Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Remembering John Eager Howard and His Vision for Baltimore

Remembering John Eager Howard and his Vision for Baltimore

©Edward C. Papenfuse, Maryland State Archivist, retired[1]

John Eager Howard statue, Mount Vernon Place, , in the mist, 1909, courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society

There is an old soldiers’ folk song that in an address to Congress on April 19, 1951, General Douglas MacArthur made permanent in our collective memory, Old soldiers never die, they simply fade away. There have been many what are called snowclones of that refrain, including my favorite, Old Archivists never die, they just get filed away.

It is organizations like the Sons of the American Revolution that make it their mission to keep the memories alive of those men and women who fought valiantly for their country from the earliest awakenings of the United States to the present time. One such patriot was John Eager Howard who emerges from the mist of time along with those who served with him because of the financial support the Maryland Society Sons of the American Revolution has provided to such worthwhile memory projects as the biographical studies of the Maryland 400 of the Maryland State Archives. It is one of my proudest memories of my tenure as State Archivist that I initiated this biographical project that Tim Baker and Owen Laurie have carried on so well and to such good effect. The funding of the Maryland 400 internships and the purchase of the General Smallwood Papers continues to result in a better understanding of the lives of those who fought to create this nation and to remind us of our own obligations, not only to continue to honor that service but to meet the high standard they set for us to follow both in their military and their civilian lives.

Patriotism takes many forms. In John Eager Howard’s case it manifested itself through both military and civilian service.

John Eager Howard (1752-1827) was a distinguished soldier. For his service in the American Revolution he was awarded a silver medal from Congress the latin inscription of which reads, “by rushing suddenly on the wavering lines of the enemy [he] gave a brilliant example of martial courage at the battle of the Cowpens, January 17, 1781.” One contemporary anecdote with regard to the battle is that by its end he had the swords of seven British Officers who had surrendered to him.

Much has been written about John Eager Howard’s military career, most recently Jim Piecuch and John Beakes’ “Cool Deliberate Courage “ (2009). It is not very likely that his contributions to the success of the American Revolution will recede into the mists of time, nor will his men be forgotten now that every effort is being made by the Maryland Archives to document their lives, including at least two African Americans who were enlisted by Howard on July 17, 1776.

Private collection

Patriotism for John Eager Howard also meant public service. He was elected Governor of Maryland three successive years by joint ballot of the Maryland Legislature, and had the privilege of writing President Elect George Washington concerning Washington’s electoral victory in Maryland in January 1789, as well as informing him of Maryland’s ratification of the Bill of Rights, two years later. Unfortunately the letter illustrated here from a fax offering it for sale in 1998, has disappeared into a private collection, so it is not possible to confirm whether the flattering comment signed ‘J. A.” which reads “much distinguished as an officer of the army--particularly in the affair of the Cowpens So. Carolina” is in the hand of Vice President John Adams.

John Eager Howard and Peggy Howard,

center courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society

Portrait on right ca. 1782 by Charles Willson Peale, courtesy of the National Park Service

Public Service ran in the family. John Eager Howard’s son, George Howard, was born November 21, 1789 in the Governor’s Mansion in Annapolis. Named after President Washington, he would serve as governor of Maryland from 1831 to 1834.

John Eager Howard declined the offer to be Secretary of War, but instead served in Congress as a U. S. Senator from Maryland from 1796 until 1803.

President Washington made his last official visit to Annapolis in 1791 while John Eager Howard was governor, escorting Mrs. Howard home after a ball in town, undoubtedly paying due attention to his one year old namesake, and bidding farewell to friends of long standing. Mrs. Howard, formerly “Peggy” Chew, being presented here with a flower by her husband in a silhouette dated 1808, was the the daughter of the Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, Benjamin Chew. Howard had prevailed over many suitors including the unfortunate British Major John Andre, who was executed at Washington’s orders for spying in 1780. Andre, on departing Peggy’s company for the last time, expressed his distress in poetry:

If at the close of war and strife
My destiny once more
Should in the various paths of life
Conduct me to this shore;

Should British Banner guard the land

And faction be restrained

And Cliveden's mansion peaceful stand,

No more with blood be stained,

Say, wilt thou then receive again

And welcome to thy sight

The Youth who bids with stifled pain

This sad-farewell tonight?

