Mount District Improvement Association records
The Mount Vernon District Improvement Association was involved in public health and sanitation, liquor licensing, regulating signs and billboards, parking, zoning, Walters Art Gallery expansion, expressway development, urban renewal and architectural preservation. The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence, newsletters, minutes, financial papers, legal papers and blueprints for the area bounded by Mt. Royal and Guilford Avenues, and Franklin and Howard Streets. Douglas H. Gordon, I. Ridgeway Trimble, Clinton S.Larmore, Mrs. Cornelia M. Gibbs (Mrs. Rufus M. Gibbs), and G. Harvey Davis are the primary correspondents.
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Douglas Huntly Gordon, son of Douglas Huntly Gordon Sr., was born on April 22, 1902 and lived with his family at 1009 North Charles Street. Gordon attended the Calvert School, the Gilman School, Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In 1929 he began a career in politics. He served on the Bureau of Legislative Reference in Annapolis was a delegate to the Maryland State Legislature in 1930, 1931, and 1933. During this time, Gordon also served as the secretary to the Board of Directors of St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland. In 1931, he was appointed president of the college. Gordon resigned from his job as president of St. John's and campaigned for a seat in the Maryland State Senate in 1934. He married Winifred MacMillan Claude, the artist, in June of 1934.
It was when Gordon failed to win a senate seat that he turned his energies toward preserving the Mount Vernon District. This was the area in which he was born, raised, and returned to live after marrying Winifred. During the 1930's, the couple lived in a renovated carriage house on Chase Street.
When Gordon helped to found the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association in 1938, he believed that he was committing himself for only twenty-five years. This was due to the equation of the Gordon Curve which materialized from his own observations. He believed that at the age of seventy years, most buildings were being torn down. Therefore, if when newly built, a house is worth 100% it must deteriorate at a rate of 1.5% a year, so that when it is seventy years old its real estate value is low enough to warrant demolition. If it survives this low point, its value rises rapidly and in thirty years when the building is 100 years old, it is worth 100% again. Thus, Douglas Gordon originally thought that the district was about seventy years old in the late 1930s and that he would only have to be involved in the protective association until others would preserve the district on their own initiative. However, he was mistaken. The Mount Vernon district needed his vigilance as much in 1986, when he died, as in 1938.
Over the years, the vision of the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association remained relatively the same. In a 1938 letter to solicit new members, Gordon, as acting secretary, stated that membership dues would be used to “reduce dirt, increase police protection, diminish noise, and to seek the many other advantages obtainable by joint action for the improvement of conditions and values in the district.” This mission stayed relatively constant. In a 1961 letter to solicit new membership, Gordon stated that the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association was dedicated to “raising real estate values by reserving historic areas and maintaining residential and commercial standards through enforcement of zoning, liquor, health, and other laws.”
Douglas Gordon also had many other causes to which he was devoted. In addition to being manager of the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association, he was manager of the Contemporary Club, Inc. and the Alliance Francaise de Baltimore. The Contemporary Club annually scheduled two lectures by world figures for the benefit of its 125 members who wanted to be well informed on world events. The Alliance Francaise de Baltimore scheduled eight lectures a year on French cultural subjects. This collection contains the papers Douglas Gordon sent in an effort to keep each organization exempt from paying taxes after the Tax Reform Act of 1969 went into effect.
Gordon was president of [UNK] Art Society, intermittently, from 1961(?), He also served as Vice-president to the national Alliance Francaise organization.
Douglas died on March 24, 1986. Clinton S. Larmore took over as acting president. He and Winnie, Douglas's wife, continued to operate the association until 1992 when Mr. Larmore donated these papers to the Maryland Historical Society. The association was successful in having a plaque mounted on the courtyard wall of the Engineering Society in Mount Vernon Place which recognizes Douglas Huntly Gordon's untiring efforts to preserve the beauty of Mount Vernon Place. The plaque was dedicated on April 22, 1989.
More information on Douglas Gordon may be found in the September 18, 1977 of the Sunday Sun. A copy of which is in the Diehlman-Hayward File.
Dr. Isaac Ridgeway Trimble was another founder of the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association and from 1938 to 1942 he served as its chairman. He resigned in 1942 because he had been called into active duty in the U.S. Medical Corps during World War II. After World War II, he returned to Baltimore and resumed an active role in the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association. It is interesting to note that a definite split in vision can be detected between Douglas Gordon and Ridgeway Trimble as early as October 29, 1949. It is even more clearly evident in the correspondence from February 1958 to December 1960 concerning the Walters Art Gallery loan. It was because of this difference of opinion that Dr. Trimble resigned and totally disassociated himself from the association on December 6, 1960. He died on April 7, 1979.
