Homewood: More than just a family home

Hwood

Homewood looks out over North Charles Street at the entrance of Johns Hopkins University.

Perfect symmetry. Simple. Elegant. Homewood was a nice place to call home for members of one of the richest families in America in 1801. Charles Carroll, son of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, designed the house that would shelter his young family on a farm north of Baltimore’s busy harbor. It has given its name to the campus of Johns Hopkins University that now surrounds it.

A soft palette of colors was used on the walls of Homewood.

A soft palette of colors was used on the walls of Homewood.

Homewood remembers a time when America was young. The world it looks out on — a thriving city and bustling university community — is far different from the days when this was verdant farmland.

The Charles Carroll who lived here as the son of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, and the nephew of John Carroll, America’s first Catholic bishop. He was part of a great family whose names are still part of the Maryland landscape. His grandson, John Lee Carroll, who was born here in 1830, would grow up to become governor of Maryland.

Charles Carroll of Homewood designed the house and oversaw its construction, building a five-part Palladian house where his family would live in the warmer months of the year. Work began in 1801 and though the family moved in in 1802, construction wasn’t completed until 1806.

Visitors enter through what was the kitchen and is now a gift shop. If you like colonial style, books filled with photos and great stories, or elegant little accessories for your own house, this shop is for you.

Homewood's dining room in shades of mint green and ruby red.

Homewood’s dining room in shades of mint green and ruby red.

Throughout the house, colors are vibrant. Walk down the hall and you’ll see how the colors change from room to room, all bright and cheerful.

Most of the rooms are on the first floor, including a guest bedroom and the master bedroom. (The four bedrooms on the second floor aren’t open to the public.)

Although most of the furnishings here are not original to the house, the house has been decorated in elegant Federal style with fringed draperies at the window, gilded mirrors and fine porcelains. About 85 percent of the house itself is original, including the floors and the intricate mouldings that surround doorways, fireplaces and crown the ceilings.

Toys on the floor of the back parlor remind visitors that Charles' and Harriett's children lived here.

Toys on the floor of the back parlor remind visitors that Charles’ and Harriett’s children lived here.

I always find a detail that I remember long after I’ve left one of these great houses. For me it was Charles Carroll of Carrollton’s traveling desk — And I thought my laptop was heavy. Look for the trundle bed in the guest bedchamber and the toys left on the floor of a parlor — as if the children were just called away from their play.

The basement isn’t an official part of the tour but it’s arched ceilings are worth stopping down there. (The restrooms are located here so everyone is welcome to visit.) Records don’t indicate how the basement was used although it must have served as a wine cellar.

Tours of the house take about an hour or so. I always suggest visitors to this house also visit Evergreen about a mile north on Charles Street. Both are part of Johns Hopkins University — but they could not be more different. Both were owned by powerful Baltimore families, but each speaks of completely different eras.

Fine decoration on the pediment of Homewood's porch is the first hint of the carvings and moldings inside.

Fine decoration on the pediment of Homewood’s porch is the first hint of the carvings and moldings inside.

One note of caution: The section of Charles Street in front of Hopkins is under construction so look for detour signs and check out the construction web page for updates.

Also nearby is the Baltimore Museum of Art, which houses Gertrude’s Restaurant. I recently wrote about the BMA’s sculpture garden — always a delight when the weather is fine.

© Text Mary K. Tilghman
Photos courtesy Homewood Museum, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD

Homewood's reception hall is reflected in a gilded convex mirror.

Homewood’s reception hall is reflected in a gilded convex mirror.

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