Perhaps John Eager Howard’s greatest service as a civilian, however, was one of the least told and least remembered aspects of his public and private life. He was devoted to the future of the city of Baltimore and probably did more than any single person to shape its expansion and development as the second largest city (1830-1850) in the United States prior to the Civil War.

Varle detail from Papenfuse, Historical Atlas

Although the date of construction of his home, Belvidere, on a high hill overlooking the Jones Falls and just beyond the then city limits, is unknown for certain, it was probably begun about the time of his marriage to Peggy Chew in 1787 and completed by 1794. From the surviving prints and later photographs, at its core it closely resembled Clivedon, Peggy’s family home in Germantown, Pennsylvania. In 1798 it was fully described in the Baltimore County Federal Tax List of that year as being a 2 story brick house 63’ by 40’, with two wings of stone, 2 stories high, a large stable, a 2 story stone smoke house, a one story brick milk house, and a one story stone house occupied by the gardner. In this 1801 edition of Peter Varle’s map of Baltimore the house and its stone wings are clearly identified along with the location of the formal garden.

Colonel Howard, as he was known, proved to be focused on the future of the city. He was a developer of vision, in many ways the James Rouse of his day, whose dogged determination shaped Baltimore City’s future and greatly expanded the boundaries of the city. In doing so he provided a material legacy for his family that had far reaching effects on the physical growth of the city including a plan for the expansion of West Baltimore that encompassed neighborhoods affordable to the less well off in the city among whom were the most prosperous of the rapidly growing Free Black population.

Howard’s Addition to Baltimore Town, courtesy of the Baltimore City Archives

In 1782, before he built Belvidere, Howard purchased a large tract of land called Lunn’s lot, west and south of the original, small fish shaped Baltimore Town. It ran directly South of the site for his new home, and was surveyed into several hundred lots for renting and sale. In order to promote building on the lots, he adopted a system of long term leasing called ground rents, in which he kept title to many of the lots, renting them out on an annual fee that was nearly equivalent to 6% of their market value. The remainder he sold outright. On a groundrent lot, the builder could use his capital to erect houses without having to expend it on the the outright acquisition of the land. As long as the rent was paid on time to Howard and his heirs, the land could be built on, and the buildings in turn sold or rented as the owner saw fit. If the rent was not paid, then the title to anything built on the lot, reverted to Howard or his heirs.

By 1812 Baltimore was in desperate need of a plan for expansion and growth. The population of the town was growing rapidly and there were no clearly defined boundaries to the city which had been incorporated by the Legislature in 1797, nor was there an official city plan to aid in the laying out of new streets and to extend the old ones. The City Government decided it was time to act, although the year, 1812, proved it was not the most auspicious time to undertake a thorough mapping of the city, and their choice of surveyor, at the urging of John Eager Howard and his brother Cornelius, met with furious opposition from local surveyors who wanted the job themselves.

Thomas Poppleton’s original 1812 proposal to map Baltimore, courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society

In April of 1812, John Eager Howard had found the surveyor he needed to oversee the accurate subdivision of his property and some one well qualified to meet the needs of the Mayor and City Commissioners. That month Thomas Poppleton, a bankrupt London surveyor who was skilled in the scientific method of accurate surveying called triangulation, submitted a proposal to map the city. He won the contract, but local surveyors, headed by a politically well connected Jehu Bouldin, undermined Poppleton at every turn, voicing their complaints to the city council that he was not up to the task. Finally Poppleton gave up, writing a scathing letter to the Mayor and City council announcing that he was leaving for a better job in New York City that Cornelius Howard had secured for him, and offering to come back on his own terms if the city should care to invite him.

