The Old School House In Dickeyville


Hot House:  5002 Wetheredsville Road, Dickeyville, Baltimore, Md. 21207

1830 semi-detached, stone colonial, updated and well maintained, overlooking the Gwynns Falls in Dickeyville.  Two thousand sq. ft. includes three bedrooms, two and a half baths, two-car garage with loft:  $300,000 (recently reduced from $350,000)

What: Originally the village school house, this is one of several houses currently for sale (see photos) in Dickeyville, a historic neighborhood tucked away in northwest Baltimore with the storybook feel of a small 19th century village.

At 5002 Weatheredsville Road, a narrow brick path leads through the picket fence and into a large, bright living room with a wood-burning fireplace. Dining room, laundry room and a country-style kitchen are also on the main floor. French doors in the kitchen open to a brick patio surrounded by trees — you can hear and see the trickling of the falls. Upstairs are three nice bedrooms with large closets. Period details include beamed ceilings, crown moldings and wood floors. Central air, too.

Dickeyville is one of Baltimore’s great hidden neighborhoods, a real trip back in time. Baltimore author Laura Lippman grew up here. It is close-knit and friendly community, situated at the beginning of lovely Leakin Park with its 15 miles of hiking and biking trails. There is no through traffic, so it’s quiet and safe, with good ethnic diversity and an arts and crafts sensibility. People who live here love it, and many have been here a long time.  The community association is strong and active.

Where: Inside the beltway, near the Baltimore County line in Northwest Baltimore City, close to the Forest Park municipal golf course ($30 to play).  Take Northern Parkway west, past the Pimlico Racetrack to Wabash Avenue. Take a left on Wabash and go about a half mile to Hillside. Take a right on Hillside, go 1.5 miles, then turn right onto W. Forest Park Avenue. After a half-mile, turn a sharp left onto Wetheredsville Rd.  Dickeyville is about 15 minutes from Mt. Washington, much closer to Security Boulevard and Woodlawn.  

Why: Park-like setting, absolutely unique, charm in buckets — visitors will go nuts.  Walk out the door to access 15 miles of trails. Famous for musical 4th of July and other parties. Houses are well-priced.

Why not:  Here’s the problem. Dickeyville is basically in Forest Park, a middle class Baltimore city neighborhood with pockets of urban decay and almost no decent retail — like a grocery store. There is a nice nursery school here, but public schools are poor. Cute and safe as Dickeyville is, sadly, you have to leave Dickeyville to shop, eat and work. Closest shopping is Security Boulevard.

Who: Tom Sawyer and Becky, now working at the Social Security Administration.  Fans of Historic Williamsburg. Pottery major at MICA.

NB:  You could open a coffee shop here (check zoning) and be a true small town hero. Friends at MICA could make an indie movie about it.  

House of Delegates Passes Gay Marriage Bill (OMG Just Barely!)


Maryland’s House of Delegates, the same chamber that killed a gay marriage bill last year, just passed the new, improved 2012 version, 72-67, after two Republicans jumped ship and voted yea.

That the bill almost didn’t pass the House, even with the full weight of the Governor’s office behind it and with massive outreach to religious black legislators by the Human Rights Campaign, speaks volume about the contentiousness of this issue in one of the “bluest” states in the union.

The State Senate is expected to pass the bill with less nail-biting suspense. But, of course, it will likely end up as a referendum, leaving voters to decide whether Maryland will become the eighth state to legalize gay marriage. With that and the Dream Act on the ballot, I wouldn’t be surprised if Maryland earns a record voter turnout in November.

Now I know the bill has already been thoroughly revamped from the 2011 version, with plenty of clear-cut religious protections, and so on. But before the Senate votes, I would like to suggest one final amendment to the bill: that all wedding receptions must feature water chestnuts wrapped in bacon and that I need to be invited. Thank you.

Lin-sanity Turns into Lin-sensitivity


Last week Anne Arundel County Councilman Dick Ladd, 71, referred to enemy combatants in the Vietnam War as “gooks” during a council meeting, immediately defending it as a “technical” term. And early Saturday morning ESPN’s mobile website briefly sported the Lin-excusable (sorry, I am contractually obligated to make at least one of those puns) headline “Chink in the Armor,” referring to an uncharacteristically sloppy performance by the New York Knicks’ Taiwanese-American point guard Jeremy Lin, ending a much hyped winning streak. (ESPN acted swiftly, firing the writer responsible.)

Now on the one hand, those two isolated incidents don’t necessarily imply some kind of anti-Asian conspiracy across America. Each offensive act was committed by a racially insensitive “lone gunman,” if you will. And even in 2012 you have to expect that every now and again you are going to happen upon a stray racist. But the fact that these people thought their over-the-line comments were going to be accepted by their respective audiences is mind blowing.

I mean, are we really going to have to learn tolerance one race at a time? Does every minority group have to stage a separate march on Washington before we are going to retire their racial slurs? Can’t whites just take what they learned from Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement and apply it to Asian-Americans?

A protest of Ladd’s comment has already been planned for today. Come on, white America, you’re embarrassing me. Let’s show a little initiative here.

Big Fish Q&A with Notre Dame of Maryland University President Mary Pat Seurkamp


Fifteen years ago, when Mary Pat Seurkamp accepted the president’s post at what was then known as the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, the small Roman Catholic school — picturesquely sandwiched between sedate Roland Park and even more sedate Homeland in North Baltimore — smoldered with internal discontent. Not exactly what you’d expect from a decorous institution established by the School Sisters of Notre Dame — an order of nuns — as a women’s college in 1895. But the faculty and the administrative staff were still nursing an intense migraine from what they considered the four-year autocratic rule of Seurkamp’s predecessor, a member of the School Sisters who resigned suddenly amid the tumult.

