On the Streets Where
entrance to Howard Kelly’s
house in Bolton Hill.
who founded The Johns Hopkins Hospital went home
to townhouses and mansions. What's left of those
Take a stroll through Baltimore’s tree-lined
Bolton Hill neighborhood and you’ll catch on
pretty fast that you’re in a world of faded grandeur.
Situated in a 20-block area on two gently sloping rises
above downtown, the neighborhood’s regal townhouses
and vest-pocket parks once were proclaimed the gem
of the city by novelist Henry James. Indeed, by the
end of the 19th century, Daniel Coit Gilman, Johns
Hopkins University’s first president, lived here.
So did two of the fabled founding Four Doctors of The
Johns Hopkins Hospital: the world famous gynecologist
Howard Kelly and the first surgeon in chief, William
Several of the houses of those early Hopkinsites
still stand—carved now
for the most part into many apartments. A worn, three-story,
faded red-brick row house with white marble trim, for
instance, carries a London-like blue plaque telling
us that William Halsted lived there from 1891 to 1896.
A similar plaque on a mammoth five-story building with
20 apartments—once the single-family
home where Kelly presided over a household of servants
and nine children—identifies
it as the former residence of a “wizard of the
Do the current residents of Kelly’s domain, we
wondered, have any idea that they are cooking in kitchens
and sleeping in bedrooms where one of Johns Hopkins’ founding
physicians once romped with his children? Encountering
a balding, bearded man sporting a rumpled yellow T-shirt
emerging from the front door of the apartment house,
we decided to find out: “Do you know who Howard
“A doctor,” the man shrugged. “He’s
Two of Howard Kelly’s many grandchildren, W.
Boulton “Bo” Kelly Jr., 78, and his cousin,
Margery Coates, 86, vividly remember “1406,” the
splendid mansion on Eutaw Place where their grandfather
settled late in 1892—and remained until his death
in 1943. With its marble-floored foyer, wide mahogany
banisters (“wonderful for sliding down,” says
Coates), large front hallway mirrors, huge glass chandeliers
and heavy, uncomfortable Victorian furniture, the place,
they say, remains unforgettable.
Here and there, Kelly kept a collection of reptiles,
one or two of which would periodically escape from
their glass tanks to slither through the house. In
the servant’s quarters, the great physician, a fundamentalist Christian, would
hold regular prayer meetings for his staff. And on Sundays, Bo remembers, a bevy
of grandchildren and assorted relatives would gather around the massive oak dining
table for substantial dinners served by the butler. Guests would frequently be
invited to drop in to discuss Kelly’s various civic crusades. And since
one of his projects focused on ending prostitution in Baltimore, among those
stopping by would be occasional ladies of the night whom Kelly would try to convert
to a righteous life.
The famed doctor was happiest,
though, when settled in his second-floor library and
its adjoining carriage house, where he kept his Pierce
Arrow and Cadillac parked in a first-floor garage.
Jammed with books from floor to ceiling, the library
also housed a mind-boggling assortment of coins, mineral
samples, Mexican pottery, shells, oil lamps, snake
skins, even a saber-toothed tiger’s skull
and several shrunken heads.
apartment house where Welch lived for
12 years wears a For Rent sign flanked
by a historical plaque.
But of the Hospital’s founding four doctors,
Kelly was the only one who lived in a mansion right
from the start. William Welch, the first pathologist,
never married, never owned a house and was content
to spend most of his free time at his clubs. When he
did come home, he lived in rented quarters, always
managed by the same landlady and her daughter. He moved
when they did and spent more than 40 years in simple
rooms that they oversaw. (A bronze plaque adorning
the townhouse at 935 St. Paul Street, where Welch lived
from 1891 to 1903, designates it the William. H. Welch
The other two big doctors—William
Osler, the first physician in chief, and Halsted—lived
in the Hospital after it opened in 1889, where their
habits became famous. One early medical resident, Lewellys Barker, whose quarters
were next to Osler’s, recalled being able to set his watch with relative
safety “at 10 p.m. each night when I heard him place his boots on
the floor outside his bedroom door.” Halsted, meanwhile, had his Hospital
rooms repainted repeatedly in his frustration to get the color just right.
Hill today. The Kelly home is second
from the right.