By then, war had broken out with Great Britain and the city was otherwise occupied. Howard’s plans for better mapping the city were set aside. Howard concentrated instead on investing in the war effort and assisting in the defense of the city. According to the Baltimore Commercial Chronicle and as reprinted in other newspapers at the time of his death in 1827:

During the late war, after the British troops had succeeded in getting possession of Washington City, and when the attack upon Baltimore, which subsequently took place, was hourly expected, the expediency of surrendering the city was agitated by a few,... the subject was mentioned to Col. Howard-- his answer was prompt and worthy of the hero of Cowpens, Guilford and Eutaw--”No gentlemen, all the property i have in the world is in the city of Baltimore and its neighbourhood--I have four sons now under arms, but I would rather see my property reduced to ashes, and my sons weltering in their gore than to accede to such a proposition.

With the end of the War of 1812 in 1815, Baltimore was still in need of a master plan for expansion and development. During the war Thomas Poppleton had become the city surveyor for New York, and had produced a superbly accurate map of lower Manhattan. John Eager Howard and his associates used their influence with the General Assembly not only to expand the boundaries of the city from a few hundred acres to nearly 15 square miles, but also to establish an independent State authorized commission to oversee the mapping of the city free from the interference of the Mayor and City council and they hired Thomas Poppleton back on his own terms.

1851/2 revision of Poppleton’s map of Baltimore, from Papenfuse, Historical Atlas

By 1822 Poppleton had completed his map which accommodated the growth of the city and defined the beds of the city streets and alleys for years to come. Updated and published again In 1851, it would become the base map for the recording, by lot numbers assigned to Poppleton’s configuration of lots, of all real estate transactions in the city.


John Eager Howard would live at Belvidere until his death in 1827, entertaining notables, enjoying his garden, and the view of the expanding city. According to the 1820 census there were 29 people living in the house and the outbuildings, including five slaves and seven free blacks. This drawing was commissioned by the family the month John Eager Howard died. His obituary appeared in newspapers around the country and President John Quincy Adams attended the funeral Howards will, drafted the week he died, was straightforward and to the point. There was to be no inventory of the estate. If his children owed him any money, the debts were forgiven. His personal property was to be sold to pay any outstanding debts, and the property divided equally among his children. There was a private sale of the furnishings of Belvidere, some of which were bought by Charles Ridgely of Hampton, and are now on display at Hampton mansion. It is not known for certain what happened to the slaves and free blacks who were there in 1820, but the manumission records in the Legacy of Slavery database at the Maryland State Archives hint that they may have been freed by the Howard children who inherited them. That Free Blacks and Slaves lived together in the same households was not uncommon in Baltimore City, an aspect of slavery in the city that has been overlooked by scholars.

From Thomas Poppleton’s plats of the Howard Estate, 1828-1831, Maryland State Archives

Howard’s plans for developing his Baltimore property proved profitable to his children. Thomas Poppleton was hired to map out the estate and allocate the individual pieces of property and ground rents equitably among the Howard children. Above is the plate showing the lots surrounding the Washington Monument for which Howard had donated the land. The monument was begun in 1815 and completed in 1829, two years after his death. The lots are colored coded according to who inherited them.

It took a court case brought by Howard’s only daughter Sophia, before equity could be achieved in the property distribution (she argued she had not gotten her fair share), but by 1831 each had received his or her allotment mapped out by Thomas Poppleton. Benjamin Chew Howard inherited Belvidere and lived there until 1844 when he sold it to John S. McKim.

Belvidere in 1874

The McKims made one major alteration to the House, a serpentine porch designed by John H. B. Latrobe. The porch is easily identified in this view of the house that accompanied an article about both families ownership that appeared in the the christmas issue of Appleton’s Journal, 1874. The following year the house would be gone, and and its history would recede into the mist of time. In 1822, John Eager Howard and his surveyor Thomas Poppleton had sealed its fate with their master plan for the city’s streets.

Detail from the 1851/52 Poppleton in Papenfuse, Atlas

If you look closely at this detail from the 1851 re-issue of the 1822 Poppleton map which associates Belvidere with the McKims and the Howards, you can see the problem created by Poppleton’s map. If Calvert street were ever to be extended according to the plan, the house would be demolished. It was, and in the process of leveling the hill it was discovered that the house sat on a fortune’s worth of builder’s sand which, in turn was used in the construction of the rows of house that appeared along the neighborhood streets. Perhaps John Eager Howard was not so foolish afterall, to have built his house upon the sand.

