Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another Eden Terrace home lost in the name of progress . . .

Nothing is left. Arden is gone. With it went another piece of Catonsville's rich past. Twenty-three homes will take its place. The people who will live in these cookie-cutter McMansions will probably never know, or care, what price was paid for them to have shiny new granite counter tops and 4.5 bathrooms. In a time when reuse is so important and necessary, I have to ask them, "wasn't there ONE currently constructed home that fit your needs? Did you think how you could have stimulated the economy by buying a home someone else was facing foreclosure on? Why contribute to the excess that got us into this mess in the first place?"

I gave the news tip to the Catonsville Times. The reporter didn't quite write the article I had hoped for. Click here to read what will probably be the last article written about Arden and Victor Bloede.

RIP Arden.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Moxley refuses to save Arden

Tell councilman community wants Bloede House to stay

Letter to Editor of the Catonsville Times published: August 20, 2008

Councilman Sam Moxley decided to allow the demolition of the Victor Bloede house on Forest Avenue.

His four reasons for not placing the house on the County Landmarks list are quoted below from his e-mail to me and others. Following each one is my response.

"I based this decision on several factors. First, this property was considered for landmark nomination in 2006. At the time, the Landmark Preservation Commission did not move forward because staff determined the existing house was not historic and the application was withdrawn."

Reply: Staff did a hasty drive-by, and did not know the historic significance of Mr. Bloede, which is the reason his house was nominated to the landmarks list. In January, the Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 7-3 to put the house on the Preliminary Landmarks List, which makes any earlier considerations irrelevant.

"Also, the LPC staff review of this recent third party request did not support landmark status. In fact, the county staff did not believe the house is 'a distinctive example of a particular architectural style or period' and that 'the house Mr. Bloede lived in while he was notable burned down.'"

Reply: The house was not nominated for its architecture; it was nominated -- and approved by the LPC -- because of its association with Mr. Bloede. It's true that the original house burned, but the new house occupies the footprint of the old one, and Mr. Bloede lived on the site for 40 years.

While Albert Einstein lived in Princeton, his productive days were behind him. Should Einstein's house in Princeton be demolished for a new subdivision?

"Additionally, the LPC's own technical committee recommended that the property not be listed: that it be torn down instead."

Reply: The full LPC disagreed and overwhelmingly voted to put the house on the Preliminary Landmarks List.

"Lastly, the property owner did not apply for this status. While I am very supportive of historic preservation, it is important to me to have the property owner's support. When someone else applies for the status, I expect there to be absolutely no question as to the validity of the request. With the reports I received from county staff, the LPC, and residents and interested persons, that did not happen here."

Reply: The property owner does not live in the United States. He is an absentee landlord. The push for demolition comes from a developer, who does not live in the area and does not even own the property yet.

Under these circumstances, I don't see why their desires should outweigh those of the community, especially since all the new houses can fit on the site without having to demolish the Bloede House.

The law and the facts overwhelmingly support the landmarking of the Bloede House. Its demolition in the face of community opposition can only be construed as a handout to a developer.

How do we know?

Because there is one question Mr. Moxley did not address: How does Catonsville benefit from the destruction of the Bloede House?

It's not too late. The County Council will meet Aug. 26 at 2 p.m. to discuss the landmarks bill.

Please contact Councilman Moxley and ask him to add the Bloede House to the landmarks list.

Daniel Rosen

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Welcome to the Save Arden blog

Arden was the former home of Victor Gustav Bloede built in 1924 in Catonsville, Maryland. It is currently at risk of being razed to make room for a 23 unit PUD on the grounds of the estate. The property was given preliminary Historic Landmark status in January by the Baltimore County Landmarks Preservation Commission.

The Baltimore County Council held a public hearing on July 7th. The Council will vote on Arden’s final Landmark status on July 29th. We need YOUR help! Please contact Councilman Sam Moxley, and the rest of the Council members, to voice your opinion on the necessity of preserving Arden. We need you to urge Councilman Moxley to draft a bill placing Arden into permanent History Landmark status.

Take a moment to read the posts below to learn why this property is so important to not only Catonsville, but to the general public as well. We welcome your comments. Don’t forget to visit the related links to the left. Please click on the subscribe button so you can be kept up-to-date on the progress. We will post information on this site as it becomes available.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Letter to the Editor of the Catonsville Times

Razing of home would be a loss for Catonsville history

The building of the Baltimore Beltway tore the heart out of just one neighborhood: Eden Park in Catonsville.

