A then-and-now look at Baltimore's most beloved institutions

From the ball of string at Haussner's to the industrial grounds that became Camden Yards.

From the ball of string at Haussner's to the industrial grounds that became Camden Yards, a then-and-now look at some of Baltimore's most beloved and familiar institutions and attractions:

Haussner's

When Haussner's, the Eastern Avenue outpost of German cooking, served its last plate of sauerbraten with red cabbage, kartoffel klosse and a slice of its famed strawberry pie for dessert in 1999, its closing brought down the curtain on the era of Teutonic dining in the city.

The Highlandtown restaurant was founded in 1926 by master chef William Henry Haussner, who had been a chef to Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.

He was joined in the business in 1935 when he married Frances Wilke, a German immigrant, who came to Baltimore in 1924 to escape the depression that was engulfing her homeland.

In addition to such dishes as Wiener schnitzel a la Holstein, ox tongue, hasenpfeffer with spaetzle and diamondback terrapin, guests enjoyed a wide selection of German wines and cold seidels of beer.

Haussner's was also known for its vast eclectic art collection of Tyrolean landscapes, dogs and cats, French cathedrals, peasants of the field, busts of Roman emperors, buxom nudes, bronzes and even a jumbo ball of string, which filled its five sprawling dining rooms that seated 500 guests.

The couple allocated $15,000 a year for collecting and, by 1963, the last painting went up on the walls. They had run out of room.

William Haussner died in 1963. His wife, who was semiretired by the early 1970s, turned over the day-to-day operation of the restaurant to daughter Frances Haussner George, and her husband, Steve George.

With her carefully coiffed snow-white hair and porcelain-blue eyes, Frances Haussner was a stately presences who was as well known as her restaurant's famed cuisine, which she did not eat. She was a vegetarian.

She was 91 at her death in 2000, and the empty restaurant lingered on for another 16 years before being finally demolished this year.

Camden Yards

It's hard to imagine sitting at Camden Yards today watching a ball game and remember that in the late 1980s, this was once a warren of railroad tracks, dead-end streets, warehouse alleys and a variety of businesses as disparate as a chemical company, a doughnut bakery, a furniture warehouse and even a nationally known sausage maker.

Two surviving structures from the demolition of the 85-acre site include the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad warehouse, once the largest such structure in the world, that was adapted as the Orioles executive offices, and Camden Station.

Camden Station had been designed by the Baltimore architectural firm of Niernsee and Neilson in 1855. The ballpark project restored Camden Station to its 1905 appearance with the addition of cupolas and towers that had been removed. It housed the Sports Legends Museum, which closed last year.

Some 27 businesses and 102 properties were acquired by the Maryland Stadium Authority in what The Baltimore Sun described as "relocating a small city."

Before the wrecking ball came swinging through the neighborhood at lower Howard Street, Donut Delight cranked out 7,000 doughnuts seven days a week, while Amotex Plastics produced 152,000 board feet of plastic foam each day. Another company repackaged salad oil from long lines of railroad tank cars.

Purveyors and the public crammed into a tall, lugubrious-looking brick building on South Eutaw Street that was home to Southern Seafood Co., seeking fresh fish, oysters, crabs and shellfish.

The empty Maryland Cup building, once home to an ice cream cone manufacturer, still had its sign that said: "Eat It All," while "More Parks sausages … Mom!" rolled out of the Parks Sausage Co. in the 500 block of W. Hamburg St.

The headquarters of Inland Leidy Inc., a chemical company, was demolished along with several schools, RETTS Electronics School and Diggs-Johnson Junior High School, then on West Barre Street.

An enthusiastic crowd of 31,286 were on hand when Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened on April 3, 1992, to critical praise, while beating the New York Mets, 5-3, in a preseseason game.

Pennsylvania Avenue

Beginning at Franklin Street and rolling on for the next 23 blocks, joining Fulton Avenue and Reisterstown Road, Pennsylvania Avenue, known as "The Avenue," was from the 1920s through the early 1960s Baltimore's version of Harlem, where African-American residents flooded into its swinging jazz joints, restaurants, nightclubs, social clubs and the fabled Royal Theater, once a major stop for black performers on what was called the Chitlin Circuit.

