (two died before their first birthdays).

Charles Carroll

When the Carrolls moved out, and a few years after Charles' death, the property was sold to William Wyman in 1838 who used it as his retirement home. His son rented it out as a summer house after building another house on the property. So for many years, people who wanted to escape the summer heat and smells of the city enjoyed the summer season at Homewood. In 1902 he and his cousin, William Keyser made it available for Johns Hopkins new campus.

Robert Merrick

Bridging the time from 1896 to 1910, the house was home to the young boys who attended The Country School for Boys of Baltimore City (later named Gilman School.) After they left, in 1916, the Hopkins Club moved in and operated there for twelve years. Fortunately for the house, a graduate student, Robert Merrick, was allowed to rent a room for his lodgings in the 1920's. He finished his dissertation, fell in love with the house, and in 1973 created a fund to restore Homewood as a museum.

Milton S. Eisenhower

In the interim, the administrators of Johns Hopkins University occupied the home. Milton S. Eisenhower was the last university president to have his office in the historic house. In 1976 the Secretary of Interior designated Homewood a National Historic Landmark, citing that its architecture is an example of the best of the Federal style. With extensive research and Mr. Merrick’s gift, Homewood was restored to its early 1800’s appearance and opened as a museum in 1987.

Muttonchops at the Bat!

click to enlarge

It's baseball season in Baltimore! Huzzah! Huzzah? Yeah, the past decade or so was less than magical when it comes to the Orioles ability to, you know, win, but even the most dejected of O's fans can rekindle their love for America's pastime by looking at the old-timey goodness that is early baseball guidebooks at the George Peabody Library. Let's face it, these guidebooks have everything, from illustrations of creep-tastic pitchers displaying the most jaunty of muttonchop styles to instructions on how to play baseball . . . on ICE!

Of course, these books offer more than mere exemplars of faddish facial hair; they are also great sources of social history. Think salary disputes are a relatively new thing? Well, it turns out that Reach's Guide of 1889 discusses what was then called "the high salary evil," in which upstanding managers were  worried about the obscene amounts of money certain players were earning. What about concern over the average American's girth? It is so not a twenty first century trend. According to Haney's Base Ball Reference (1867), baseball will cure it:

The physique of Americans has long been a vulnerable point for the attacks of foreigners on the weaknesses our countrymen, and hitherto we have only too-well merited the palpable hits made by our healthy out-door-sport-loving cousins of England. Of late years, however, an improvement has been manifested in this respect, in America, and a reformation has been introduced, which bids fair to remove the cause of complaint, and to bring us up to the physical standard of our forefathers, whose well-exercised muscles enabled them to lay low the forests of the Western wilderness, and whose powers of endurance led them to withstand so manfully the fatigues and trials of the great seven years’ struggle for independence. (v)

Not only will playing baseball make you have the shredded abs that our forefathers like Ben Franklin and George Washington must surely have had, but will also help you stick it to the snobby British, what with all their fancy tea drinking and dressage and everything. USA!

The guidebooks are also chock-full of quaint ads for supplies and uniforms and various libations, as well as blurbs about all sorts of wild promotional stunts, like how in 1909 pitcher Charles E. Street caught a ball dropped from the Washington Monument. But there are also scandalous pieces of gossip and intrigue within the volumes, suggesting that the baseball diamond was like some sort of athletic and bewhiskered Peyton Place. For instance, Reach's Guide of 1895 recounts the lurid tale of Charley Sweeney, a former pitcher who murdered "'Con' McManus, a local ruffian, in a saloon row in San Francisco" (110). And you thought these guidebooks were full of boring stats!

These guidebooks, of course, were produced by organizations whose agenda was to promote baseball as a wholesome sport, and boy do they ever! Haney's Base Ball Reference, when not making Americans feel bad about their body image, also does a particularly striking job of equating baseball with sound morality, noting that the model baseball player must "comport himself like a gentleman on all occasions, but especially on match days, an in so doing he abstains from profanity and its twin and vile brother obscenity, leaving these vices to be alone cultivated by graduates of our penitentiaries" (71). Don't tell that to Charley Sweeney!

Don't you want to learn more? Of course you do! Well, you are going to have to examine the books yourself if you ever want to learn how to play baseball on ice, 19th century style.