The stately streets at the edges of that neighborhood still run between Edmondson Avenue and Frederick Road, but they are separated by Interstate 695.

What's left of Eden Park is on the verge of suffering demolition of yet another of its great historic houses.

The developer of 23 townhouses on Forest Avenue wants the Victor Bloede house gone.

Built to be fireproof in 1924 and called Arden by its owner, the house, though in disrepair, is habitable and structurally sound.

Three of the proposed 23 townhouses barely intrude on the footprint of the existing house. The new houses and the Bloede house can easily coexist on the 7-acre site, but the developer won't budge.

If Councilman Sam Moxley does not place the Bloede house on the final landmarks list at the County Council's work session July 29, it will disappear.

Victor Gustav Bloede (1849-1937) was one of the greatest people ever to live here.

Catonsville, as we love it, would not exist if not for him, because he brought water, electricity, the streetcar and the First National Bank -- which still stands on the corner of Frederick Road and Ingleside Avenue -- to the town, in addition to building Eden Park.

To learn more about Mr. Bloede's achievements, his more than 20 patents, and his national and international renown, go to

Please write, call, e-mail or visit Councilman Moxley, urging him to place the Bloede house on the final landmarks list.

It is difficult to pass on traditional values without traditional places, and the short-term interests of a contract purchaser do not outweigh the interests of the community, where Victor Bloede lived and worked.

His house has stood for 85 years and deserves to remain.

Daniel Rosen

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

In Summary: Victor Bloede

Victor G. Bloede
Catonsville Baltimore County

Baltimore Countian Victor G. Bloede was noted as a chemist; among his 20 plus patents are creation of aniline dyes (called Sunfast), and postage stamp glue. These inventions almost pale in comparison when mentioned along with his other achievements:

-Graduate of Cooper Union at 18 with degree in chemical engineering and associate of Peter Cooper (the "Tom Thumb")

-Contemporary of Thomas Edison and executives of Standard Oil and member of the turn of the century cult of invention in the US

-Winner of the Republique Francaise Medal, Paris 1889, the World Columbian Exposition Medal Chicago, 1893, the Franklin Institute Medal 1894, Peter Cooper Medal for Significant Contribution to Chemical Research 1918 and Cooper Union Award for Assistance to the Blind and Afflicted

-National pioneer in construction technology

-Who's Who in American 1925

-But most important to us he built or caused to be built:

Bloede Dam (power generating) – on the Patapsco; first of its kind in nation with reinforced concrete and with underwater hydrological plant housed in metal plating from Poole and Hunt who made plates for the Capitol Dome. (By comparison Conowingo Dam was not built until 1928.)

Patapsco Electric and Manufacturing Co using power from the dam to bring electricity to the area

            Catonsville and Ellicott City Electric RR 1899

These creations are representative of the means by which Baltimore City could be accessed; opened the door to the expansion of the suburbs with the introduction of municipal comforts as was transpiring in other urban areas. This is a time when no other company or government would extend these facilities.

1st National Bank of Catonsville – 1897 along with John Glenn of Hilton and Dr. Charles MacGill regimental surgeon to the Stonewall Brigade. (the 1902 building still stands in Catonsville)

Avalon Water Works 1906

Maria Bloede Building part of Eudowood Sanitarium

Eden Terrace Water Co. – pumping station and water from Caton Springs with a water wheel powered by steam

- But further he was a man of compassion, intellect and civic activism:

Supporter and signatory to a letter for President Grant along with Horace Greeley, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Peter Cooper

Provider of a form of workman's compensation before any such assistance was used

            Assured that citizens had local banking opportunities

Frequent contributor to the Sun

Author of The Reducers an innovative work on recycling photographic wastes/      toxins

Member of the Maryland Fifth Regiment Reserve Corps (the famous "Dandy Fifth")

Member of the 6th International Congress on Tuberculosis along with B. Griswold, Governor George Brown, Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte, Mayor Barry Mahool, Cardinal Gibbons, Dr. JMT Finney and Daniel Gilman

Victor Bloede was a chemical engineer, entrepreneur, banker, innovator, construction genius, benefactor, businessman, award winner, philanthropist, catalyst and a dedicated citizen of Baltimore County.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A letter to Councilman Moxley. . .

. . . from a former Catonsville resident.

Dear Councilman Moxley,

How many times have you said, "I remember" referring to someone or something from your childhood years? I, for one, have certainly had that experience and that phrase came back to me recently when I heard of the plans to raze the Victor Bloede home in Eden Terrace, Catonsville, MD.

