The Baltimore Architecture Foundation and Baltimore Heritage
present “How Suffragists Built Baltimore’s First Recreation Center.” This is a free event held from 1-1:30 p.m.. Register online at www. eventbrite.com.
The women’s suffrage movement. Cast-in-place concrete. Katherine Hepburn. What do these three things have in common? The Roosevelt Park Recreation Center, of course! In this installment of Virtual Histories, BAF board member Jackson Gilman-Forlini will present his ongoing research into the origins and architecture of Baltimore’s first rec center.
Completed in 1911, the Roosevelt Park Recreation Center was the culmination of a years-long campaign by a tenacious group of Progressive Era reformers who, despite skeptics, believed they could improve the lives of working-class people through recreation. This initiative was led by Edith Houghton Hooker, one of the most influential of Maryland suffragists and later the maternal aunt of actor Katherine Hepburn. The unlikely story behind the center’s creation is matched only by its architecture: an unusually modern design for Baltimore at the time and a wholly forgotten work by local architect J.B. Noel Wyatt.
Despite modifications over the years, the building retains a high degree of historical integrity and state of preservation. As a testament to the vision of its founders, the center has remained an important community focal point for the Hampden neighborhood throughout its century-long history and served as a model for recreation centers throughout the city.