Sachse view from the top of the Washington Monument, 1863, courtesy of the Library of Congress

For about ninety years the house that John Eager Howard built for Peggy and their family stood aloof from the bustle of the city as can be seen in this panel from a panoramic view of Baltimore drawn from atop the Washington Monument in 1863.

Detail from 1851 Poppleton and Contemporary Aerial view of the location of Belvidere and St. Paul’s Rectory

According to one account some thought was given to moving Belvidere to another location, but in the end the cost estimates proved too great. The house was removed, the hill was leveled, and upscale row houses were built. Only the Saint Paul’s church rectory survives to remind Baltimore of Belvidere. The land for the rectory was donated by John Eager Howard and the rectory resembles the core of the house that Howard built high on the hill above it.

In the end John Eager Howard’s vision for the future of his city meant the inevitable destruction of his personal house and preserve. Whether or not he would have had pangs of regret, or would have attempted to circumvent the master plan in favor of his comfortable surroundings, we will never know. What we do know is that he had the foresight to force the city to adopt a master plan for growth that proved beneficial to the public at large and in the end to the personal fortunes of his family. It was a bold move of a bold patriot who we should continue to take the time to remember.

[1] I am much indebted to Lance Humphries, Owen Laurie, and Pat Anderson for their assistance in the preparation of this essay on John Eager Howard’s Baltimore. A fully annotated and credited version is available from the author and forms a part of a forthcoming book on Thomas Poppleton and the city.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Rebuilding Baltimore After the Great Fire of 1904:

In the Neighborhood:

17-23 South Gay Street, 10 South Frederick

Baltimore City Block 1351[1]


Sources: https://www.bizjournals.com/baltimore/blog/real-estate/2015/02/4-city-owned-properties-near-power-plant-live-are.html, Google Maps, https://goo.gl/maps/71HNCVJG8fA2


The history of block 1351 and the neighborhood of which it is a part reaches back to the founding of Baltimore Town in 1727. In that year Conra(o)d Smith died leaving a brick house or tenement which, in 1778, was sold to Peter Frick in a deed witnessed by the first mayor of Baltimore under the charter of 1797, James Calhoun.[2] Peter Frick was china-merchant, director of the Union Bank, and in 1801 was president of the first branch of the Baltimore City Council.[3] Peter Frick’s Gay Street house was on the lot on block 1351 that today is 17-19 South Gay Street, better known as the Lobe building. From the Baltimore city directory for 1804 it is possible to gain a snapshot of Peter Frick’s neighbors and their occupations:

Source: 1804 Baltimore City Directory, available on microfiche at the Maryland State Archives

On Monday morning, February 8th, 1904, at about 3 a.m., block 1351 was consumed in the great Baltimore Fire and the commercial world that had evolved on the block since the days of Peter Frick went up in smoke.[4]

Baltimore and Gay Street, 1904,

looking South towards the Harbor, courtesy of the Maryland Historical Society, see: http://www.mdhs.org/findingaid/great-baltimore-fire-photograph-collection-pp179, (PP179.586, Removed from Peale/BCLM Collection. Catalog number MC2419)

The disruption to business caused by the fire can best be seen from a neighborhood standpoint with the Baltimore City Directory for 1904.[5] For example take those who had offices or businesses in the buildings at 15 through 23 South Gay, and at the bank building at the corner of Water and Gay, no. 33 where there had been a financial institution since at least the early 19th century.

