Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fact-checking Mike Bloomberg

Contrary to what Mike Bloomberg '64 may think, 
Homewood House, above, is the architectural inspiration for the Homewood campus.

The University produced a video to commemorate the renovation of Gilman Hall. It was shown at the rededication Saturday and has been posted on YouTube. In it, President Ron Daniels, Dean Kathy Newman, other faculty, students, and alumni talk about the renovated building and the importance of the humanities at Hopkins.

Mike Bloomberg '64, the Mayor of New York City, makes a special appearance at the 3 minutes 58 seconds mark. He says:
Gilman is the history of Hopkins. Its architecture set the standard for the rest of the campus and the fact that you had to go through it to get basically from one place to another really made it the focal point for the university.
Not entirely true, Mr. Mayor.

Gilman was not the architectural inspiration for the Homewood campus. Here is the real story based on research done by Hopkins Underground.

When Johns Hopkins University was first founded, it was located near Howard and West Monument Streets in Romanesque buildings. Daniel Coit Gilman expressed a desire to move the campus to a more rural location and adopt more traditional architecture.

In 1902, William Keyser (as in Keyser Quad), a University trustee, donated the 120 acre Carroll family estate which includes Homewood House. The estate is what we know today as the Homewood campus.

Two years later, President Ira Remsen, Gilman's successor, held a design competition for a new main building and campus. At least two architects submitted proposals. John Russell Pope, who designed the Baltimore Museum of Art and Jefferson Memorial decades later, proposed a classical design and campus layout. The University Trustees did not go for his.

Instead, they picked the design from Parker, Thomas, & Rice, an architecture firm with offices in Baltimore and Boston. Douglas H. Thomas a Baltimore native graduated from Hopkins with a degree in engineering.

They used Georgian Revival architecture and design, seeking to emulate the features of Homewood House which was built in 1801.  They believed Homewood House to be "the shining architectural light already occupying the ground." Today, Homewood House is known as Homewood Museum.

Gilman Hall is a reinterpretation and enlargement of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. It sought to connect the University with the American Colonial period and other Universities with Georgian architecture.

So while one of Hopkins's most famous alumni and a former chairman of the board has served his alma mater well, he is incorrect in saying Gilman is the architectural basis for the campus. It is that home to the north east of Gilman.

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