In April 1950, proper Baltimore was in a swivet. A local architect and his family had just moved into their new house, of his own design, at 901 West Lake Ave.; an Evening Sun feature described and pictured it. The house stood out, in that neighborhood of neo-Georgian mansions, being two-story, flat-roofed, glass-and-cypress Modernist. Baltimore had never seen the like.
Lunching at the 14 West Hamilton St. Club, the editor-in-chief of the Sunpapers, Hamilton Owens, roared, chuffed, roared some more. (Owens was a fancier of architecture.) Across the table from him, smiling, sat fellow club member Alex Cochran, of Gilman, Princeton, Yale, Harvard - and 901 West Lake.
Outrage took other forms. The Cochrans' next-door neighbor spoke of 901 as "that stable." Cochran's own mother never did come inside the house. Christopher Weeks (previously the author of architectural histories of Talbot and Dorchester counties) is amused, but merciful, as he records that long-ago furor in his new, illustrated biography, "Alexander Smith Cochran: Modernist Architect in Traditional Baltimore" (Maryland Historical Society. 173 pages. $29.95).
Cochran and his firm, now Cochran Stephenson & Donkervoet, went on to design and build many other structures, near and far, residential and otherwise. The latter half of Mr. Weeks' handsome volume catalogs 39, including houses for James Rouse, Harrison Garrett, Milton Sacks, Roy Scholz and Winfree Smith, and Waverly Redevelopment, Flag House Courts, bTC Lakehurst Apartments, the U.S. Consulate in Nagoya, Japan, Moss-Rouse offices, All Saints Episcopal Church in Hanover, Pa., the National Maritime Union Hiring Hall, Lion Bros. factory and office, Suburban Club, Baltimore's main Post Office and, finally, a smaller house for himself and his wife Cally, also at 901 West Lake. (The first house is now part of Boys' Latin School.)
Before 1950, Mr. Weeks notes, the look of Baltimore was widely thought of as "conservative," meaning stuffy. Alex Cochran (1913-1990) was around to see, nationally, Postmodernism give the boot to the Bauhaus (Walter Gropius was Cochran's Harvard mentor); but, in his final Evening Sun op-ed article, he was still around to thwack the Postmodernists.
In 1982, Guy Hollyday and his wife moved into one of the 23 fieldstone houses on Stone Hill, a secluded, 150-year-old part of Hampden. Soon he was questioning older residents, taping their recollections, assembling photos. The result is "Stone Hill: The People and Their Stories" (Hollyday. 270 pages. $20, paperback).
Mostly, starting in boy- and girlhood, they toiled at Mt. Vernon Mills. Hard lives, all the way; yet full of odd customs and moments. Among unacademic Baltimoreana, this is the most carefully researched book I have seen.
Best to go look at an exhibition; second best, it has a catalog. "Daughter of Zion: Henrietta Szold and American Jewish Womanhood" (Jewish Historical Society of Maryland. 103 pages. $15) has text by Bernard P. Fishman, Barry Kessler, Eric L. Godstein, Joyce Antler and Melissa Klapper, with illustrations, that will prolong the effect of the show now at JHSM.
Back from grief
It is a dozen years since Laurie Conrad, 19, was found, a bullet in her head, and police closed the case. Slowly, Bonnie Hunt Conrad of Pasadena worked her way back from grief - by writing, by thinking about others. Her book, "When a Child Has Died: Ways You Can Help a Bereaved Parent" (Fithian Press. 56 pages. $8.95), is both understanding and practical.
If there's a box or file of Oriole stuff in your den, take a look at "The Baltimore Orioles: Memories & Memorabilia" (Abbeville. 136 pages. $29.95), but be ready to hurt. The 125 years' worth of souvenirs in this series book (Bruce Chadwick text, glorious photos by David M. Spindel) is to lose out on at auctions, maybe to see at the Babe Ruth Museum, assuredly to slaver over.
James H. Bready wrote for The Evening Sun for many years as a reporter and book editor. He writes a monthly column on Maryland books.