Tuesday, November 24, 2020

 

The Small World of E. Francis Baldwin

                                                                         by Amanda Bernard


Because I commute all the way from Sykesville, Maryland down to the Catholic University campus, it took me a while to realize that the “E. F. Baldwin” responsible for the University’s first new construction was in fact the same E. F. Baldwin after whom my favorite local restaurant was named. Small world! Sadly for me, Baldwin’s Station & Pub was sold to new owners this past summer, but they’re still running a restaurant out of the historic train station.

The 1883 Sykesville B&O Station on the bank of the Patapsco River was, until recently, Baldwin’s Station & Pub. The building has been celebrated for its “lively Queen Anne jumble of gables” (Lewis xvi). Drawing by Wiley Purkey from the author’s personal collection.

It turns out E. Francis Baldwin (1837–1916)—as his name often appears; the E. stood for Ephraim—was a prolific architect.

Among Baldwin’s most iconic extant works are the “four-block-long” B&O Camden Station Warehouse, which baseball fans might recognize as the backdrop to the Baltimore Orioles’ ballpark at Camden Yards; the Point of Rocks B&O Station (“to many, the quintessential Victorian railroad station”); and the 22-sided B&O Passenger Car Shop in Baltimore—“oftentimes erroneously referred to as a ‘roundhouse’”—which the B&O Railroad Museum now calls home (Avery 60; Harwood xiv; Avery 54).

Clockwise from upper left: the B&O Camden Station Warehouse (1898), the Point of Rocks B&O Station (1875), and the 22-sided B&O Passenger Car Shop (1884)—home of the B&O Railroad Museum. All photographs courtesy of the B&O Railroad Museum.

Meanwhile, in the CatholicU universe, Baldwin is remembered as the architect of Caldwell Hall and McMahon Hall—the first two buildings constructed after the University was established in 1887. Today, Caldwell and McMahon are the two oldest extant buildings on campus. Baldwin attended the cornerstone laying ceremony for Caldwell on May 24, 1888 and saw it through to completion in 1889. A year later he was asked to oversee the construction of McMahon, which was completed in 1895.

Long story short, Baltimore was the common factor in Baldwin’s career with both the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Catholic Church. During Baldwin’s lifetime, Baltimore was the “mother of American railroading,” but before and since that time the city has been recognized as “the locus of the first Catholic diocese in America” (Harwood xi; Lewis xv). Baldwin’s decision to base his architectural firm in Baltimore had important repercussions; on the one hand he “became the principal architect for the Catholic Church in Maryland,” but on the other hand he found that “his radius of action” was largely restricted to “the reach of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad”—sealing his fate as “a parochial rather than a national figure” (Lewis xv).

An important “bread-and-butter account” in his early architectural career, the B&O remained Baldwin’s biggest client from the early 1870s through the late 1890s; he became for all intents and purposes its “house architect,” much like his mentor John Rudolph Niernsee (1814–1885) before him (Avery viii; Lewis xvi). Diagnosing Baldwin as a “chronic Baltimorean,” Michael J. Lewis explains Baldwin’s relative obscurity compared to his first partner, Bruce Price, who left the firm in 1873, enjoyed a distinguished career as a domestic architect, and is supposed to have influenced the far-more-famous Frank Lloyd Wright: “But for this [Price] had to move to New York—a choice that Baldwin, constrained by the bonds of patronage and clientele, could not make” (Lewis xvii).

The 1890 University Station at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The station was demolished sometime in the 1970s to make way for the Metro. Upper photograph from the University Photograph Collection, Box 41, Folder 1. Lower photograph courtesy of the B&O Railroad Museum.

Unfortunately, the building that best represents the marriage of Baldwin’s work for the B&O and the Catholic Church is no longer with us. Built in 1890, University Station at CatholicU was razed and replaced by the Brookland–CUA Metro Station sometime in the 1970s. University Station was one of only a handful of B&O stations executed in the Richardsonian style—named after Baldwin’s contemporary Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886). In November 1889—the same month that Caldwell Hall was dedicated—the B&O offered to build the young University a “neat and convenient” station out “of blue Georgetown stone so as to harmonize with the handsome university building.” As Carlos P. Avery points out in his definitive history of Baldwin, “That harmony was ensured, of course, because E. Francis Baldwin was the architect for both buildings” (Avery 41).

