Edwin Baker, Columbia planner and HUD official, dies

Edwin W. Baker
Edwin W. Baker

Edwin "Ted" William Baker, one of Columbia's original planners and a world traveler whose pursuits included rough-terrain horseback riding, died of a cardiac arrest Tuesday. The Baltimore resident was 77.

Mr. Baker grew up in California and earned a bachelor's degree in architecture from the University of California, Berkeley in 1959. His two years in the Navy after graduation fueled a lasting love of visiting new places, said his daughter, Caroline S.A. Baker of Baltimore.


"He traveled all over in those two years and wrote postcards from all different hemispheres — from Japan and Sydney, Australia, and off the coast of Africa," she said.

Afterward, he returned to California and worked for several years as an architect at real estate firm Janss Corp. He came east in 1965 to join the Rouse Co., overseeing a team of at least 60 people as head of design during Columbia's formative years.


Laurin B. Askew Jr., who worked with Mr. Baker at Rouse, said his friend and colleague was a fine architect in his own right but particularly enjoyed collaborating with others. He was a critic in the best sense of the word, said Mr. Askew, who goes by the name of Monk.

"If someone was doing a plan or design or something, Ted would have something constructive to say about it," Mr. Askew said. "He could do it off the top of his head, and he would be dead right."

Mr. Baker left Rouse in the 1970s for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, but he never lost interest in the planned community he helped design. He organized a tour of Columbia for a Baltimore architect this year to highlight original parts of town — "places he felt were historic," his daughter said.

And in March, he sent a letter to The Baltimore Sun expressing how "horrified" he was by a plan to develop Symphony Woods in Columbia with theaters, cafes and other elements.

"Columbia's 'Central Park' was always planned to be a peaceful natural park for Columbia as a relief from what we hoped, in the 1960s, would be a busy downtown," he wrote.

In 1966, Mr. Baker married Georgia O'Daniel. Together they designed the Pikesville house their children grew up in.

They divorced in the 1970s. Later that decade, he married Linda D. Ford, who died in 2010.

After Mr. Baker worked at HUD and led the federal Appraisal Subcommittee, he left government in the mid-1990s to run the American Society of Appraisers. He retired in 2004.

He lived a full life beyond work. He and Ms. Ford visited nearly every state in Mexico, traveled extensively to south and central America, and once went to Venice for its Vogalonga rowing regatta. The two kept horses on their farm in Charles County for years and went on endurance trail rides together — 50 miles or more on horseback along rough terrain.

And he loved cars. Mr. Baker bought the shell of a replica Lotus 7 race car about a decade ago and rebuilt it. He brought it to a car show the weekend before his death.

"My dad was someone who was always adventuring," Ms. Baker said. "He just kept learning and exploring."

Mr. Baker was active in Charles County planning matters, even after moving to Baltimore last year to be closer to his children.


"He was planning to attend [a] meeting last week and support the new plan in Charles County to try to balance development and open space preservation," his daughter said. "He was very passionate about smart development."

He died suddenly, collapsing while walking his dog. He'd experienced shortness of breath beforehand, and doctors said an inability to get enough oxygen prompted his cardiac arrest at MedStar Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore.

Richard-Raymond Alasko, a friend and former American Society of Appraisers colleague, had planned to travel with Mr. Baker to the Detroit area soon. Mr. Baker was a delight to be around because he was such a positive person, Mr. Alasko said. When problems hit, Mr. Baker found workarounds.

He was in an airplane headed for California when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred and ended up grounded in St. Louis. He came up short in the mad rush for rental cars. So he and another Maryland man rented an empty moving truck and drove home in that, Mr. Alasko said.

"He had great appetite and great enthusiasm," said Mr. Alasko, who lives in Chicago. "Truly a remarkable life."

A celebration of his life is planned for July 2.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Baker is survived by his son, E. Christopher Baker of Baltimore, and his sister, Judy M. Baker of Fresno, Calif.


Recommended on Baltimore Sun