The close proximity of my childhood home to Eden Terrace made it possible for me and my brothers to play in that area in the mid-to-late 1930s. I recall the beauty of the interior of one of the homes on Arbutus Avenue (which was vacant at that time) and find it almost impossible to believe that any part of Eden Terrace, and particularly the Victor Bloede home, could be destroyed for townhouse development. If you, Councilman Moxley, or the members of the Council have read the history of this great man, I believe you would be hard-pressed to allow his home to be destroyed. An important reminder of Bloede's life and contribution to society would be his home and Catonsville should be proud to call him "one of our own" and not allow this horrible plan to move forward. There will be many more homes and townhouses erected in and around Catonsville, I'm sure, but there will never be another Victor Bloede home.

While I am no longer a resident of Catonsville, I still have roots there and I hope you and the Baltimore County Council will let clear and wise minds prevail in this decision-making process.

It is important to pass a bill to give this home permanent historic landmark status. Once destroyed, it can never be retrieved.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Catonsville Times Article

House's protection may hinge on guilty plea 100 years ago

Lawyer makes case against landmark

By Marcia

Posted 7/16/08

The fate of Victor Bloede's Catonsville home may depend on his rap sheet, not his achievements as a chemist, inventor and entrepreneur.

Wanting to preserve the 83-year-old, vacant house at 110 Forest Ave. that Bloede built and occupied until his death in 1937, neighbor Steve Lackey nominated it for county landmark status last year.

The house qualifies based on its association with a historically significant person, according to Lackey and the county Landmarks Preservation Committee, which approved the nomination in January.

From Towson attorney Scott Barhight's point of view, however, Bloede's guilty plea in 1908 to charges of conspiring to defraud the U.S. government should trump the nomination.
Barhight represented developer Charles Skirven in a July 7 hearing before the County Council, which has final authority to designate county landmarks.

The County Council has 90 days from the July 7 hearing to decide whether to approve the landmark nomination.

Barhight described the 1908 case as one argument against preserving the house, he told the Catonsville Times.

Furthermore, a final ruling that preserves the house would cause Skirven to drop his 23-unit, county-approved plan to raze it and build The Villas at Eden Terrace at 110 Forest Ave., Barhight said.

Skirven, who has described the house as "a shambles," has a contract to buy the 6.5-acre property from its current owner, Lino LaPenna, who lives out of state.

His plan for The Villas at Eden Terrace was approved last fall under the county's Planned Unit Development review process.

In May this year, the plan received the zoning relief needed for construction to proceed on the development, which would be marketed to people age 55 and older.

With the Bloede house a county landmark, however, Skirven would need county Landmark Preservation Commission approval to demolish it or change its exterior architecture.
"Fat chance of that happening," Barhight said, referring to approval for demolition.
Lackey describes Barhight's account of the 1908 conspiracy case as "misleading."
"Personally, I found Mr. Skirven's lawyer, with his affront to Victor Bloede, to be remarkably offensive," he said.

Although Bloede was technically guilty of violating the law, he had not intended to defraud the government, according to a 1908 Washington Post article.

Lackey also defends Bloede's historical significance.

In addition to his namesake dam on the Patapsco River in Catonsville, which housed an electrical generator thought to be the first of its kind, Bloede is credited with developing Eden Terrace, the neighborhood that includes Forest Avenue, Lackey noted.

Bloede invented and patented the first adhesive used on postage stamps.

He also collaborated with a U.S. Department of Treasury chemist to develop an ink used by the department in steel engraving.

It was in the development of the ink that he ran afoul of the law.

Lackey, who has researched the issue with a Bloede family member, alleges that Bloede had the U.S. Department of Treasury's blessing in the late 1890s to collaborate with a department chemist to develop ink the department needed for steel plate engraving.

Bloede subsequently sold the ink under annual, competitive contracts to the department for more than 20 years.

Beginning in 1901, he agreed to share royalties from the sales with the department chemist who had helped him develop the ink.

The agreement was approved by the Secretary of the Treasury, according to Lackey and the Bloede family.

In 1908, Bloede and the department chemist both were indicted by a federal grand jury for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government, according to the Washington Post.
Acting on bad advice from a friend who was a Baltimore judge at the time, Bloede pleaded guilty and paid a fine, according to Lackey.

Barhight's attempt to discredit Bloede was "pathetic," Lackey said.

"If this is the best they can come up with, Mr. Skirven is not getting his money's worth," he said.