Guilford ready to ring in New Year with its centennial celebrations

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Steve Sherman of Homeland catches his daughter Scarlett Sherman, 3, while playing outside at Sherwood Gardens. Sherwood Gardens will be sure to play a large part in the Guilford Centennial, despite losing longtime caretaker and volunteer Bruce Barnett to "retirement."

Guilford's collective New Year's resolution is to get through the most eventful year in the North Baltimore neighborhood's history.

2013 is Guilford's centennial year, and the community is going all out to celebrate — well into 2014 — with plans ranging from a special tour of the mansions of affluent Guilford to the printing of commemorative posters and the publication of a coffee table book about Guilford's history, architecture and notable residents.


"It's going to be an exhausting year," said celebration organizer and lifelong Guilford resident Ann Giroux, 38, who lives in the Greenway house once owned by J. Edward Johnston, aka the Birdman of Guilford.

But 2013 will also be challenging in other ways, as the Guilford reservoir reconfiguration and capping project moves closer to a planned groundbreaking in 2014 and as the neighborhood builds its first endowment for the maintenance of the tourist mecca, Sherwood Gardens.


The Guilford Association has a reserve of $300,000 in its coffers for the upkeep of the gardens on Greenway, "and we probably need to triple that," said Tom Hobbs, association president. He said it costs about $110,000 year to maintain the gardens, including planting tulips in November, digging them up over the Memorial Day weekend and then replanting annuals.

This is also a time of transition for Sherwood Gardens, which is losing longtime caretaker and gardening guru Bruce Barnett. He's "retiring" as volunteer overseer of the garden, Hobbs said.

Succeeding Barnett is Jeff Lord, who has spent the last several years working with Barnett, Hobbs said.

The community continues to monitor the future of the Guilford Reservoir, which Baltimore City proposes to replace with two massive water tankswith a park and an entrance plaza at Underwood Road and Old Cold Spring Lane. Construction is tentatively planned for late 2014, Hobbs said.

Latest plans include an addition to the pumping station on the historic site, Hobbs said.

At the association's insistence, the addition would be a third smaller than the city originally planned. The city dropped plans for a supplemental generator, because some residents worried it would be noisy, Hobbs said.

The city's Commission for Architectural and Historic Preservation, or CHAP, must approve the final plans, he said.

But the biggest buzz is about the centennial. It starts next spring, on the anniversary of when the first houses were built, and the kickoff event will be a special version of the annual Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage to tour the region's showcase houses. This year's event focuses on the mansions of Guilford, and will include some rarely seen, including the former house of renowned 20th century artist Grace Turnbull.


"This is an opportunity for the world to see it restored," Giroux said.

Events continue with a centennial-themed tulip dig May 25, a centennial Dinner at Dusk in June, and a community estate sale in September.

A history walking tour with Baltimore Heritage also is planned for September. A centennial-themed caroling and tree lighting ceremony is slated for November.

And the centennial stretches all the way into May 2014, with a concert at Second Presbyterian Church and the finale, a Champagne and Tulips Centennial Gala.

Giroux said record attendance for the pilgrimage tour is expected because of the centennial, and that people should buy their $30 tickets well in advance. Optional lunch boxes are $15.

"I really expect we will have over 1,000 people," she said, noting that a Guilford-centric pilgrimage event in 2010 drew 700 people.


Make checks payable to Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage, care of the Guilford Association, 4200 St. Paul St., Suite 100, Baltimore, Md., 21218. Tickets can also be purchased online at Proceeds will benefit Sherwood Gardens.

For more information about the centennial celebration, call Giroux at 410-889-6484.