I showed up at the door of a Greenway home I've admired for years. Charles B. Reeves — who goes by "Sprat" — greeted me with his enthusiastic welcome: "Delighted." For the next 90 minutes I tried to take notes about his version of the history of North Baltimore's Guilford.
"I was born in 1923. Huzzah!" said the neighborhood patriarch. I posed a few questions about Guilford's centennial, an event that is being celebrated Sunday with a house and garden tour. Who else but this retired Venable attorney, fox hunter and Austrian skier could tell me where the bodies were buried? Except for a few years of military service and law school, he has lived in the same house since he was born.
He ushered me into his dining room and started talking, and talking some more, in his infectious, enthusiastic, Teddy Roosevelt style.
"Guilford is rife with history," he said.
He said the house next door, built by Morris Whitridge, was later bought by restaurant owner William Haussner and his wife, Frances. He recalled how his aunt, Ella Klotworthy, was the first person to welcome them at their enormous home, a place that once held a portion of their vast art and antiques collection.
That aunt, Ella Reeves Klotworthy, also lived in the family home. She was an Old Bay Line executive and later had a tearoom near the Maryland Club.
The German family "across the street was the Bauernschmidts, the beer people," he said. "And near that, the Dangerfields."
As a boy, Sprat Reeves eluded capture when he ignited a "triple salute" firework, a projectile that blew across the street and struck the Dangerfield portal.
"I acted wholly innocent about the whole ordeal. I was practicing 'The Merry Farmer' on the piano of a neighbor, Mabel Whitely," he said. "Soon her maid came in and said, 'Miss Mabel, the police have surrounded the house.' She told me to confess."
Guilford may trace its origins to 1913, but Reeves recalls a 1920s and early 1930s building boom. He and his late brother, David, played in the construction sand piles and made forts and caves.
"We spotted them as they came out of the ground," he said. "We'd be riding in mother's Buick runabout and, I'd shout, 'New house.' "
His own home had a taste of literary fame when the celebrated British novelist Evelyn Waugh and his wife paid a visit to Baltimore to receive an honorary degree from Loyola College.
"The Jesuits asked Daddy to put him up," Reeves said. "He proved not to be a great house guest. His wife was delightful, though."
He recalled other neighbors. Gen. Milton Reckord, of the Maryland National Guard and a World War I figure, lived a couple of doors toward Bedford Square, where streetcars once crossed over St. Paul Street to make the return trip downtown.
Reeves, ever the sportsman, also explained that it was possible to catch a southbound trolley to University Parkway, transfer to a Roland Park car, then transfer again to the No. 24 (upper Roland Avenue) and arrive at the back entrance of the Elkridge Club for a game of golf or a dance.
We got around to the story of his house. "We always called it the ugliest house in Guilford," he said with a knowing laugh. "It was not a red-brick Colonial. It was not like the others. The rooms are very utilitarian."
With its slate roof and stucco walls, it resembles a home in Scotland, he said. It was designed by Baltimore architect Pleasants Pennington.
On this spectacular April morning, I wondered if there could be a more beautiful garden suburb than Guilford. The pinks on the dogwoods were showing and the deeper purples on the redbud trees were out. The preparation for this weekend's tours had turned Greenway, St. Paul and other streets into a parking lot of landscaper trucks.
The neighborhood looked as if Martha Stewart was due at any minute to hand out report cards. It was just about perfect, but I was happy to just visit and let the residents here worry about the maintenance.