The names of performers who stepped into the footlights on the stage of the Royal Theater, which opened its doors as the Douglass Theater in 1922 and was black-owned, are immortal in the pantheon of American show business.

Some of the musicians and singers who performed there included Cab Calloway, Ethel Waters, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, Etta James, Dinah Washington, The Platters, The Supremes and the Temptations.

Black comics such as Pegleg Bates, Red Foxx, Slappy White, Pigmeat Markham, Jackie "Moms" Mabley, Butterbean and Susie kept audiences roaring for nearly four decades.

In those glorious years, African-Americans took their leisure in the Arch Social Club, the Sphinx Club, Ubangi Club, Club Casino, Tijuana Club, Le Coq d'Or, Red Fox and Ike Dixon's Comedy Club.

At one time, there were 47 liquor licenses on The Avenue but times were changing. Television and integration cut into business. The civil rights movement allowed African-Americans to go into public establishments, hotels and movie houses where they had once turned away.

The 1968 riots and black flight added to the demise of The Avenue, and then in 1971 the anchor Royal Theater was demolished.

Today, just a few of these establishments, such as the Arch Social Club and the Sphinx Club, remain.

"It was just swinging all the time, all the time," singer Ruby Glover, who began performing on the Avenue in the early 1950s, told The Baltimore Sun in a 2002 interview. "The glamour. The gorgeous feeling. The energy!"

The Peabody Institute

The Peabody Institute owes its existence to a poor boy from Danvers, Mass., who came as a volunteer in the War of 1812 to Baltimore, where he became friends with Elisha Riggs, a member of a prominent Maryland family.

George Peabody was 20 years old when he and Riggs established Peabody & Riggs, a wholesale drapery business located at Baltimore and Liberty streets and Hopkins Place. The business later expanded to include branches in Philadelphia and New York.

Peabody went into banking and in 1837 moved to London, where his partner in George Peabody and Co. was Junius Spencer Morgan. Peabody became a well-known financier through their prosperous business, which was the progenitor to J.P. Morgan & Co.

While only living in Baltimore for 20 years, the frugal bachelor — who eschewed paying for cabs and rode horsecars instead, lived in rented rooms, dined on plain food and abstained from drinking — endowed the Peabody institute with a $1.4 million gift in 1857.

"The inauguration of the Peabody Institute yesterday was an event to be remembered with future interest and gratification by the people of Baltimore," reported The Sun in 1866.

Peabody died in London in 1869, and Queen Victoria granted permission for him to be buried in Westminster Abbey's Poet's Corner. But it was the modest Peabody's desire to rest next to his mother in Harmony Grove Cemetery in Salem, Mass., and his body was returned home aboard a British warship.

The Peabody's east and west wings have been Mount Vernon Place landmarks since the 19th century. Its complex includes the historic and architecturally significant George Peabody Library, a soaring confection of Victorian ironwork and archways.

Nearly 600 students attend the nationally renowned, degree-granting conservatory, where they study under the likes of pianist Leon Fleisher and singer Denyce Graves.

The Peabody Preparatory Department offers instruction in music and dance to local children and adults, and the Peabody Children's Chorus is for children from 6 to 18.

Since 1986, Peabody has been a division of the Johns Hopkins University.

Druid Hill Park

Just a little smaller and a little younger than New York's Central Park, Baltimore's Druid Hill Park spans 745 acres and ranks as the third-oldest public park in the United States.

Druid Hill Park's origins date to 1860, when Lloyd Nicholas Rogers sold Druid Hill, his estate and mansion, to the city for $475,000 during the administration of Mayor Thomas Swann.

The city financed its purchase and maintenance of the park by a curious financial instrument. It levied a tax on horsecar and later electric streetcar riders. Known as the park tax, it lasted well into the 20th century.

Howard Daniels, an engineer and landscape designer, was hired by the city to lay out walks, drives, carriage roads and gardens. George Aloysius Frederick, a 19-year-old architect, was hired by John H.B. Latrobe, then head of the Baltimore City Parks Commission, to design park buildings and pavilions as well as the landmark conservatory, a grand Victorian Belle Epoque work of glass and iron that looked more European than Baltimore.

