The long abandoned and nearly hidden gardener’s cottage located in Clifton Park has just received some much-needed attention from Lewis Contractors. Much like the historic gatehouse to Sheppard Pratt Hospital, also restored by Lewis Contractors, this “little gem” of a residence resembles the home described in the story of Hansel and Gretel. Given Lewis’ history of bringing new life to iconic homes such as Homewood House Museum, on the campus of Johns Hopkins University, it is little wonder that the Friends of Clifton Mansion called upon Lewis to complete the stabilization of this fanciful residence.
When it was built, circa 1852, replete with its formal boxwood and rose gardens and pond, the gardener’s cottage was truly a horticultural showplace within view of Clifton Mansion, summer home to Baltimore merchant and university benefactor Johns Hopkins. It was here that Hopkins’ head gardener for the estate grew the plants, which ornamented the gardens, designed and maintained the expansive lawns and walkways, and cared for the trees defining the property once described as “eloquence manifest in the poetry of architecture and landscape.”
Despite an effort to save the structure about a decade ago, years of abandonment had left the cottage a forgotten ruin whose roof had collapsed, with rotting floors and whose walls and chimneys were nearly ready to collapse. Lewis Contractors was called upon to clear a temporary roadway to the house, remove the debris, junk trees and weeds, and to design and install the shoring, which has stabilized the walls and chimneys as the next step of the restoration is planned.
Clifton Mansion itself has undergone a great deal of restoration and the gardener’s cottage has engendered great interest among Baltimore residents. Alan Gilbert, famed Baltimore architectural photographer, has said, “As soon as I laid my eyes on the cottage, even in its’ sad condition, I was reminded how fortunate I am to specialize in the photography of architecture. The restoration of this gem by Lewis will further enrich our city.” Kate Dix, graduate student at University of New Mexico and former Baltimore resident, is memorializing the historic home by her master’s thesis and has said, “Even in its decline, the gardeners cottage is beautiful and intriguing.”
Philanthropist Henry Holt Hopkins, relative of Johns Hopkins, is leading the effort to restore the gardener’s cottage and has said of his father, Samuel Hopkins, “One of his great desires was to restore …this little cottage. It was his little jewel.”
Once again, Lewis considers it a privilege to have received the call to restore one of the architectural jewels that abound throughout the City of Baltimore. Lewis President, Tyler Tate, has said that his firm looks forward to working with Mr. Hopkins and his committee as the whimsical home is brought to life once again.