Maryland, one of the oldest Southern colonies, flourished, like nearby Virginia, as a land of tobacco and slaves, and could afford the skills of talented craftsmen “just imported” from England. After the Revolution, Baltimore became one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the young Republic. There a taste for fine architecture flourished. French designers fled to the former Catholic colony for refuge after the slave revolts on the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo in the 1790’s. Benjamin Latrobe, the most brilliant talent of the period, and his friend Maximilian Godefroy, who fled to America after the French Revolution, contributed a new idea to American architecture: the idea that public buildings should have a different design than houses, a simple but novel concept here. In the 1830’s Baltimore produced one of the few native-born professional architects of the South, Robert Cary Long, Jr., creator of both Greek “temples” and Gothic “castles.”
This intriguing and in some respects surprising volume illustrates Maryland’s famous buildings–the colonial mansions of Annapolis and the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, Latrobe’s great Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Homewood mansion in Baltimore. Some of the unexpected buildings include Bachelor’s Hope, a delightful little mid-18th-century Palladian gentleman’s retreat, the elegant villas built on the hillsides around Baltimore to escape early yellow fever epidemics, a Gothic dog house, an Egyptian-style Record Office and an enormous octagonal cattle barn! The Maryland buildings created by some of the nation’s greatest talents are also included–William Buckland, Alexander Jackson Davis, Latrobe and Godefroy and another French refugee Joseph Jacques Ramée, Robert Mills, William Strickland, Richard Upjohn and Thomas U. Walter. Latrobe’s pupils and their pupils–Mills, Strickland and Walter–laid the foundations for the profession of architecture in early America.