According to Avery—who spent about as many years researching Baldwin as Baldwin spent working on B&O projects—the University’s first rector, John J. Keane, personally prepared the plans for Caldwell Hall (then-known as the Divinity Building) after rejecting all of the proposals that had previously been submitted as part of a design competition (Avery 81). As an aside, one of the competitors was fellow Baltimore architect George A. Frederick (1842–1924), who Avery variously describes as Baldwin’s “arch-rival” and “nemesis” (Avery vii).

In his history of Keane’s rectorship (1887–1896), Patrick H. Ahern credits Baldwin with putting Keane’s plans in “working shape” (Ahern 34). Letters from Baldwin to Keane reveal Baldwin’s role in introducing a number of pragmatic measures—perhaps the most notable of which was the decision to use “Georgetown gneiss rock, with Ohio sandstone trimmings” instead of brick (Ahern 34). In a letter dated September 5, 1887, Baldwin at first politely acquiesces to Keane’s request to execute the building in brick but then goes on to

“strongly recommend the substitution of stone in place of brick, for the reason that brick, in a few years, will become rusty and shabby, rendering painting almost a necessity which then becomes a mortgage in the shape of renewal every 5 to 10 years—whilst stone is rather improved by age, as time and weather combine to add color and picturesqueness to its already most substantial and enduring character. The extra cost of stone would be about 3% on the cost of the building, amounting to not much more than one painting of the brick walls” (Baldwin 5–6).

In short, Facilities can thank Baldwin for sparing them the trouble of having to paint the exterior of Caldwell for the last 130 years!

Architectural drawing of the Divinity Building (a/k/a Caldwell Hall) by Baldwin. Not everyone was a fan of the design; an early resident once denigrated it as “an asylum with a brewery attachment” (Nuesse 165). From the University Photograph Collection, Box 33, Folder 2.
 
This brings me to one of Baldwin’s greatest strengths as an architect, which unfortunately also seems to be the other main reason for his relative obscurity today. Although I’ve focused on his work for the B&O and CatholicU, the truth is that “he worked on a large number of projects for a wide-ranging clientele—secular and ecclesiastical, public and private, commercial and social” (Avery vii). In other words, Baldwin was extremely versatile—even chameleon-like. No doubt, his versatility came at the expense of developing a signature style; it’s not really feasible to point to a Baldwin the way you could a Van Gogh; but does that constitute an artistic failure on Baldwin’s part? As I’ve learned more about Baldwin in the last few weeks, I’ve been impressed by the way he somehow shaped the regional landscape without leaving his fingerprints all over it. He seems to be everywhere and nowhere. In Lewis’s estimation, Baldwin belonged to the class of humble Victorian architects who simply “felt their task was to serve their clients ably and responsibly, to translate their programmatic requirements into durable, efficient, and fashionable designs, and to guard their clients’ money zealously” (Lewis xv). Perhaps nothing better supports this characterization than the aforementioned September 5, 1887 letter to Keane, which Baldwin signed “Your Obedient Servant.”

About the Author

As one of a select few Graduate Library Pre-professionals (GLPs) at The Catholic University of America (CatholicU), Amanda combines full-time, salaried work at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives with part-time graduate study in CatholicU's Department of Library and Information Science (LIS). She earned her bachelor's degree in English from St. Mary's College of Maryland in 2016. A lifelong resident of Maryland, she currently lives near Sykesville's historic downtown with her pet corgi.

 

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Anna Kresmer, MSLIS—Archivist at the Hays T. Watkins Research Library of the B&O Railroad Museum—for helping me obtain many of the photographs included in this piece.

 

References

Ahern, Patrick H. The Catholic University of America — 1887–1896 (The Rectorship of John J. Keane). Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1949.

Avery, Carlos P. E. Francis Baldwin, Architect: The B&O, Baltimore, and Beyond. Baltimore Architecture Foundation, 2003.

Baldwin, E. Francis. Letter to Catholic University Rector John J. Keane. 5 September 1887. Box 1, Folder 7. Office of the President/Rector. The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Washington D.C.

Harwood, Herbert H., Jr. Foreword. E. Francis Baldwin, Architect: The B&O, Baltimore, and Beyond, by Carlos P. Avery, Baltimore Architecture Foundation, 2003, pp. xi–xiv.