Displaced by the 1904 Fire:[6]

15-19 South Gay Street

Adams Chewing Gum Co. 19 s Gay

Automatic Weighing Machine Co, 19 s Gay

Berkemeier A & Sons, 19 s Gay, Stevedores

Gray [Land] Improvement Co, 17 s Gay

Industrial Mnfg Co, ice cream freezers, 19 s Gay

McCOY JAMES, Consulting' and .Mechanical Engineer. 19 s Gay C & P Tel 3992 F, Md Tel Court ST Temp Loc 20 n High, h 714 n Fulton av

Mansfield Chewing Gum and Automatic Clerk Co, 19 s Gay

National .Automatic Machine Co, 19 s Gay [slot machines]

Old Grandfather's Advtg Clock Co, 19 s Gay

Red Star Oil Refining Co, 19 s Gay

WALLENHORST ARTHUR, Diamonds, Watches and Jewelry, 17 and 19 s Gay, Temp Loc 110 n Gay, h 830 e Balto

Weber Conrad J, barber, 15 s Gay, temp loc Hotel Lexington, h 601 w Hamburg

21 South Gay Street

Big Vein -Coal Co of W Va. Jacob H Taylor, pres, 21 s Gay. temp loc 345 n Charles

Bockmiller Wm F, office supplies. 21 s Gay. h 1613 Federal

Elliott Bros (Wm L Elliott. John Nicholson), cotton comn mers, 21 s Gay

GLASER CHARLES, Analytical and Consulting Chemist, 21 s Gay, Md Tel Court 1166, Temporary Location 3d Floor City Hall Annex, h 2135 Bolton (See Advt)

GLEN WHITE COAL AND LUMBER Company, Jacob H Taylor, President, Harry S Taylor. Secretary, 21 s Gay, Temp Loc 345 n Charles

Goodhues Fred & Co (Fred Goodhues, Geo Campbell), shipping agts, 21 s Gay

Henderson Medicine Co (The), 21 s Gay

KEARNEY, STUART (Kearney & Taylor), Secretary and Treasurer Canton Company, and Treasurer Oakland Coal and Coke Company,21 s Gay.h Smedley House, Towson

Kearney & Taylor (Stuart Kearney, Frank J Taylor), coal, coke and wood, 21 s Gay

Lake Drummond Canal and Water Co (The), Walter B Brooks jr, pres, 21 s Gay, temp loc 26 e Mt Vernon pl

Oakland Coal and Coke Co, Jacob H. Taylor, pres. 21 s Gay, temp loc 345 n Charles

Ryland & Brooks Lumber Co, 21 s Gay

Taylor-McCoy Coal and Coke Co, 21 s Gay

23 and 25 South Gay Street

MORRIS & CO (Edward and Moses Morris, Nathan Hamburger), Shirts, Drawers and Overalls, 23 and 25 s Gay and 14 s Frederick, Temp Loc 221 w Balto

33 South Gay Street

Adams John D, stevedore, 33 s Gay, h 2204 e Balto

Board of Marine Surveyors and Port Wardens, 33 s Gay

Cronise G P Co, stevedores, 33 s Gay, temp loc 3532 Park Heights av

Cronise Geo P, pres The G P Cronise Co, 33 s Gay

DARRELL H CAVENDISH, Real Estate, Room 44 Marine Bank Bldg, 33 s Gay, Temp Loc 414 St Paul, h 1109 n Eutaw

DAWSON WILLIAM H, Lawyer, Room 44 Marine Bank Bldg, 33 s Gay. Temp Loc 414 St Paul, h 1731 Bolton

Duerr Saml, janitor, 33 s Gay

Johnson Geo R, masts, spars and ship knees, 33 s Gay, h Mt Washington

Johnson Jas V, marine surveyor, 33 s Gay, temp loc 326 n Calvert, h 1908 Linden av

LEE STEPHEN S & SON (J Harry Lee), Coal Miners and Shippers. 19 Marine Bank Bldg, 33 s Gay

LITTIG JOHN M, President The National Marine Bank, 33 s Gay, h 1010 Cathedral

Lloyds Register of British and Foreign Shipping. 33 s Gay

National Coal Co, John F O'Meara, mngr, 33 s Gay

Record of American and Foreign Shipping, 33 s Gay

Spanish Consulate, Prospero Schiaffino,vice consul, 33 s Gay, temp loc 425 e Lexington