Crowds arrived for the opening on Aug. 26, 1888, to take in Baltimore's new glass house with its 175 windows and a roof that soared 90 feet above them. They could gaze on the many exotic plants from around the world that filled the various rooms. It is now the second-oldest glass conservatory in the country.

One of the nation's early civil rights protests took place in Druid Hill Park, in 1948 when black residents protested not being able to golf, play tennis or swim in the park, or in any of the city's parks.

More recently, the park inspired the name of the hip-hop/soul vocal group Dru Hill, which was popular in the late '90s.

Druid Hill Park is also home to St. Paul's Cemetery, which dates to 1854, and was not included in the original purchase of the park. After the churches that supported the old cemetery withdrew their financial support, it became a weed-choked, vandalized city of the dead, until the Friends of Druid Hill Park began caring for the cemetery, which was rededicated in 1992.

 

Johns Hopkins

It was his investment in the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad that made Johns Hopkins, a Baltimore businessman, abolitionist and Quaker, a wealthy man and eventually led to the birth of the university and hospital that bear his name.

In 1867, 12 citizens of Baltimore, at Hopkins' request, established a corporation known as The Johns Hopkins University, whose purpose was "the promotion of education in the State of Maryland," and a second corporation with trustees that was named "The Johns Hopkins Hospital."

At his death in 1873, Hopkins dedicated most of his $7 million fortune to be split evenly between the university and hospital.

His wishes were simple: The hospital's mission was to "heal the sick" while the university was to "educate the ignorant," said The Sun in a 1976 article.

Land for the university was purchased in 1875 for its first campus, located in downtown Baltimore on the west side of North Howard Street near Centre Street.

Daniel Coit Gilman was named the university's first president in 1875, and on Feb. 22, 1876, it opened with 20 students, accepted out of 152 applicants.

Johns Hopkins Hospital, one of the first teaching hospitals in the United States, opened in 1889 with "The Big Four," Drs. William Welch, William Osler, William Halsted and Howard Kelly. A school of nursing welcomed 19 students that fall.

The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine opened its doors in 1893 with 18 students, three of whom were women.

In 1902, negotiations were completed to relocate the university to its present Homewood campus, and in 1915, Gilman Hall, the first building at Homewood, was dedicated.

The first female undergraduates were admitted for the 1970-1971 academic year, and in 1976, the university celebrated its centennial.

"Johns Hopkins is a place of the unexpected," observed The Sun at the time. "So many things there are mildly out of the ordinary."

The medical institutions continue to draw benefactors from all over the world, including alumnus and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. This year, the hospital named its first female president, Dr. Redonda Miller.

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

The present-day Baltimore Symphony Orchestra grew out of a municipal band that played concerts at the Washington Monument during the summer months.

It was Frederick Huber, manager of the summer school program at Peabody, who came to Mayor James Preston with the idea of a permanent symphony orchestra.

At its founding in 1915, the BSO was the first orchestra in the nation to be established with a municipal appropriation.

The orchestra's debut concert was in the Lyric Theatre on Feb. 11, 1916, under the baton of Gustave Strube. The audience "filled every available inch of space in the great music hall," mused a Sun critic. "The occasion proved a gala one in every particular.

"It was indeed a brilliant and inspiriting occasion, in many respects the most important event that has taken place in the local musical world in our time," wrote the critic who signed his name "J.O.L."

"The fine sprit of the performance last evening was the thing that made the most insistent impression," the critic observed.

The clear star that evening was vocalist and Baltimorean Mabel Garrison, a member of the Metropolitan Opera Company, whose rendition of Mozart's "II Re Pastore" earned critical praise.

"The occasion was one that will remain long in the memory of all who were present, for in a sense this concert marked a turning point in the musical life of Baltimore," the critic wrote.

He concluded by saying that in the course of time, the orchestra "will take its place with the most important organizations in the country."

J.O.L. was proved right.

After Strube, its successive conductors were Reginald Stewart, George Siemonn, Peter Herman Adler, Ernest Schelling, Werner Jansen, Massimo Freccia, Sergiu Comissionia, Yuri Temirkanov, David Zinman and finally its present leader, Marin Alsop.

The BSO performed at the Lyric from 1916 to 1982, when it moved to the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

frasmussen@baltsun.com

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