Lewis, Michael J. Introduction. E. Francis Baldwin, Architect: The B&O, Baltimore, and Beyond, by Carlos P. Avery, Baltimore Architecture Foundation, 2003, pp. xv–xvii.

Lord, Charles K. Letters to Catholic University Rector John J. Keane. 29 November 1889 and 13 January 1890. Box 1, Folder 2. Office of the President/Rector. The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Washington D.C.

Malesky, Robert P. The Catholic University of America. Arcadia, 2010.

Nuesse, C. Joseph. The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History. CUA Press, 1990.

 

 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

 

Meet the Tender of Locomotives

by John Geist

Herman “Obie” Oberender was born in Baltimore in March 1895 to German immigrant parents Anna Strauber and Richard Oberender. The family lived on Port Street in East Baltimore, some blocks east of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The 1910 US census reports him living or working at a home for boys as an errand boy in the electric shop.

World War I found him as a Navy Fireman on the USS Delaware, a battleship that traveled to England but never saw active combat during the war. After his honorable discharge in November 1918, joining the ranks of B&O Railroad employees set Obie on a lifetime path. Following a start as a machinist’s helper at the B&O Riverside Yards in South Baltimore in 1922, Railroad personnel records show a promotion to machinist.

Now, the B&O Railroad, rather unique among its contemporaries, had saved an extensive and extraordinarily valuable collection of old locomotives, cars and other railroad equipment tracing back to the American Civil War, as well as reproductions from much earlier days. The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 included early exhibitions of these historic pieces. Becoming the centerpiece at the upcoming 100th anniversary of the founding of the B&O in 1927 was their next destination.

Back to Obie. A double page spread in the Baltimore Sun Metrogravure Magazine on June 28, 1953 reported extensively about his unique career. No longer just a machinist, in 1925

“he was assigned to the job of helping whip them (the old locomotives) into shape for the “Fair of the Iron Horse” in 1927, and was also told at the time to learn to run all of them”.

That opportunity catapulted Herman Oberender into a demanding but exciting role with full responsibility for overseeing and operating all the antique engines for the remainder of his railroad career. He was still a machinist at Riverside Yards, but repeated lengthy transfers to the Public Relations Department for his locomotive duties now defined Obie’s life.

Perhaps because of the phenomenal success of its 100th birthday extravaganza, the 1927 Fair of the Iron Horse, the B&O started receiving requests to loan its antique equipment to movie companies. This meant Obie was often on the road to movie or other events at widely separated locations across the U.S. In 1937, that meant taking the replica of the 1837 engine No. 13, Lafayette, to Chino, CA for the filming of Paramount Pictures’ “Wells Fargo.” Later film trips included “Stand Up and Fight” (1939), again to California, “Rock Island Trail” (1950), “The Great Locomotive Chase” (1956) with the William Mason to Georgia and North Carolina (1956); and “Raintree Country” (1957) with the William Mason, to Kentucky. Non-movie events included the Chicago World’s Fair – A Century of Progress (1933), Chicago Railroad Fair (1948), Western Maryland Railway’s “Lincoln Goes to Gettysburg” with the Thatcher Perkins (1952), and appearance on television episodes of “Omnibus,” the “Today Show,” and “The Gray Ghost” with the William Mason. On July 23, 1954, NBC produced the first color telecast from Baltimore featuring Obie at the throttle of the Tom Thumb from the B&O’s Mt. Winan’s yard. The pinnacle of his television appearances undoubtedly was the March 30, 1958 nation-wide telecast of a segment of NBC’s “Wide, Wide World”. This 90-minute tribute to American railroading, “Flagstop at Malta Bend,” provided Obie, a man of extraordinary self-confidence and not bashful about self-promotion, with the opportunity to be featured in the cab of the William Mason for live shots from Baltimore and conversation with then nationally known TV personality Dave Garroway, moderator of the documentary.

Over many years, the B&O’s beautiful and unique collection had been gathered and preserved in the B&O‘s old south Baltimore roundhouse at Bailey’s. The 1953 Baltimore Sun Metrogravure Magazine article quoted above later described a big move from Bailey’s with these words:

“One of the neatest pieces of engineering in a decade, they’re saying down around Bailey’s Roundhouse, has been the persuading of Herman Oberender to let the movers take his babies away without first wrapping them carefully in cotton wool. Oberender’ s babies are a dozen or so locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars which, with hundreds of smaller pieces of railroad equipment, have just been transferred from Bailey’s Roundhouse to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s new transportation museum in the roundhouse at Mount Clare Station.”