Taveau A L & Co (Augustin L Taveau), shipping comn mers, 33 s Gay, Taveau Augustin L (A L Taveau & Co), 1218 w Mt Royal av

Voneiff & Cruz (Henry Voneiff, F Vidal Cruz), leaf tobacco, 33 s Gay, temp loc 616 w Balto

WILLIAMS WILLIAM S G, Lawyer, Room 44, Marine Bank Bldg, 33 s Gay, li 701 St Paul

WINAND DISTILLING CO (THE), William Rogers & Son, Sole Agents, Room 17, Marine Bank Bldg, 33 s Gay

WOOLDRIDGE AND ANDERSON 'Robert A Wooldridge, William M Anderson),Fertilizers, 14 Marine Bank Building, 33 s Gay


In terms of the stories that might be told of the businesses housed in the buildings on Block 1351 at the time of the fire, perhaps the most intriguing might be that of the Old Grandfather's Advtg Clock Co, 19 s Gay. The owner, Robert S. Wiesenfeld, proved to be quite a character and is featured in a curious article published in the Sun in 1916:

In 1904 he may have been selling Sessions Advertising Clocks, such as this one which may date from about that time:

Standard Advertising "Coca Cola Store Regulator" Clock with Time & Hourly Strike made Circa 1925 !!!

Source: https://www.rubylane.com/item/368275-T5491/Standard-Advertising-x22Coca-Cola-Store-Regulatorx22?search=1#

It is possible that Wiesenfeld was in trouble by the time of the fire or perhaps was ruined by it, as there appears to be a court case he lost among the records of the Superior Court of Baltimore City for April of 1904.[7] He does not reappear as a tenant at 17-19 South Gay in the city directories.

Recovering from the fire was a demanding process. It may have been one of reasons Mayor Lane committed suicide.[8] As to Block 1351, two entrepreneurs competed to build their office buildings as quickly as possible. The first to be completed may have been the Sexton Building at 5-9 South Gay which was announced briefly in an article in the Sun entitled “Owners Tired of Waiting.” “The Sexton, Stove and Manufacturing company, 5, 7, 9 South Gay street, has planned to erect a five-story brick office building, with two storefronts on the first floor. Jas. Stewart & Co. are the builders and J. E. Sperry the architect.” The Sexton Building was available for occupancy by May 1905 when it was illustrated in the American Architect with a “For Rent” sign prominently displayed.[9]

Rebuilding after the fire could be stressful and was said to have contributed to Samuel B. Sexton’s death in November, 1904, before his building was completed:

Baltimore Sun, November 23, 1904

Next door at 15-19 South Gay Street, the Napoleon B. Lobe building was nearing completion as well.

On April 7, 1904, a month after the fire began, the Baltimore American published an article headlined “Fogs of Dust in the Burned District. Clouds of Stifling Particles make the Workmen Look Like Millers” which featured a prospectus of the new Lobe Building at 15-17 South Gay Street:

Baltimore American, April 7, 1904

On April 10, 1904, the Sun carried a drawing by the Architect, George Clothier, Jr., of the facade of the Lobe Building followed by a short article about the City’s financing its contribution to the re-building from the sale of the City’s stock in the Western Maryland Railroad:

The Manufacturers’ Record for May 26, 1904 provides a more detailed account of the revised plans:

On April 2, 1905, the Sun announced that the Lobe Buildings was completed and had offices to let. It was furnished with all modern conveniences including an electric elevator, the first version of which had been installed in Baltimore in 1887. [10] By 1912 the building was fully occupied including a resident physician (Dr. Frank Bayne), several manufacturing and foreign product brokers, a moving picture supply company (G Kingston Howard) and Wiley & Company, analytical and Consulting Chemists who occupied the entire top floor.[11]

By 1916 G. Kingston Howard was president of the Baltimore movie Operator’s Union, local 181, fighting a bill in the Maryland legislature that would establish a Movie Censorship Board. He failed and the Board continued to censor movies until 1981.[12]

Little is known about George Clothier, Jr., the Architect of the Lobe Building, apart from 11 projects in and around Baltimore that were documented by John McGrain and reported to the curator of the Dead Architects Society, James Wollon.[13] There whereabouts of his papers and his drawings are unknown.

