William Boulton "Bo" Kelly Jr., a Baltimore architect, preservationist and civic leader who founded Baltimore Heritage and helped establish the Baltimore's Commission for Historical & Architectural Preservation, died Wednesday at Gilchrist Hospice in Towson of complications from an infection.
The longtime Ruxton resident was 84.
"Bo was a person who had an indomitable spirit and was also one of those wonderful characters you meet in life," said Walter G. Schamu, a partner in the firm of Schamu, Machowski, Grego Architects and a longtime friend. "He was a huge figure in the architectural history of this town and was a legend in his day."
"He was a visionary guy and a dominant force, and with his little-boy smile and twinkle, he could do amazing things because he loved life," said Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage. "He shaped the way we look at Baltimore and historic architecture. He created that framework."
The son of a Baltimore banker and businessman and a homemaker, William Boulton Kelly Jr. was born in Baltimore and raised in the 800 block of St. Georges Road in Roland Park.
Mr. Kelly's paternal grandfather was Dr. Howard A. Kelly, an internationally known gynecologist who was a member of the "Big Four" who helped found Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1889.
Mr. Kelly attended Gilman School and graduated in 1946 from the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Conn. He earned a bachelor's degree in architecture in 1950 from Princeton University.
From 1950 to 1954, Mr. Kelly served with the Marine Corps, where he attained the rank of captain. Much of his tour of duty was spent serving with an engineering unit that built and maintained the airport and runways at Cherry Point, N.C., and constructed a runway at the naval airfield in Vieques, Puerto Rico.
In 1950, he married Ellen Whitthorne "Ellie" Harvey.
After completing his Marine Corps service, he enrolled at Harvard University, where he earned a master's degree in architecture in 1958.
After moving back to Baltimore in 1957, he worked as a city planner with the Baltimore Urban Housing Association, until establishing the architectural firm of Tatar & Kelly Inc., which in 1963 relocated to Light Street.
Some of the notable buildings the firm designed included the Waxter Center, the Baltimore Post Office on East Fayette Street, the Towson University administration building, Towson Library and Chase House.
The firm also oversaw the restoration of the Pimlico Race Course clubhouse and the Babe Ruth House. Mr. Kelly even designed a treehouse for a Roland Park family and did all of the construction work.
In 1964, Mr. Kelly purchased the Intrepid, an 87-foot Trumpy-Mathis yacht that had been built in the early 1900s, and docked it where Rash Field is today, at a time when the harbor was filled with deserted and rotting piers.
When he received the commission to build the Maryland Pavilion for the 1964 World's Fair in New York, he sailed the Intrepid to Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
"It provided accommodations for himself and his associates because his firm had been selected as the architects to design and build the Maryland Pavilion," said a son, George Kelly, who lives in Owings Mills.
Back in Baltimore, Mr. Kelly enjoyed taking many city officials and dignitaries on cruises to Fort Carroll, which had been designed before the Civil War by Robert E. Lee.
"He saw the early potential and became a proud ambassador of the harbor at a time when it was simply desolate," his son said.
Mr. Kelly became alarmed at the trend of wrecking balls making their way through American cities, including Baltimore, in the name of urban renewal.
In 1960, he established Baltimore Heritage and played an instrumental role in founding the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation in 1964, and serving as its first chairman.
In 1967, he was a leader in having Bolton Hill declared a historic district.
"He had a vision of saving great historic places not only in the city but Baltimore County, and combining it with modern architecture," said Mr. Hopkins. "And with these organizations, which he got going, they became watchdogs and the voice of the people."
Mr. Kelly helped to establish the Baltimore County Historical Trust in 1979.
"He was an early pioneer in historic preservation when it had no popular calling or public support," said Joseph M. Coale III, a political adviser and Baltimore County preservationist who is the former head of Historic Annapolis. "He was out there waving the banner which is now part of our culture. We benefited by his commitment."
After his firm dissolved in 1974, he became executive director at the inception of the National Building Museum in Washington, and then founded Architectural Conservators Inc., which specialized in conserving and restoring historic buildings.
Some of the structures he worked on included the Field Museum in Chicago, the California capitol in Sacramento and the Washington Monument in Baltimore.
In addition to his professional life, he had led the City Fair for its first two years, beginning in 1970.
Mr. Kelly retired in the late 1980s.
He was an avid canoeist and enjoyed spending summers at "The Beach House," the Fishers Island, N.Y., home that he designed in 1969 in the Modernist style.
Mr. Kelly was a member of the Elkridge Club, the Fishers Island Club and the Hay Harbor Club, also on Fishers Island. He was a former member of the Maryland Club, Hamilton Street Club and Wednesday Club.
He was a communicant of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer, 5603 N. Charles St., where a memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 8.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr, Kelly is survived by another son, William Kelly of Wilmington, Del.; four daughters, Currie Wooten of Annapolis, Lucy Haus of Lutherville, Tina Crowley of Lexington, Mass., and Jean Cook of Madison, Conn.; and 19 grandchildren.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times