With this move, “Obie” left his machining duties at Riverside and joined the brand-new Museum staff.



Obie was soon off to his next movie or television gig after first settling into his museum office with business cards naming him as full-time Custodian of his “babies”.  From then until the Museum was later temporarily closed in June 1958, Obie was the “tender of the locomotives”. He rounded out his B&O career in 1960 and retired to his home in Middle River.

John Geist, Archives Volunteer, October 2020


References

Family records

Baltimore Sun, Pictorial Review, October 12, 1952

Baltimore Sun Metrogravure Magazine, June 28, 1953

B&O Railroad Magazine, September 1954

NBC, script for “Wide Wide World” program, March 30, 1958

Baltimore Sun, July 10, 1960

 

Image Citation

 B&O Railroad Magazine, June 1955

Friday, July 10, 2020




A Different View: Windows Into Black History on the Railroad
By Makea King
Two African American men work on railroad construction while a White man watches. The image was taken in the early 1860s during the building of Civil War railway construction.1

You’re never too old to learn something new, right? I was in elementary school when I learned about Chinese immigrants building the Transcontinental Railroad. It went right along with the classroom lesson that revolved around the California Gold Rush and the promise of a bright, new country emerging in the West. After learning about Chinese immigrants working on the Transcontinental Railroad, I assumed that that was the end of the story. The immigrants built the railroad and connected the two coasts and everyone lived happily ever after. This is generally the point in the story when the narrator steps in to do a voiceover to let you know that actually, everyone did not live happily ever after.

In learning this lesson, I inadvertently failed to learn another lesson. I was 36 years old when I learned that enslaved Blacks were forced to lay the entirety of the southern railroad system.1 The railroad companies would either have their own enslaved workers for the railroad or they would lease them from nearby plantations. During the Civil War, the enslaved who could escape to the Union army would act as spies and offer counterintelligence on Confederate railroad locations and army camps. This would allow Union troops to sabotage rail ties and launch sneak attacks2. Who wouldn’t want to learn about this during history class? However, despite this enormous contribution to the Union army’s victory, most Union commanders commonly referred to the self-emancipated Blacks as “contraband”, which diminished their value and importance.
 
A group of railroad construction workers is gathered around railroad tracks on construction site in Virginia.2

 After the end of the Civil War and the subsequent Emancipation Proclamation declaration, the jobs available for the formerly enslaved often meant staying on the plantations and farms, working as sharecroppers. Those who sought to move on beyond that lifestyle gained employment with various railroad companies as brakemen, porters, maids, and cooks. Formerly enslaved women and men gained steady wages by working with railroad companies, however, there were limited avenues of promotion available to them. In the late 19th century, George Pullman established the Pullman Company, which operated a line of train sleeper cars, staffed by Pullman Porters and Maids. These employees served the White middle-class train passengers and provided them a sense of luxury while traveling via rail. Pullman Porters cooked their food, made their drinks, cleaned, and prepared their sleeping quarters, while the Pullman Maids watched the children, bathed, dressed, and even styled the hair of the women riding the train.3

A train passenger sits in a booth across from an African American woman employed as a Pullman Maid. The passenger seems to be getting her nails done. This was among the few beauty services Pullman Maids provided to train car passengers.3

While the promise of a stable job and consistent wage drew many to working on the railroads, many formerly enslaved Blacks were simply eager to enjoy the freedom of train travel. However, despite the end of the Civil War and the fall of the Confederacy, Black people were still forced to walk a narrow line in American society. In 1866, a man named Aaron Bradley simply wanted to travel on the B&O Railroad. Bradley believed that his ticket allowed him to sit wherever he desired, yet he was quickly escorted out of the passenger car that held only White passengers to a train car with only Black passengers. Bradley argued that his ticket did not specify which train car he could ride in, and thus afforded him a seat wherever he deemed fit. Bradley would later sue the B&O Railroad for $100, but he would ultimately lose, despite the legitimacy of his case and his occupation as a lawyer.4 