Another founder of the association who figures prominently in this collection is Cornelia McQueen Gibbs (Mrs. Rufus M. Gibbs). Mrs. Gibbs used her writing talents in support of the association's urban renewal efforts from 1938 until her death on August 4, 1965. Many letters to the editor of Baltimore newspapers and the editor of Gardens, Houses and People are included in this collection.
G. Harvey Davis was another active executive member of the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association. He served on the board for many years as an officer and as a director. He was one of the earliest members and was clearly committed to urban renewal. In 1957, he bought the plot at 8 East Biddle Street and transformed it into a neighborhood garden (Evening Sun May 10, 1957). In a 1971 letter, Douglas Gordon truly regrets that G. Harvey Davis will be moving and therefore unable to continue to participate in the Association.
After Douglas Gordon's death, it was Clinton S. Larmore who took over as acting president. He served as secretary-treasurer from 1978 and as vice president and secretary-treasurer from 1980 until 1986. He was a member of the Association from 1966. The minutes from 1966 show that he was elected a director in that year. Although there appears to be no earlier references to him He may have been active before 1961. He wrote In Memorium: Douglas Huntly Gordon, which is probably a copy of the speech he read at the dedication of the plaque to Douglas Gordon which was mounted in the court yard of the Engineering Society on April 22, 1989.
A more complete list of active participants can be found among the annual and board meeting minutes. This biographical sketch highlights only those most visible in the correspondence.
8.75 Linear Feet (21 boxes)
Language of Materials
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Clinton S. Larmore, May 29, 1992.
Scope and Contents
The Mount Vernon District Improvement Association Records consist of six major series: 1) Legal Papers, 2) Financial Papers, 3) Meeting Minutes, 4) Subject Files, 5) 1 West Mt. Vernon Place Correspondence, and 6) Correspondence. The papers in this collection range from 1938-1942.
Series I: Legal Papers, 1939-1987,
Box 1, 2, 3
This series includes resolutions of the Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals, two files of material relating to the 1214 St. Paul Street zoning board hearing in 1947 and the highway traffic zoning board hearing in 1948, printed legal materials (ordinances, and court summaries), and Douglas H. Gordon's notes on various court cases. The provenance of the files on the Wardour apartment building case were preserved. Therefore, the papers are not in chronological order.
Series II: Financial Papers, 1940-1990,
Box 4, 5
This series consists of a daybook of receipts and disbursements, bills with attached correspondence from the daybook, corporate tax assessments for the Mount Vernon District Civic Association, Inc., the Mount Vernon District Improvement Association, Baltimore Opera Club, Inc., The Contemporary Club, Inc., and the Alliance Francaise de Baltimore. There are income tax exemption forms and correspondence for Mount Vernon District Improvement Association, a checking account ledger and papers from it, an account book of receipts, Treasurers reports and returned correspondence.
Series III: Meeting Minutes, 1944-1989,
This series contains minutes from annual, board, and directors meetings as well as the 1962 Articles of Incorporation.
Series IV: Subject Files, 1940-1988,
Box 6, 7, 8
This series contains “Your Tax Dollar newsletter of the Commission on Government Efficiency and Economy, the Mount Royal Democratic Club newsletter, the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Improvement Association newsletter, Report of the Maryland Historical Trust (can also be found interspersed with correspondence), 1952 Directory of Civic and Service Organizations, 1987 Community Association Directory, List of medical doctors in Mount Vernon and organizations in Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery clippings, erection of the Cardinal Gibbons Monument, Maryland General Hospital services, urban renewal, the City of Baltimore-Department of
Planning CBD III Study, Poems by Joseph E, Nutter (which give a unique view to the economic, social and political sentiment of the time. They illustrate anti-African-American, anti-Semitic, and political corruption sentiment), Edgar J. Rumpf Jr. Memorial Award (given annually to the police officer who does the most to protect the Mount Vernon district).
Series V: 1 West Mt. Vernon Place Correspondence, 1953-1985,
This series contains correspondence on the Thomas-Jencks-Gladding-Hackerman house. Some of the correspondence is with a Mrs. Robert Stevenson and some relate to furniture formally of the house.
Series VI: Correspondence, 1938-1992,
The correspondence in this series includes both incoming and outgoing correspondence and is in descending chronological order. The dates on the files are approximate because the correspondence has been kept in its original order, which is how Douglas Gordon handed it to his secretary for filing. This means that at times the researcher will find correspondence spanning several years but all relating to the same topic. It appears that Douglas Gordon kept his own active files and when he closed them, the secretary filed them among the retired current correspondence making large back files of material.
There are numerous letters to mayors, senators, and delegates interspersed throughout the collection. They tend to address whatever problem the association was the champion of at the time. Topics including zoning (residential versus commercial), liquor licensing, signs and billboards, parking, and legal cases are found throughout every file.
- Guide to the Mount District Improvement Association records
- Under Revision
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- 2020-03-20: Manually entered into ArchivesSpace by Mallory Herberger.