Clifton Mansion owes much to Hopkins heirs

Paul H. Belz’s commentary, “The man behind the name” (Dec. 14), was an informative though incomplete description of the history and preservation of one of two remaining residences of Baltimore’s greatest benefactor. Clifton Mansion is among the most tangible evidence of Johns Hopkins’ philanthropic imprint upon Baltimore. Though the City of Baltimore, and its agent Civic Works, have owned and occupied the property for decades, the transformation holiday visitors were recently treated to is a result of philanthropic efforts of more recent generations of the Hopkins family, Samuel and his son, Henry Holt Hopkins.

Despite the city’s continued neglect and application of resources, the two most recent generations of the Hopkins family never gave up hope that one day the magnificent building could once again reflect the character of the man without whom modern-day Baltimore is unimaginable. I cannot resist inserting a lament that the Johns Hopkins mega-institutions have apparently never seen fit to honor their founder by assisting in the preservation of those sites associated with his personal life — a chance, as Mr. Belz wrote, to “connect spiritually with the man.”

Recently, the board of trustees of the Maryland Historical Society, another beneficiary — along with Mount Vernon Place — of the Hopkins family’s enduring commitment to our state’s entire history, met at Clifton. The setting provided undeniable evidence of the fact that despite well-intentioned efforts of government, historic properties do best when their stewards are mission-driven, laser-focused individuals or organizations of the non-profit sector. One individual — or just a few — can make a difference.

Mark B. Letzer, Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of the Maryland Historical Society.

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