Friday, November 2, 2007

See the full article at:
Mr. Mencken's Neighborhood | Preservation | Urbanite Baltimore Magazine:

Quoted from Urbanite Baltimore Magazine:
Mr. Mencken's Neighborhood
by Joan Jacobson
The plaque on the front of H.L. Mencken's House
On a damp Sunday morning, Phil Hildebrandt makes the all-too-familiar climb up a ladder to prune H.L. Mencken's unruly wisteria. Below, Betsey Waters weeds around the purple asters, yarrow, and begonias that she's planted to recreate the garden that Baltimore's most famous writer so prized behind his Union Square home.

Taking care of the Mencken House is a communal effort these days; it's been closed to the public for the last ten years. While perhaps no other vacant city-owned National Historic Landmark has been so fussed over by civic leaders, it has also been so neglected by bureaucrats of three mayoral administrations that the city twice contemplated selling off the house.

Fifty-one years after Mencken's death, the cantankerous newspaperman and social commentator might be amused to hear the quandary facing his old homestead. In 2005, an obscure Mencken fan named Max Edwin Hency died in Hawaii, leaving the Mencken House an estimated $1.5 million to maintain the property. Would the man who once wrote "all government is evil" be surprised to hear that this money is still sitting in Honolulu while Baltimore's cash-strapped City Hall hasn't taken the actions needed to spend it?

Mencken lived for seventy-plus years in a handsome three-story brick rowhouse with marble trim at 1524 Hollins Street in Southwest Baltimore. During a long and prolific career, much of it at The Evening Sun and The Sun, he wrote thirty books and contributed to ten others in the L-shaped, second-floor room overlooking Union Square. Although he often traveled to New York City for his work, Mencken's only home was Baltimore—and most of that was spent in the house he once called "as much a part of me as my two hands."


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