History

Johns Hopkins was born in 1795 and famously founded Johns Hopkins University and Hospital. Image courtesy of Johns Hopkins House.

Whites Hall, the birthplace and boyhood home of Johns Hopkins, is located close to Annapolis in the nearby Crofton/Gambrills area. Plans are underway by a Maryland non-profit corporation to repair and restore his childhood dwelling with the mission of saving and preserving history, opening the property with new uses to serve the community, as well as enhance the green space in and around the property. Johns Hopkins, as many know, is the founder of the world famous university and hospital in Baltimore, MD that carry his namesake.

The History of Whites Hall

Johns Hopkins House seeks to restore the birthplace of Johns Hopkins while creating a . Image courtesy of the author.

Whites Hall is a historic manor worthy of restoration in it’s own right, even without it’s famous resident. The original center portion of the two-story brick dwelling was constructed circa 1780, with wings on each end added in approximately 1915 and 1950. Johns Hopkins, one of 11 children, was born there in 1795, when it was known as Whites Hall. The business on the land was a 500-acre tobacco plantation. Johns began working when his father, Samuel Hopkins, a Quaker, emancipated his slaves in 1808. The family was 56 years ahead of Maryland’s Emancipation Day on November 1, 1864.

Remaining in the Hopkins family for generations, the tract was eventually sold in 1910 to M.M. and Pearl Stewart, of the Stewart Fruit Company. It operated as a produce farm until the 1940s. Next, the Duckett family bought the property in 1941, using it as a residence. Finally, the historic site was purchased by a developer in 2003 where parcels were subdivided and developed. Today the the historic home sits on 13 bucolic acres, awaiting it’s next chapter.

Executive Director of Johns Hopkins House

Robert S. Brown is the Executive Director of Johns Hopkins House, Inc. His enthusiasm for the property has a special connection. It was his maternal grandfather, Mr. Stewart who purchased the site from the Hopkins family in 1910. Ten years later, Brown’s mother was born there and grew up on the farm. At the time, the dwelling consisted of four large rooms, each with a fireplace.

Brown is from Massachusetts and has lived in various areas. He never saw the property growing up but had heard plenty of colorful stories. When he was told by a Baltimore relative that the house was slated for demolition, he immediately sprung into action by registering a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2017. An initial donation of $100,000 by a member of the Allyn family got the ball rolling. Brown has a strong and diversified background in several areas including health care, publishing, and building. Now, he is working tirelessly to spread the word about saving and restoring the historic dwelling and implementing plans for fundraising, in order to meet the vision of the project.

Whites Hall, photo taken in the 1920’s. Image courtesy of Johns Hopkins House.

The Vision

Stepping through the front door into the center hall transports you. The original woodwork remains as well as the staircase and wooden banister to the second floor. There is lead paint to remove and a good deal of construction (interior and exterior) to be done. But, the good news is that the house is structurally sound. Brown secured the dwelling when he initiated the project and put an end to mischievous vandalism that had plagued the property for years.

Brown explains the vision:

  • To repair and renovate the existing structure for use as a country inn, restaurant, and tavern with the supervision of Dennis Pogue, Restoration Consultant
  • Develop a separate building, a replica of an 18th century tobacco barn for use as a museum, exploring the life and legacy of Johns Hopkins with accessory uses.
  • The addition of 12 colonial cottages for overnight stays with excess revenue devoted to scholarships for African-American students in honor of former Whites Hall slaves.
  • Enhance the open space on the site with an arboretum, ponds and plantings.

Brown is working with County officials on rezoning, permitting, and other required development processes. He is seeking to turn a former plantation into a rich community resource.

An historical marker stands at the corner of Reidel and Johns Hopkins Road in Gambrills, MD. Image courtesy of the author.

Fundraising

Currently, The Johns Hopkins House, Inc. is under a lease-sale option with the developer. Brown’s current emphasis is on fundraising and acquiring loans to bring the purchase of the site to fruition. With ownership comes the ability to move forward in more significant ways.

Annual and lifetime memberships are available through the foundation which include discounts at future Inn events and services. 1,000 members would fund the sale and there are already 500. A Beer Garden is operating every weekend on the property with drinks, food, music, and games, with all proceeds going to the project. Volunteers are always welcome to help with the beer garden, work on the grounds. Especially, those with construction skills!

If you are a history buff, check out this opportunity!

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Lois Villemaire

Lois Villemaire is retired from a career in local government and is now exploring her interest in creative writing, sometimes combined with researching family history. The latter has provided her with colorful and unique material. Lois enjoys walking around downtown and practicing yoga. She volunteers at The Wellness House of Annapolis, a strength and support resource for cancer patients, survivors, and their families. She lives in Annapolis with her husband and they love reading, restaurants, music, and spending time with their children and grandchildren.