Napoleon Bonaparte Lobe (1864-1938) on the other hand, is well known. A Republican who ran unsuccessfully for public office including Congress, he was best known as an Auctioneer:

From: Club Men of Maryland in Caricature: Drawings by Ray O. Evans and Associates,

Baltimore: J. M. Caughey, director for Associated Cartoonists, 1915

Napoleon B Lobe acquired the lot and rubble of 17-19 South Gay Street from his siblings and the other heirs of his father, Isaac Lobe, officially on April 28, 1904.[14] The lot had been his father, Isaac Lobe’s property since the year of Napoleon’s birth, 1864, and now he sought to turn the disaster of the fire to a profit by erecting a fine new office building on the site.

A biographical sketch appeared in 1910:

Son of the late Isaac and Esther Eytinge Lobe, [Napoleon B. Lobe] was born in Baltimore City on the 3d day of October, 1864. He attended the public schools and City College of Baltimore City, and is at present [1910] a member of the firm of N. B. Lobe & Co., auctioneers and wholesale carpets and mattings. Mr. Lobe attends the Madison Avenue Temple, and is a member of the Phoenix Club, Union League Club, the Travelers’ and Merchants’ and the Merchants’ and Manufacturers’ Associations. On April 10, 1902, Mr. Lobe married Miss Mae F. Burgunder and has two children, Esther B. and Napoleon B., Jr.[15]

To this might be added that when his mother died in 1923 at the age of 101, her obituary noted that she had emigrated from Holland, was the daughter of a Baltimore merchant, and had married his father in 1845. Besides Napoleon, she was survived by his two sisters, one of whom was the mother of the Democratic Attorney General of the State, Isaac Lobe Straus. The family covered its political bases well.[16]

In addition to being a developer and an Auctioneer, Napoleon B. Lobe was also an early venture capitalist who invested in the inventions of others. One of the patents he owned was for a device for fastening advertising to the backs of street cars. It would be interesting to know if it was used on the streetcars of Baltimore.


Napoleon B. Lobe died on May 14, 1938. He was buried in Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery. Oddly enough there was no obituary in the Baltimore Sun.[17]

By the time of his death, the Lobe Building had passed out of his hands, and was known as the Seabord and then Mazur building[18]

Occupying the Neighborhood, 1929-1964

From the City Directories, a good idea of the businesses on Block 1351 over time can be determined. The sample that follows is taken from the directories at the Baltimore City Archives which are not yet online. They focus on the addresses on South Gay Street from Baltimore Street to Water Street (originally called Second Street) and include both the West (even numbers) and East (odd numbers) of the street. Note the name changes of the Lobe building to Seabord and then to Mazur.

Mapping the Neighborhood, 1880-1953[19]

Sanborn Insurance Map, 1880, block 1351

1890 Sanborn Insurance map, Block 1351

1896 Bromley Atlas

1901/02 Sanborn Atlas

1906 Bromley Atlas

1914 Sanborn Insurance Map, plate 319

1933 Sanborn Insurance Map, Baltimore City Archives Collection

1951 corrected Sanborn Insurance map, block 1351

[1] Baltimore City is the only jurisdiction in Maryland that indexed its deeds by block. The base map for numbering the blocks was the updated (1851/52) version of Thomas Poppleton’s map of Baltimore City. For the story of Poppleton’s map see: http://www.thomaspoppletonsbaltimore.net/2015/10/thomas-poppletons-surveyors-map-that.html

[2] Baltimore County Court (Land Records) WGB, p. 382, ff., available on http://mdlandrec.net

[3] For Peter Frick see the newspaper index on Genealogybank.com and the Proceedings of the City Council, First Branch, at the Baltimore City Archives. The title to 15-17 South Gay Street reaches back to Peter Frick from Baltimore County Court (Land Records) TK 286, ff. 383 available on http://mdlandrec.net.