Marriage finally prompted Osler and Halsted to seek
more suitable arrangements. When the walrus-mustached
Osler married Grace Revere Gross (Paul Revere’s
great-granddaughter) in 1892, he bought a new, three-story house, not in Bolton
Hill, but in the equally prestigious nearby Mt. Vernon area. For 14 years, the
couple hosted medical students, residents and fellow faculty there. By 1905,
though, when the Oslers prepared to leave Hopkins for good to go to Oxford, their
house was already slated for demolition to make way for the Rochambaud apartment
house (a Baltimore landmark until it was torn down last fall). As a parting gift,
Grace Osler gave the engraved nameplate from the front door to Harvey Cushing,
Halsted’s young surgeon in training, who had been a frequent guest.
huge house where Halsted and his wife
once lived in lonely splendor is now
broken into apartments. The plaque,
below, adorns its facade.
Halsted, who wed chief surgical
nurse Caroline Hampton a year after arriving in Baltimore,
took a few years to find a home up to his standards.
In 1891, a bemused Welch noted in a letter to a friend
that “Halsted has taken a large
house on Madison Avenue [the house in Bolton Hill with the plaque], one of the
biggest in Baltimore and still feels that he has not enough room to move around.”
1896, Halsted finally moved into an immense three-story
house on Eutaw Place in Bolton Hill. Why he required
all that room isn’t clear. Hospitality
certainly wasn’t his thing. Cushing remembered
being invited to dine at his aloof chief’s home
only a couple of times in 15 years. He found the home
a dismal residence, reminiscent of Dickens’ Bleak
great, magnificent, cold stone house, full of rare
old furniture, clocks, pictures and whatnot in topsy
turvy condition … and most unlivable.” For
heat, most of the rooms relied solely on open fireplaces—fueled
by white oak and hickory logs, specially cut and aged
in North Carolina to Halsted’s
The Halsteds—Dr. and Mrs.—forged an unusual living arrangement. His
office and bedroom were on the second floor; Mrs. Halsted’s
separate accommodations were on the third. He and she
ate breakfast alone in their respective apartments
but shared dinners together at 7 p.m., chatted until
8:30, then retired to their rooms.
Ironically, the fate of that grand Halsted home was
sealed by Howard Kelly’s
grandson Bo during the 1960s. By then, the Bolton Hill mansion had been bought
by the city and divided into offices. Kelly, a city planner, was set up in Halsted’s
former bedroom. And it was there, in 1966, as part of an urban renewal plan,
that he recommended the house be demolished.
By the late 1930s, parts of Bolton Hill were slowly
beginning to lose their luster. As spacious neighborhoods
with wide lawns and elaborate homes began springing
up at Baltimore’s northern edge, well-heeled physicians took to the idea
of going home to less-crowded surroundings. For many, the winding, leafy roads
of Guilford—founded in 1913 two miles north of downtown as an “in-city
suburb”—became a favored enclave. Among the Hopkins physicians who
would set up there was Lewellys Barker, Osler’s former Hospital dormitory
mate. But no Hopkins salary could pay for the house that he built.
|> Randy Barker in front of the 38-room mansion his grandfather built in 1917 in Guilford.
Barker had left Hopkins in 1900 to become a professor
and chief of anatomy at the University of Chicago.
In 1905 he returned to succeed Osler as physician in
chief of the Hospital. Nine years later, he was faced
with a financial decision. Johns Hopkins wanted all
its physicians to become full-time faculty so they
could focus on research and teaching. The School of
Medicine would pay them a fixed salary of $10,000 ($194,600
in today’s money), but they would have to give
up any outside private practice.
And so, in 1914, the Hospital’s second physician
in chief relinquished his position, switched his association
with Hopkins to visiting professor and began focusing
on his private practice in his residence at 1035 North
Calvert Street. In 1917, he built a 38-room mansion
on Stratford Road in Guilford. By 1919, he was making
five times what Hopkins had offered.
Barker’s grandson, Randol “Randy” Barker—a professor
of medicine at Hopkins Bayview—was an infant when his grandfather died
in 1943. But his grandmother lived in the Guilford house until her death in 1961,
so Barker remembers it well. His grandparents kept large, separate bedrooms,
he says. The one feature about his grandfather’s suite that remains utterly
memorable is the bathroom. It featured a shower, with five hoop-like, perforated
pipes that surrounded the bather horizontally, shooting water from every direction. “I’ve
never seen another one like it.”
Following Mrs. Barker’s
death, the home was purchased by Walter E. Loch, a
Hopkins otolaryngologist of some repute, and his wife,
Mary, also a Hopkins physician. There, in a grisly
twist, in August 1994, the elderly Lochs were both
bludgeoned to death in their beds in what turned out
to be a family murder.
By 1996, the house had been
sold and refurbished. That year, when it was featured
as the Baltimore Symphony Decorators’ Showhouse, a brochure offered a brief
history of the Johns Hopkins physicians who had lived there. Almost no one seemed
to have known any of them personally.