City of Baltimore Leases Mencken House to the Baltimore National Heritage Area
by David Ettlin
The combined board of Friends of H.L. Mencken House and the Society for the Preservation of H.L. Mencken’s Legacy celebrated Henry’s 138th birthday — and a major step toward restoration of his historic house on Hollins Street — with cake and a champagne toast there Wednesday evening (Sept. 12).
The City of Baltimore has agreed to a lease of Mencken House to the Baltimore National Heritage Area organization, and expenditure of funds for its restoration — part of the bequest of nearly $3 million received by the city specifically for Mencken House a decade ago from the estate of the late Max Hency, a retired Navy commander who had been living in Hawaii.
The heritage organization plans to occupy the third floor, and the back portion of the second floor for use as its new headquarters, while the second floor front room — where Mencken did much of his writing — and the first floor will be space for a Mencken museum and events, such as literary talks and programs focusing on the Sage of Baltimore or in the spirit of his writing.
The contractor chosen for the project (costing upwards of $750,000) anticipates beginning the permit process for the work in coming weeks, and hopes for completion of the job by next summer.
Wednesday evening [09-12], representatives of the city, the Mencken groups, the contractor and Baltimore National Heritage Area had a modest celebration in Mencken House, including birthday cake and a champagne toast.
The photo of the celebrants, taken in the first floor living room, includes board members Betsey Waters and David Ettlin holding (for visual effect!) one of the architectural renderings by the late historic preservation architect Calvin Kobsa, whose volunteer efforts as a Friends member is being incorporated in the work of the project architect.
Photo courtesy of David Ettlin
The Mencken Graveside Memorial will once again be conducted by Oleg Panczenko at the Mencken gravesite at Loudon Park Cemetery, 3620 Wilkens Ave, Baltimore, MD.
The brief memorial will be held Saturday, January 28, 2017 at 2:00 PM. Attendees are invited to retire to Spirits West, 2601 Wilkens Ave. after the memorial.
Loudon Park Cemetery: enter at 3620 Wilkens Ave, Baltimore, MD 21229. Note: the Frederick Ave entrance is closed. Enter through the Wilkens Ave entrance.
Location of grave: N 39° 16.693′ W 76° 40.683′ (39.278217°, -76.678050°)
For GPS users: Google maps recognizes geographic coordinates and knows the cemetery’s roads. Note that the Frederick Ave entrance is closed. Split your trip into two parts: leg 1 will be from your origin to 3620 Wilkens Ave, Baltimore, MD; leg 2 will be 3620 Wilkens Ave, Baltimore, MD to 39.278217°, -76.678050°.
Spirits West Country Club: 2601 Wilkens Ave (Cor. Millington Ave), Baltimore, MD 21223. (Make a left turn from Loudon Park onto Wilkens Ave. and drive 1.6 miles. Spirits West will be on your right at the end of Baltimores’s longest block of row houses and across the way from St Benedict’s Church.)
Updates and changes due to inclement weather will be posted here on the Society’s website.
Map to Mencken’s Grave-site
On Saturday, September 10, 2016, the Mencken Society held its annual meeting at France Hall of the Maryland Historical Society (MdHS), 201 W Monument St, not the Enoch Pratt Library as usual. The change of location was a temporary due to renovation work being done at the Pratt Library.
Jeffrey Buchheit, Executive Director, Baltimore National Heritage Area (BNHA), presented the goals of the BNHA which included the Mencken House’s “Very Bright Future.” Renovation of the House is to begin December 2017 and conclude August 2018. The House is to be officially reopened on September 12, 2018.
A common motif in the world’s folklore is the “sleeing hero”, a champion who is deeply hibernating until such time as extraordinarily perilous circumstances cause him to awaken and rise up to save his nation.
The Friends, far more modest in their ambitions, will be the sleeping hero of the Mencken House. They will keep tabs on what is and will be going on with the house and will work to ensure that progress follows the correct path.
Attend the Mencken Day 2016 Celebration to get the official word on what is going on with the Mencken House.
Mencken Day 2016 will be celebrated this year on Saturday, September 10, at France Hall of the Maryland Historical Society, 201 W Monument St.
The day’s events are:
10:00 AM: Doors open.
10:30 AM: The Mencken Society’s Annual Meeting—all are welcome. The main speaker will be Jeffrey Buchheit, Executive Director, Baltimore National Heritage Area, whose topic is “H. L. Mencken House: A Very Bright Future.”
2:00 PM: The 2016 Mencken Memorial Lecture: “Joint Transmission: The Friendship of H. L. Mencken and Blanche Knopf” presented by Laura Claridge.
We hope to see you there.
All are invited to assemble at the Mencken House, 1524 Hollins Street, Sunday, April 3, 2016 at 10:00 AM to get the garden in order.
On March 2, 2016, at 6:00 PM in Zella’s Restaurant, 1145 Hollins St, Jeffrey P. Buchheit, Executive Director of the Baltimore Heritage Area Association, Inc. (BHAA), delivered a brief on the City of Baltimore’s plan for the Mencken House. The BHAA will be the manager of the House and will have its offices there.
A plan for the opening and re-use of the house has been presented to the Department of Planning and is currently under review by the City and other interested parties. Once the plan is approved a 10 year lease agreement will be entered into between the BHAA and the City and renovations, overseen by an advisory committee, will begin.
The Mencken Graveside Memorial 2016 will be conducted Sunday, January 31, 2016 at 2:00 PM from the parking lot in front of the Loudon Park Funeral Home, 3620 Wilkens Avenue.
The snowfall is over but the clean-up continues. The questions for us are (1) has Loudon Park cleared the paths of the cemetery?; (2) how much snow remains around the Mencken family gravesite?; and (3) is there room to park vehicles?
Please check here Friday (01-29) evening.