Ernest L. Caldwell Jr.

Ernest Caldwell
Ernest Caldwell (Baltimore Sun)

Ernest L. Caldwell Jr., a retired senior city planner and urban designer who did early studies for what became Oriole Park at Camden Yards, died of complications of Parkinson's disease July 8 at Keswick Multi-Care Center. The Stoneleigh resident was 74.

Colleagues said Mr. Caldwell, a longtime baseball fan, had an early and influential role in convincing city officials of the potential of the former Baltimore & Ohio Railroad property adjacent to Camden Station as the site of a new sports field.


Born in Baltimore, he was the son of Ernest Larue Caldwell Sr., a well-known amateur golfer, and Edith Bevans Caldwell, a homemaker. He lived in Guilford and in Loch Raven Village and was a 1958 graduate of Towson High School, where he played baseball. He earned a degree in community planning from the University of Cincinnati and wrote his senior thesis about Baltimore's historic Seton Hill neighborhood.

He worked for Baltimore architects Fisher, Nes and Campbell and Locke and Jackson before joining the city's Department of Housing and Community Development in 1966, where he was assigned to neighborhood urban renewal efforts. From 1974 to 1996 he was a senior city planner and urban designer in the city's Planning Department. He retired from the Baltimore Development Corp. in 2009.

"Ernie was terrific. He was one of those unsung people who did good work all the time," said M.J. "Jay" Brodie, retired Baltimore Development Corp. president, who hired Mr. Caldwell. "I would give him a rough sketch, and he would turn it into an attractive drawing. He had a rare quality of being able produce a first-class, professional presentation. He was a talented person."

In his four decades of city planning work, Mr. Caldwell initially worked on the renewal of the Orchard and Biddle streets neighborhood, and after joining the Planning Department focused on the Upton community in Northwest Baltimore.

He oversaw production of a design guide for the Upton community. He prepared drawings used in similar publication for Pascault Row, a row of 1819 Federal-style rowhouses on West Lexington Street at Pearl that had fallen into disrepair in the 1970s. Now restored, the homes are used as University of Maryland housing.

Friends said Mr. Caldwell worked alongside Donald Duncan, a fellow city planner who died in 2007, to consider a new site for a baseball park at a time when Memorial Stadium was criticized for lacking skyboxes. Its 33rd Street location was also considered inconvenient.

"Ernie was one of a group of architects and designers recruited by [city planning director] Larry Reich," said a colleague, former city assistant planning director Albert W. Barry of Baltimore. "He had worked on the original downtown master plan, called MetroCenter Baltimore, that provided a comprehensive redevelopment strategy."

Mr. Barry said that Mr. Caldwell and his associates identified the B&O rail site and adjacent properties as a viable redevelopment site because of its adjacency to MARC trains. There were also newly completed highways and availability of real estate.

"Ernie, along with his long-term friend and co-designer Don Duncan, developed schemes that illustrated the feasibility of new uses for the rail yards," Mr. Barry said "They were able to persuade Mayor William D. Schaefer to push for that site that eventually became Camden Yards. Ernie was also an avid Orioles fan."

As a city planner, Mr. Duncan worked on scores of proposals and concepts over the years. His work included proposals for Penn Station, Mount Royal Avenue, the Basilica Parking Garage, and the former News American building site.

In his free time, he enjoyed doing calligraphy and painting with watercolors. During his travels, he studied the art and architecture of the areas he visited. In addition to baseball, he enjoyed golf and was an amateur genealogist.

Services will be held at 1 p.m. July 26 at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.

Survivors include his wife of 32 years, Joan S. Caldwell, a legal assistant; and two sons, Bradley K. Caldwell of Baltimore and David D. Caldwell of Salisbury. His first wife, the former Mary Drew, died in 1979.