[4] See the maps and brief narrative at http://digitalmaryland.org/fire

[5] https://archive.org/details/rlpolkcosbaltimo1904rlpo. The directory is searchable by street which permits a compilation of the occupants in the neighborhood who were displaced and, for those who remained open for business, where they were temporarily located.

[6] Taken from the 1904 Baltimore City Directory which was compiled after the fire. As the introductory explained, “As the fire of the 7th, 8th, and 9th of February last, destroyed all of the sheets of the Baltimore City Directory for 1904, which was very nearly completed … we were compelled to recanvass the whole burned district ...The alphabetical portion of the Directory has the permanent or temporary location of most of the parties that were burned out.

[7] The Baltimore Sun from Baltimore, Maryland on March 4, 1904 … https://www.newspapers.com/newspage/214470628/ Robert S. Wiesenfeld et al., trading as Old Grandfather's Advertising Clock Company; non pros, on call of plaintiff. Assignment for Today No. 68, Superior Court .

[9] The American Architect, Vol LXXXVII, No 1535, May 27, 1905. Sadly, the Sexton building has not survived.

[10] Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 1905, Volume 54, Part 2, p. 134. In 1884 William Baxter, Jr. invented an electric elevator using direct current which he installed in a building in Baltimore in 1887, the first of its kind. To determine how many of the former occupants returned to the new building, an assessment needs to be made of the subsequent city directories. Until 1929, there were no cross street sections to the directories, but the directories for 1905-1923 are available as searchable pdfs on http://archive.org. A well organized site that makes access to the directories and to the mapping of the city easy is http://map-maker.org. Hopefully it will remain on line for years to come and not suffer the fate of so many useful web sites that have appeared and then disappeared for lack of institutional support or institutional carelessness.

[11] 1912 Baltimore City Directory available on http://archive.org .

[12] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maryland_State_Board_of_Censors, http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-film-censorship-20160410-story.html, and THE
MOVING PICTURE WORLD, VOLUME XXVII, January-March, 1916, Published by CHALMERS PUBLISHING CO., 17 Madison Ave, New York

[13] Email to ecp from Walter Schamu, FAIA, November 2, 2017.

[14] Baltimore Superior Court (Land Records) RO 2070, 242, ff.

[15] Blum, Isidor. The Jews of Baltimore An Historical Summary of Their Progress and Status As Citizens of Baltimore from Early Days to the Year 1910. Baltimore [u.a.]: Historical Review Publ. Co, 1910. <http://judaica-frankfurt.de/urn/urn:nbn:de:hebis:30:1-101874>.

[16] Baltimore Sun, February 7, 1923, the anniversary of the Baltimore Fire.

[17] Further searching in the American which is only on microfilm, or the Jewish Times obituary files at the Jewish Historical Society, might yield an obituary. The summary of his probate records are online at http://familysearch.org as well as his will. The originals of his inventory and accounting for the disposition of his estate are at the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis, but are not online.

[18] the search for the sale of Napoleon Lobe’s interest in the Lobe Building requires either a deed reference to the conveyance of the building to the City or a time consuming search through the grantor/grantee indices of http://mdlandrec.net for Baltimore City. By 1932 according the the Sanborn Insurance maps, the building’s name was changed to the Seabord/Reed Building (see Volume 4, plate 319, Sanborn Atlases, Baltimore City Archives). Much more could be done with the owners and occupants of Block 1351, both before and after the fire. An indication of who the occupants were after the fire and how the property appeared on the Sanborn and Bromley maps from the 1880 until 1953 follow. Note that the title search for the Lobe building is complicated by Lobe’s acquisition of a right of way for a sewer line. For example see: Baltimore City Superior Court (Land Records), SCL 4302/458 and referenced deeds.

[19] The Sanborn maps do not carry the block numbers, but the Bromley atlases do. All the images of the Sanborn and Bromley maps are taken from my draft atlas unless otherwise noted; See: http://mdhistory.msa.maryland.gov/msaref07/html/index.html. See also http://map-maker.org/Helper/maps/index.html provides easy access to the atlas and other maps of the city.