Despite what you may have heard, the "house museum" is not dead in Baltimore City.
Contrary to museum consultants' claims, the public has a continuing fascination with the homes of famous citizens, in Baltimore and elsewhere. The
The history of Baltimore is seen through its unique sights. As the city of Baltimore appraises and decides the disposition of its historic properties, it should remember that part of their value is tourism dollars and their significant cultural heritage to the Baltimore and all of Maryland. The West Baltimore neighborhood surrounding the Mencken House has numerous sights to intrigue visitors, including the Irish Shrine Museum, the B&O Roundhouse (aka the railroad museum) Mount Clare Mansion in Carroll Park, the
The city-owned H.L. Mencken House suffers from more than 15 years of benign neglect. While unoccupied and unwatched, termites attacked the under flooring on the main level. This destruction has been abated. Additionally, the air-conditioning units malfunctioned, causing severe water damage to the interior walls and buckling to the hardwood floors. For better than a decade, the Friends of the H.L. Mencken House and its sister group, the Society to Preserve H.L. Mencken's Legacy, have been patiently negotiating with Baltimore City to obtain a house transfer agreement. During this prolonged process, the Friends have become volunteer watchdogs of the house, acting as its unofficial caretaker.
These two groups established to preserve the H.L. Mencken House are working together and are eagerly waiting to begin the renaissance of this historic house. The initial funding is in place to start the house renovations, along with a major bequest of nearly $3 million for the house's endowment. The approved business plan and architectural plans for restoration have been prepared. All the furnishings and house artifacts are in safe storage at the Maryland Historical Society, awaiting return to the restored house.
When the H.L. Mencken House is able to reopen, it will be a museum and writers center. The Johns Hopkins University, the University of Maryland and Goucher College are all strong supporters of the project. This will be another special asset for Baltimore. This historic house, along with other historic properties of Baltimore, adds to and strengthens our cultural, educational and tourist economy.
We must not overlook the extraordinariness of Baltimore's collective backyard. We must save the Mencken House — and all of Baltimore's important history.