On sparkling spring days, Ann Goldman Giroux enjoys tending her garden, planting vegetables and nurturing the lush roses and rare azaleas that adorn her family's home in Guilford.
Giroux, who typically plants 800 white tulips along the front walkway and another 2,000 flowers in the backyard, wants the landscaping to look extra-special this year as the North Baltimore neighborhood, marks its 100th anniversary in May.
"I am very nearly a lifetime resident of Guilford," says Giroux, a community association board member and chairperson of its centennial committee. "My parents purchased a house back in 1975 when I was a year old."
Today, Giroux and her husband, David, a portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price, are raising their two young daughters in a brick Classical Revival-style house purchased in 2005.
The eight-bedroom mansion, set on nearly an acre, is known to local residents as the former home of the late Edward Johnston, nicknamed "The Bird Man of Guilford," for his exotic bird menagerie.
The property is among some 800 houses in a variety of sizes and architectural styles — from tile-roofed Italianate manses to half-timbered Tudor duplexes — that comprise this historic enclave started by the Roland Park Co. in May 1913.
Since that time, Guilford has been considered one of the city's most prestigious neighborhoods. It's on the National Register of Historic Places and has an unusual place in Baltimore's evolution.
"In the early 20th century, Guilford was on the outskirts of the city and was known as a 'streetcar suburb,' " says Tom Liebel, chairman of the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.
According to the community's written history, it was one of the earliest suburban developments in America and among the first to embrace the concepts employed by the town of Letchworth in Hertfordshire, England, known as "the world's first garden city."
Liebel says print ads "marketed the neighborhood as the country …a place with clean air and fresh water, away from the city."
He adds that some of the most "gifted" architects in the city and country were involved in designing Guilford's homes and landscaping.
Major figures included Edward L. Palmer, Jr., who served from 1907 to 1917 as chief in-house architect for the Roland Park Co. Then there were the famous Olmsted brothers — Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and John Charles Olmsted — who led the landscape architectural firm that influenced Guilford's public green spaces.
Hallmarks of Olmsted projects, which include the White House grounds and improvements to Baltimore's Druid Hill Park, often center around abundant trees, preservation of natural scenery, and landscaped, curvilinear streets.
Indeed, a drive or stroll through Guilford reveals grand mansions standing sentry along wide, curving boulevards. Leafy parks beckon. Squirrels scamper between stone-turreted cottages, tucked away on tidy, tree-lined streets.
In the heart of this urban oasis is Sherwood Gardens, possibly the most recognized tulip garden in North America, where some 80,000 Dutch tulips are planted each year to herald spring.
The arrival of this year's floral blooms is expected to coincide with Guilford's yearlong centennial activities, which kicks off with the Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage tour on Sunday, April 28.
The tour, a nonprofit endeavor that raises money for preservation and restoration of architecturally significant properties in Maryland, will highlight Guilford and several other communities statewide.
"In this 76th year, we are proud to present so many unique and vastly different types of properties," said Diane Savage, who serves as chair of the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage.
She noted that tour participants will view a historic skipjack at dock in Charles County, rarely seem homes in the Wardour community of Annapolis, 300-year-old houses in Queen Anne's County, as well as sites in Somerset and Worcester counties.
In Guilford, a dozen homes will be featured on the tour, along with Sherwood Gardens and buildings of distinction such as Second Presbyterian Church, which has a Georgian Revival interior and restored sanctuary.
Celebrity homes are spotlighted, too, including the former residence of celebrated poet Ogden Nash. The Tudor Revival structure on Rugby Road, was built in 1927.
Many local residents know the Turnbull House, where acclaimed Baltimore artist Grace Hill Turnbull once lived and created art on Chancery Road. The house is a mix of Spanish Mission and Arts and Crafts styles; her onetime studio resembles a church, complete with stained-glass windows and a bell tower.
Another house on the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage tour is owned by Dr. Paul Fowler and his longtime partner, Franklin McNeil Jr. The couple has lived in the three-story Georgian house on Lambeth Road since 1999. It boasts eight bedrooms, four full and two half-baths, living and dining rooms, a kitchen with an island, plus a conservatory. Their backyard has a swimming pool, a pond, fountains, an area for playing croquet and a formal garden.
"This house is larger than two people need, but we wanted good spaces for entertaining," says Fowler, a radiation oncologist.
The home, which has been showcased in Southern Living magazine, is decorated in an eclectic style. Rooms are painted in hues such as "Anjou pear." There's a mix of both period and contemporary pieces, Oriental rugs, and even an antique Mongolian altar.
"We like to collect art," says McNeil, a banker whose expertise is community economic development. "We prefer meeting the artists, and buying from local galleries and venues like Artscape. Sometimes we meet the models who sat for the paintings."
Both men are excited to take part in the tour.
"It truly is special," says McNeil. There was a time, he said, when covenants were in place that excluded Jews, black Americans and others from neighborhoods such as Guilford.
"I'm African-American. We're a gay couple. It's amazing that 100 years later we are here, and how much has changed."
Fowler agreed. And as someone who once favored brand-new housing developments, he is happy to now reside in a home that pays homage to Baltimore's history.
"The longer we live in Guilford, the more I realize that we are not really owners of these beautiful homes, but stewards," he says. "The community owns them."
Guilford centennial celebration
Guilford has embarked on a number of projects to mark its 100th anniversary. They include:
•Restoration of Guilford's century-old tree canopy in partnership with the City of Baltimore
•Restoration of the Bouton Memorial located in Guilford's Gateway Park — a monument to Edward H. Bouton, the president of the Roland Park Co.
•Detailed documentation and rough dating of trees in Sherwood Gardens, as a starting point for better tree management efforts
•Youth education and outreach efforts intended to promote increased understanding of historic architecture, landscape architecture and urban planning. This includes a coloring book (complete with child-friendly walking tour) by the artist Tom Chalkley and educational materials for teachers. A contribution from the T. Rowe Price Foundation helped fund the Guilford Centennial Coloring Book. The Baltimore-based financial institution has a special tie to Guilford. Thomas Rowe Price Jr. was a one-time resident who lived at 219 Wendover Road in a circa-1926 stone Colonial Revival-style home.
•Collection of archival materials in preparation for a book documenting the planning and early history of Guilford.
•Limited-edition full-color note cards featuring the work of local artist Liza Hathaway Matthews. Her "Secret Garden" depicts azaleas in full bloom in Sherwood Gardens, and the original artwork is in the private collection of Guilford residents Nathalie and Brendan Collins.
•Pritte, a Baltimore-based organic beauty company owned by Tracy and Babi Das, has created a 100 percent organic beeswax candle called Bloom. The fragrance, inspired by Sherwood Gardens, was specifically developed for Guilford's Centennial year. Twenty percent of the sale of each candle goes directly to support Sherwood Gardens.
More information about Guilford can be found at guilfordassociation.org or on the neighborhood's Facebook page at facebook.com/GuilfordCentennial.
If you go
Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage
Guilford is one of the neighborhoods featured in the annual pilgrimage taking place on weekends April 20 to May 18. Other tours include Wardour in Anne Arundel County, Red Creek Farm in Queen Anne's County and homes from the War of 1812 era in Charles County.
Tickets to the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage cost $30 per tour when purchased in advance or $35 on the day of the tour. Lunches will be available on the county tours. For details, tickets and other information go to mhgp.org or call 410-821-6933 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Thursday, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who attend the Maryland House & Garden Pilgrimage will receive a free limited-edition Guilford Centennial poster featuring Sherwood Gardens and Sherwood Mansion designed by the artist Tom Chalkley (while supplies last). A small supply of artist-signed posters are available for sale ($30).