Robert L. Eney

Fells Point res­i­dent was fix­ture in the neigh­bor­hood and as­sisted many with his knowl­edge of ar­chi­tec­ture

Baltimore Sun - - OBITUARIES - By Jac­ques Kelly jac­ques.kelly@balt­sun.com

Robert L. Eney, a pi­o­neer­ing Fells Point preser­va­tion­ist who cham­pi­oned the neigh­bor­hood’s ar­chi­tec­ture, died of com­pli­ca­tions from de­men­tia Sun­day. He was 87.

“Bob was truly one of a kind,” said U.S. Sen. Bar­bara A. Mikul­ski. “Smart, en­er­getic, tal­ented; he had it all and was just such a great guy. ... The his­tory in Fells Point was his pas­sion, and the peo­ple of Fells Point were his pals.

“He loved be­ing down by the water­front. We can see his mark on so many things, from the Ad­mi­ral Fell Inn to help­ing Bertha find her mus­sels,” the se­na­tor said. “He helped me find my own home on Ann Street, a home that meant so much to me, and helped me fur­nish it with unique items, like chairs from the ladies’ shoe depart­ment at Hut­zler’s.”

“Bob was so en­thu­si­as­tic, and per­sua­sive, he could turn a slum land­lord into a preser­va­tion­ist,” said Tony Nor­ris, his care­giver.

Mr. Eney resided in the home of Mr. Nor­ris and his wife, Laura, founders of Bertha’s Mus­sels. He pre­vi­ously lived many years on Fell Street and in Greek­town.

Born in Bal­ti­more and raised in Dun­dalk, he was the son of Mil­ton L. Eney, a Beth­le­hem Steel in­spec­tor and Spar­rows Point busi­ness owner, and Vi­ola Hare.

A grad­u­ate of Spar­rows Point High School, he took Satur­day cour­ses at the Bal­ti­more Mu­seum of Art. He served in the Army dur­ing the Korean War.

“Bob was dyslexic, and col­lege didn’t work for him,” said Mr. Nor­ris, who said Mr. Eney re­called be­ing fas­ci­nated by Fells Point’s ar­chi­tec­ture as a child.

“He told me he’d take the trol­ley in from Dun­dalk and im­merse him­self in the ar­chi­tec­ture,” said Mr. Nor­ris.

Skilled in draw­ing and paint­ing, Mr. Eney went to New York and be­came a visual dis­play artist for the Lord & Tay­lor depart­ment store on Fifth Av­enue. He painted mu­rals and de­signed its win­dow dis­plays.

While in New York, he met his part­ner, John C. Glea­son. Both shared an in­ter­est in early East Coast ar­chi­tec­ture and be­gan vis­it­ing old cities from Ge­or­gia to Maine. They had plans to write a book about Amer­i­can cities, and vis­ited Bal­ti­more in 1964.

They set­tled here af­ter a few years and ini­tially resided in Bolton Hill. Mr. Eney be­came head of de­sign and dis­play for the old Hochschild Kohn depart­ment store.

Ac­cord­ing to a 1970 Bal­ti­more Sun ar­ti­cle: “All along they had a dream of find­ing an old house and restor­ing it with the au­thor­ity of their re­search.”

They spent week­ends col­lect­ing wood­work from homes in Mary­land and Delaware that were be­ing de­mol­ished or al­tered, and stock­piled their in­ven­tory in Mr. Eney’s mother’s garage in Dun­dalk.

They joined the So­ci­ety for the Preser­va­tion of Fed­eral Hill, Mont­gomery Street and Fells Point in 1967 as the neigh­bor­hood was be­ing con­demned for a fed­eral high­way.

They found a pair of Fell Street houses, built about 1815, which they bought and ren­o­vated us­ing some of the wood­work they had col­lected. They com­pleted the project with no guar­an­tee their home would not be con­demned.

“Bob Eney was a great preser­va­tion­ist of Bal­ti­more,” said for­mer state Sen. Ju­lian “Jack” Lapi­des. “Though not very wealthy, he put his money where his mouth was at the time the neigh­bor­hood was threat­ened by the high­way con­dem­na­tion. His in­vest­ment made a state­ment. He de­serves tremen­dous credit.”

“When the fight against the road started, we had Bob help­ing to spear­head the his­toric preser­va­tion of Fells Point,” said Se­na­tor Mikul­ski.

In an oral his­tory and filmed rem­i­nis­cence, Mr. Eney re­called com­ing to Fells Point and ini­tially en­coun­ter­ing skep­ti­cism from long­time res­i­dents who did not know what to make of the new­found at­ten­tion be­ing paid to streets the city called an “in­dus­trial slum” in con­dem­na­tion pro­ceed­ings

He said he en­coun­tered wari­ness, but found some of the chil­dren of those fam­i­lies who lived there soon be­came preser­va­tion con­verts. The high­way plans were ul­ti­mately scrapped.

“Bob loved these houses, and a half a dozen peo­ple have stopped me on the streets and said, ‘I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for him,’” said Joanne Mazurek, who with her hus­band, An­drew, re­stored a house on Ann Street. “We were young and stum­bling, and Bob helped us get a grant and he drew our blue­prints.”

In the mid-1970s, af­ter the city bowed to pres­sure and dropped its plan for a high­way along the Fells Point water­front, it found it­self with 78 va­cant prop­er­ties scat­tered through­out the neigh­bor­hood.

Then-Mayor Wil­liam Don­ald Schae­fer in­tro­duced Mr. Eney at a 1977 City Hall news con­fer­ence — the mayor named him a con­sul­tant and pointed to his knowl­edge of Fell Point’s early ar­chi­tec­ture.

Mr. Eney cre­ated a de­sign guide­line book­let for the restora­tion of the 78 build­ings.

An­drew Mazurek pur­chased his fam­ily’s home from the city af­ter it had been taken by con­dem­na­tion.

“Bob loved these houses. If you had a ques­tion about a piece of mold­ing, he would draw some­thing on a nap­kin as he sat in a bar. He was an amaz­ing per­son,” said Mr. Mazurek.

Mr. Eney also led restora­tion of the Robert Long House, a 1765 struc­ture built by a Bal­ti­more mer­chant who helped sup­ply the Con­ti­nen­tal Army.

Friends re­called Mr. Eney’s sharp wit and his abun­dant sense of hu­mor.

“He was one of my fa­vorite dance part­ners, along with Jack Glea­son, at the Preser­va­tion Balls,” said Se­na­tor Mikul­ski. “His idea of fun was hav­ing ouzo shoot­ers at Mike Glyphis’ bar or see­ing John Wa­ters at Edith’s Shop­ping Bag.”

Plans for a memo­rial ser­vice are in­com­plete.

Sur­vivors in­clude a niece, Lisa Eney Robin­son of Del­phi, N.Y. His part­ner of three decades, John C. Glea­son Sr., died in 1992. Robert L. Eney was an ex­pert on Fells Point’s his­tory and its ar­chi­tec­ture.

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