Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What do the B&O Railroad Museum and Mount Clare Museum have in common? How do these 18th and 19th century sites share a history?

On a rise in the center of Carroll Park in southwest Baltimore stands Maryland's first house museum and one of the oldest and finest examples of colonial Georgian architecture in the city. Mount Clare is a 1760 colonial Georgian home built by one of Maryland’s leading patriots and one of our first state senators, Charles Carroll, Barrister.

 The barrister’s father, Dr. Carroll of Annapolis purchased the land in 1732 on the Patapsco River, a 2,568-acre tract which was rich in iron ore. This land, now known as Carroll Park, was just west of Baltimore. Dr. Carroll, along with Charles Carroll of Annapolis and his brother Daniel Carroll of Duddington, Daniel Dulany and Benjamin Tasker, formed the Baltimore Iron Works on this land.  Dr Carroll sold all but 800 acres to the Baltimore Iron Works.  At the age of 32 the barrister inherits the property, and in 1756 begins building Mount Clare to serve as his summer residence.  Mount Clare was the center of Georgia Plantation, a self-sufficient plantation with a diverse community.  He named his new summer residence after his grandmother, Mary Clare Dunn, and his sister, Mary Clare Carroll (Maccubbin). The house was built in the Georgian style of soft pink brick, most of which would have been made from the brick pits on the plantation. A series of grass ramps led from the bowling green down shaded terraces or falls. A sweeping view spread across the lower fields to the waters of the Patapsco River, about one mile away. 

The Barrister was a member of the Convention which met June 21, 1776, and voted for "declaring the United Colonies free and independent States". He presided over several conventions and was one of the seven distinguished patriots appointed to prepare a Declaration and Charter of Rights and form of government for the state of Maryland, adopted in 1776. In November 1776, he was elected to Congress in place of his young kinsman, Charles Carroll of Carrollton. Having declined the Chief Judgeship of the General Court of Maryland, he was elected to the first State Senate in 1777 and re-elected in 1781, and served until his death in 1783.

Because the Carrolls had no surviving children, the Barrister's will provided that James Maccubbin, one of Mary Clare Carroll Maccubbin’s five sons, become his heir by assuming the Carroll name. It was during James's ownership that the cornerstone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was laid on land donated by him in 1829 for a right-of-way and depot, the Mount Clare Station - the first railroad station in the country. A stone viaduct over Gwynns Falls, the oldest railroad bridge in the country, was named the Carrollton Viaduct in honor of James Carroll. In 1848, the Carrolls sold land for the right-of-way for the Locust Point Branch of the B&O railroad, a spur leading from the main line southward to the shipyards.

James Maccubbin Carroll, Jr. and his family, the third generation and last of the Carroll family to live at Mount Clare, departed from Mount Clare in 1845. By 1861 the Civil War effort was gaining energy. Federal troops camped on the property which was called Camp Carroll while the house was maintained as a hotel. In 1870 the Carroll heirs leased the house and 15 acres to the West Baltimore Scheutzen Association as a clubhouse and recreational park equipped with a shooting range, ten-pin alley, drinking hall and bandstand.

In 1890 the Carroll heirs sold the house and 20 acres to the City of Baltimore Park Commission for use as a public park. The Park Commission pursued more acreage expanding the park to 36 acres. In 1903, the firm of Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architects was hired to make improvements to Baltimore's park lands. Work began in Carroll Park in 1904 and today many of the Olmsted features are still in existence.

The museum has one of the finest privately owned decorative arts collections in the country, most of which belonged to the three generations of the Carroll family who resided at Mount Clare. It is renowned amongst scholars and collectors alike. The collection consists of English and Chinese export objects as well as many regional objects and furnishings from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. On exhibit are 18 family portraits by notable artists such as Charles Willson Peale, John Hesselius, John Wesley Jarvis and Robert Edge Pine. This exceptional collection allows us to provide a remarkably personal interpretation of life at Mount Clare – a rare treat for historic house visitors.

For more information, visit our web site, www.mountclare.org  

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