Where is your Fiction Section?

We hear this question a lot at the Information Desk. Ask a simple question, get a simple answer, right? Well, the simple answer to this one is basically - we don't have one. Or rather, we don't have ONE. In fact, there are many places in the Eisenhower Library to find fiction.

You can start with the McNaughton books on M Level. This is a small up-to-date collection of popular, contemporary fiction (and non-fiction), in a convenient browsing area. Check out the McNaughton DVD's right next to it.

If you want to get to "serious fiction", the library's general collections hold thousands of volumes; from medieval romances to 21st century experimental fiction. The hitch is - there is no single place in the stacks where you can find it all. Our books are arranged by Library of Congress call number. This means you have to look more or less by country. German fiction, Italian fiction, British fiction, and American fiction will each have a different call number, and thus a different location. And note that we often buy fiction in both the original language AND English translation.

What to do? Well, the first thing to do is head down to D Level, to the Blue Label section. And from there, you will need to look in the various call number ranges. Here they are in a nutshell:

American: PS 3550-3626
British: PR 6050-6126
French: PQ 2660-2686
German: PT 2600-2688
Italian: PQ 4860-4926
Russian: PG 3475-3490
Latin American: PQ 7000-8560
Spanish: PQ 6651-6726
Caribbean, African, Indian: PR 9205-9570
Chinese: PL 2261-2979
Japanese: PL 782-866
Hebrew: PJ 5050-5055.51
Korean: PL 989-993
Canadian: PR 9199.2-9199.3

So next time you're looking for a good read, go exploring on D Level! Or ask a librarian. We are always happy to share our reading tips.

Chargers, Digital Pens and Laptop Locks, Oh My!

As the semester creeps ever closer, we at the Service Desk (formerly Circulation) would like to remind you that there are a multitude of things to check out other than books here at the library. The following are some invaluable items available at our desk on M Level.


  • Mac and Dell computer Chargers, iPhone 4 and 5 phone chargers, and micro-USB phone chargers.
  • Check out for 2 hours. You may renew them once.

Digital Pens

  • Use these at select group study locations in MSEL and BLC.
  • Check out for 4 hours. You may renew them once.


Laptop Locks

  • Use these to secure your laptop while studying in the library.
  • Check out for 4 hours. You may renew them once.

As long as you have borrowing privileges, all of these essential items are available for check out. So the next time you are in the library working on a paper and your laptop battery runs low, do not panic! Instead, come to your friendly neighborhood Service Desk for assistance!

Of Marginal Interest

Have you ever been warned by a teacher or librarian not to write in books? Rather than being harmful, it turns out that marginalia can often provide rich insight into the way readers have interacted with a book. They can even be the stuff of poetry. Baltimore's own Edgar Allan Poe wrote, "I have always been solicitous of an ample margin; this is not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling in suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general."

Marginalia can be more than just text--it often consists of drawings or other doodles. The medieval period seems to be especially rich in unusual marginalia. You can find many examples of animals or humans doing odd things. Our own Roman de la Rose Digital Library has many interesting examples including a nun harvesting from a penis tree and a dog wearing a Dominican habit followed by other dogs with the caption "veni mecum" or "follow me". On page 483 of his article in Speculum, Timothy Stinson tells us that the Dominican dog is a visual version of a pun "Domini canes" or "dogs of God".

Famous writers such as Herman Melville and John Keats were prolific creators of marginalia. This record of the reader experience can highlight areas of interest or dissent. Mark Twain, for example, could get downright nasty in his appraisal of the works of others. Samuel Beckett's cartoons and doodles in his manuscripts may shed light on his creative process. At the very least, it is humorous. For some writers, marginalia has become a creative expression on its own.

Hang on to those books that you are marking up for your classes--they may be valuable primary research material for some future scholar. But one word of warning: don't create marginalia in any library books. You may end up with a nasty curse!