Throughout the Jim Crow Era and the brief period of Reconstruction, Black Baltimorians used the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to push forward new civil liberties for emancipated Blacks. The Mutual United Brotherhood of Liberty, established in 1885 by Pastor Harvey Johnson and others working within the church ministry, worked to elevate the livelihood of Blacks in Maryland and the United States as a whole. With the B&O Railroad in their figurative backyard, the MUBL was able to challenge segregation laws in transportation, education, and the government.5

Well after the Civil War, Black women joined White women as railroad workers to replace their male counterparts as World War I and World War II reshaped the globe.6 Although many women went back to their households after the wars ended, many did not. The spark of independence was not easily diminished and the learned skills and trades made available at railroad companies proved to be an avenue that allowed women to earn their own wages. 
Three African American women clean a locomotive. Left to right: Florence Rancher, Ann Rancher, and Ila Young.4

The land that the B&O Railroad occupies is rich with the stories, collective histories, and hopes and inspirations of the many generations who have come before us. The fortitude of mind that the self-emancipated enslaved had in order to escape and go on to work with the Union army to secure their freedom is directly tied to the cultural significance of railroads and their place in Black history. It is no coincidence that the name for the network of abolitionists that helped the enslaved escape is called the Underground Railroad. Regardless of it being underground, or surface level, the railroad has always been a symbol of freedom and a path to opportunity.

Four African American men are pictured in cook’s uniforms in a train kitchen car. Obtaining employment on a train as a cook was viewed as a steady and reliable form of employment.5


About the Author: Makea King is an experienced marketing and communications professional, currently working in higher education. She is completing her internship at the B&O Railroad Museum working on an oral history collection of African Americans and the railroad system. She is set to graduate with her MLIS degree at the conclusion of the Fall 2020 semester. 


References


1: Cavanaugh, Maureen, and Pat Finn. “The African-American Railroad Experience.” KPBS Public Media, KPBS, 23 Mar. 2010, www.kpbs.org/news/2010/mar/23/african-american-railroad-experience/.

 2: Blouin, Lily Anna. “The Civil War and African American Railroaders: Part 1 of 2.” Nrrhof, Railroad History | National Railroad Hall of Fame | Galesburg, 12 Nov. 2018, www.nrrhof.org/single-post/2017/11/10/The-Civil-War-and-African-American-Railroaders-Part-1-of-2.

3: “Pullman Porter.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 14 Mar. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pullman_porter.

4:“African Americans Struggle to Define Freedom on the Border.” A Brotherhood of Liberty: Black Reconstruction and Its Legacies in Baltimore, 1865-1920, by Dennis Patrick Halpin, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2019, pp. 18–19.

5: “Rev. Dr. Harvey Johnson: the Preacher & 19th Century Activism.” Black Baltimore 1870-1920, Harvey Johnson, Maryland State Archives, Maryland State Archives, 3 Feb. 1998, msa.maryland.gov/msa/stagser/s1259/121/6050/html/12414000.html.

6: Lily Anna Blouin, Mae Gilliland Wright. “African American Women and the Railroads.” Nrrhof, Railroad History | National Railroad Hall of Fame | Galesburg, 30 Nov. 2017, www.nrrhof.org/single-post/2017/11/30/African-American-Women-and-the-Railroads.

 

Image References

 

1: United States Army. Military Railway Service, Russell, A. J., photographer. (ca. 1862) Two Railroad Construction Workers Hammer Track as Third Construction Worker Watches. United States, ca. 1862. [or 1863] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2006676186/.

2: United States Army. Military Railway Service, Russell, A. J., photographer. (ca. 1862) Railroad Construction Workers. United States, ca. 1862. [or 1863] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2006676183/.

3: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Public Relations Department. (ca. 1925). P1.6.2.6.7-001. Pullman maid serving white passenger on the B&O Railroad's Capitol Limited Line. General Photograph Collection, Hays T. Watkins Research Library, B&O Railroad Museum.

4: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Public Relations Department. (1940). P1.6.2.1.7-023. African American women work crew cleans locomotive in Ivorydale, Ohio. Left to right: Florence Rancher, Ann Rancher, and Ila Young. General Photograph Collection, Hays T. Watkins Research Library, B&O Railroad Museum. 

5: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, Public Relations Department. (ca. 1930). P1.6.2.5.1.1-027. African American cooks as part of a dining services crew. General Photograph Collection, Hays T. Wakins Research Library, B&O Railroad Museum.