Walking Back in Time

Charles Carroll, Jr. of Homewood (1775-1825), like many gentlemen of his time, was caught up in the excitement of current horticultural developments. He experimented with new varieties of plants, grafted roses, designed vegetable gardens, and planted an orchard at Homewood. In an 1801 letter to his wife, he describes an unfortunate incident in the orchard:

I am sorry to tell you that my blundering gardner [sic] has suffered the cow to get into the orchard and nip off the tops of almost all the trees – the cow (which is a little pranky at times) I mean to have butchered in the morning. (March 1801, letter to Harriet, private collection)

On an early spring day before the family moved to Homewood for the summer, Charles Carroll, Jr. might have ridden from his Baltimore townhouse to enjoy a stroll around his property. The trees would have leafed out, and flowers would be in bloom. Many years later in an 1819 rental advertisement for Homewood, Charles extols his property as follows:

The grounds, which are well watered, are handsomely bordered by wood, and the lawns have been carefully planted with groves and Clumps of forest trees. Besides a variety of the choicest fruits in prime bearing, there are two gardens suitable to the growth of early and late vegetables. In point of salubrity and rural scenery few situations are superior. (Federal Gazette, Baltimore Daily Advertizer, March 13, 1819.)

To imagine this landscape, walk around the campus to see what Charles might have seen. Although only 3 buildings survive from 1801, and the landscape has been seriously altered, one can imagine what might have been. Begin at the privy, which is very fancy with its brickwork and trim. Inside there are 2 compartments – one for males and one for females – and is paneled with chestnut. During this period there might have been fragrant plants around the privy. Pleasure gardens were probably planted behind Homewood, and the vegetable gardens may have been to the west where a farmhouse was located. The orchards occupied land near the dorms and across what is now Charles Street.

Continue your walk past the library and look at the stable/barn. This building, like Homewood House, is constructed of brick with Palladian windows, although these are Gothic in style. The only change in this structure was made to the front and lower doors, which were originally wood, not glass. Today it is called the Merrick Barn and is the home of the Undergraduate Program in Theatre Arts and Studies.

At this point the landscape begins to change; it becomes more hilly. When you arrive at the Baltimore Museum of Art’s sculpture garden, you will see what some of the Homewood property looked like – quite different from the upper parts of campus. In addition, there was no Charles Street or Art Museum Drive, and the roads that existed were at a much lower elevation. This is a perfect place to sit for a while – enjoy the garden, smell the flowers, and let your mind wander back in time.

If you want a longer walk that includes other points of interest such as the Mattin Center and the Baltimore Museum of Art, go the Homewood Museum website to learn about the Historic Homewood ArtWalk or download the podcast to explore the landscape on your own.

Recycling Roundup

Print room, M-level of MSEL

With summer upon us, the library literally becomes a second home for many of you as a refuge from the heat. All that note taking, coffee drinking and draft revising produces a good deal of waste. Before you chuck those scraps in the garbage, the library offers many disposal methods that are far more sustainable.

  • Paper recycling – save single-sided jobs for scrap, and when you’re done with double-sided, we have receptacles on every floor by the stairs and in the print rooms; don’t forget about cardboard!
  • Comingled recycling – use these bins for most everything besides paper, including hard plastics, glass, and metal
  • Composting – these containers are for all food waste, and you can even throw in paper plates and cups, napkins, towels, and tissues
  • Battery recycling – located in the print room on M-level of MSEL (pictured), this is a safer way to dispose of your AAs and AAAs
  • Pen recycling – in the same location, you can deposit any writing implement – pens, pencils, markers, and highlighters
  • Food wrapper recyclingOn Q-level of MSEL, you can throw out individual candy wrappers and the multipack plastic bags

We’re especially pleased with the last two programs, which are the newest to our recycling suite. You might rightly wonder, “How can you recycle pens or food wrappers?” The JHU Office of Sustainability connected us with a company that actually upcycles many items that would otherwise be landfill bound into useful consumer products like benches and purses. How cool!

Besides disposing of your waste in more responsible ways, how can you further support these so-called cradle to cradle products? As you begin holiday shopping, consider supporting local, independent businesses that carry such merchandise. Just think twice before reaching for that roll of wrapping paper!

But first things first, that final paper isn’t going to write itself. If you have a question about recycling or anything else, you know who to ask

The Dog Days of Summer

Is this Baltimore summer hot enough for you? You might say we have hit the heart of the "dog days" of summer. You might also wonder where the heck that phrase comes from! It turns out, the origin of the "dog days" of summer is far older and far more interesting than you might have thought.

Although the phrase sounds as if it could have come out of the American 50s, it turns out people referred to July and August as the "dog days" of summer as far back as Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. The Romans connected the heat of summer with Sirius, known as the "Dog Star" as it is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major, or "Big Dog." During the conjunction of Sirius and the sun, the two stars are aligned as seen from earth. The twenty days before and after this conjunction are officially known as the "dog days" of summer and generally translate to the time-frame of July 3 to August 11. However, various interpretations exist and the "dog days" can mean generally any time from July through August (as people from Bawlmer well know, these can be the hottest days of the year!)

During the dog days of summer in Baltimore, there are many escapes from the heat and humidity. Visit the George Peabody Library (nicely air-conditioned!), the Homewood Museum or the Evergreen Museum and Library. Stay in and watch a good movie. Or read a good book! If you're brave enough to venture out into the heat, Baltimore offers a plethora of warm weather wonders. Check out Shakespeare in the Meadow with productions of both Much Ado about Nothing and Measure for Measure. Head down to Little Italy and watch a movie under the stars. Cool off with a swim in the Hopkins pool. Catch a ballgame. Or, take your dog for a walk (or a swim!) Just remember to bring along some water for your four-legged friend!

Charles Street — Baltimore’s Main Artery

As any Johns Hopkins student should know, arteries are the blood vessels that carry life-sustaining oxygenated blood from the heart to other parts of the body. Similarly, it is easy to think of Charles Street--one of the oldest thoroughfares in the country--as the main artery of the city of Baltimore. Since the 1700's, Charles Street has supplied the life-blood of culture, education, and commerce to Baltimore.

Charles Street is the dividing line between streets designated as "west" or "east".  Starting in south Baltimore, the road passes through such varied neighborhoods as Federal Hill, Mt. Vernon, Charles Village and up into the leafy northern areas of Homeland and Roland Park. This beautiful and historic road has been designated as a National Scenic Byway by the Federal Highway Administration.

The cultural heart of the city, Mt. Vernon Place, is situated right on Charles Street. The magnificent Washington Monument and its surrounding parks are a beautiful oasis in the midst of a busy city. And this space is shared by two of the most important cultural institutions in the city, the Walters Art Museum and the George Peabody Library. Built in the early 1800s, Mt. Vernon Place has started showing the wear and tear of city life. But fortunately the Mt. Vernon Place Conservancy is giving both the monument and the surrounding area the restoration that they deserve.

Most of us see Charles Street through the window of a car or bus, but the best way is on foot. Pedestrians actually get the chance to look up and notice some of the great architectural detail found on the route. For many years Charles Street was the host to one of the city's two Easter Parades--the other was on Pennsylvania Avenue. The street is also the location of the annual Baltimore Pride Parade. Another important part of Charles Street that is getting a great pedestrian makeover is the stretch near the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. And if you want to get some great exercise on Charles, you can enter the annual Charles Street 12 Miler footrace.

However you decide to experience, get out and enjoy all the history, beauty, and culture that Charles Street has to offer.

Beer: The Blog Post

"They who drink beer will think beer."
- Washington Irving (1783-1859)


The mere mention provokes desire and conjures thirst.

But is it thirst for the triple-hopped, top-fermented, and bottle conditioned adult beverage that you feel -- or thirst for knowledge about it? The library is, naturally, the place to go if you thirst after knowledge, even about beer.

The Sheridan Libraries have among their collections brimming tankards of beer scholarship. You might sip the hoppy Froth!: The Science of Beer, take a deep draught of the malty Every man his own brewer, or quaff the frothy Beer is Proof God Loves Us. The libraries have books and reports on the economics of beer and the beer industry, on the science of fermentation in beer production, on the history of brewing, and on legal issues surrounding the beer industry. Our holdings include beer-related books, serial publications, and at least one film that is utterly besotted with an all beer theme.

But are we awash in all things beer? Not really. We're missing the amber nectar itself.  For that, you'll have to slake your thirst elsewhere.

A Canadian film star once wished on screen to be:

"Someplace warm. A place where the beer flows like wine."