The school’s first secular president, Seurkamp immediately set about restoring stability, prompting the head of the college’s faculty senate to tell The Baltimore Sun, “She’s really lifted the spirits of this place.”   

During her stewardship, Seurkamp has helped to engineer a significant transformation of Notre Dame, which comprises an all-women undergrad division, plus co-ed graduate and continuing-studies divisions. Under Seurkamp, the institution has overhauled its academic structure into the schools of Education, Nursing, and Arts and Sciences; increased its emphasis on health-care education by creating a School of Pharmacy and enhancing undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing; established a doctorate in education; pumped $120 million into capital improvements; and guided the school through a hand-wringing name-change process, as it morphed from the century-plus-old College of Notre Dame of Maryland (delightfully naughty acronym: CONDOM) into the slightly less unwieldy Notre Dame of Maryland University this past September.  

Born in Pittsburgh and raised in Chicago and South Bend, IN., Seurkamp earned her undergraduate degree in psychology from Webster University in 1968, her master’s in guidance and counseling from Washington University in 1969, and her PhD in higher education from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1990. Upon completing her master’s, she embarked on what has turned into a live-long career in higher ed, beginning at Gannon University in Erie, PA., and moving on to the Roman Catholic-affiliated St. John Fisher College in Rochester, N.Y., in 1976. There, she served in a variety of administrative capacities — vice president for Institutional Planning and Research, vice president for Academic Services and Planning, and dean, among others — until she signed on at Notre Dame.

In May of last year, Seurkamp announced that she would step down as president at the end of the 2011-2012 academic year, telling the school’s board of trustees, “Leadership requires us to build a strong foundation for the next generation of leaders…. I trust I leave to the next president core strengths from which new transformational steps will be taken.” 

The mother of three adult children and grandmother of three, Seurkamp, now 65, lives in Roland Park with her husband, Bob, the former executive director of the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board at the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation — and soon-to-be former “presidential spouse,” as he sportively terms it in an online business-networking listing. The couple plans to retire to a home on Sue Creek, near Middle River, in Baltimore County.


Sum up your life philosophy in one sentence. 

Most problems can be solved by using our talents collaboratively and by trusting in God’s grace and wisdom. 

When did you define your most important goals, and what are they? 

In college I knew I wanted to work with young adults in higher education, and later I realized that my commitment was really to the education of students of all ages. 

What is the best advice you ever got that you followed? 

My husband reminds me every day, “Have fun in what you do!” 

The worst advice, and did you follow it? Or how did you muffle it? 

An advisor in college once told me there was no opportunity for women in higher ed. (Do you think I listened?) 

What are the three most surprising truths you’ve discovered in your lifetime? 

1) It is important to find meaning in your work. 

2) Students keep you young. 

3) Your pets can make any day better. 

What is the best moment of the day? 

Any time spent with my grandchildren — which I wish happened more often. 

What is on your bedside table? 

In all honesty, an alarm clock and a book (stacked up among many to read), plus a rosary that one of my favorite aunts gave me. 

What is your favorite local charity? 

Notre Dame of Maryland University — no surprise here! — and our partners at Catholic Charities, where many of our students volunteer. 

What advice would you give a young person who aspires to do what you are doing? 

Get your doctorate, work hard, believe in yourself, and take advantage of every opportunity put before you. 

Why are you successful? 

I believe deeply in the importance of the work we do in higher education, which motivates me to be focused, committed, and, hopefully, strategic. None of it would have happened without a supportive family and great colleagues. 

Locally, a trio of longtime women’s colleges — Hood, Goucher, Villa Julie (now Stevenson) — has switched to a co-educational format. While Notre Dame of Maryland University’s graduate and part-time divisions admit both women and men, its undergraduate program steadfastly retains an all-women status. Why? What are the inherent benefits of a single-gender higher education? 

The education of women has been Notre Dame’s mission since our founding by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Although times have changed, the benefits of small class sizes, personal attention, and an atmosphere that encourages women’s intellectual and leadership potential remain relevant. 

Research shows us that women who attend women’s colleges are more highly engaged and serious about their academic goals. They are also more likely to enter fields like math and science, and then continue on to graduate school. As a graduate of a women’s college, I can say that it was a place where I learned to trust my abilities and my instincts. I still see that strong sense of competence and confidence in our graduates today. They go out into the world secure that they will “get things done.” 

Notre Dame is also a Catholic institution. Are such faith-based schools anachronisms in our multicultural society? What distinguishes them? Where do they fit? 

Notre Dame’s mission and clarity of purpose are as relevant today as they were when we were founded by the School Sisters of Notre Dame 117 years ago. There is nothing outdated about understanding that knowledge and faith are partners in pursuing truth. 

We welcome students of all faith traditions — because we are Catholic. When you visit our campus, you will meet students of diverse religious affiliations and cultural backgrounds. They come to Notre Dame because they appreciate the values of compassion, responsibility, and service that are not just inherent in our mission, but also woven into our curriculum and programs. Issues of faith are freely discussed, especially about how our beliefs inform our choices. As well, our students learn that education is not just about their own development or about their career, but also about one’s responsibilities to serve others. There will always be a desire among students for an educational environment that incorporates faith and learning, focusing on the whole person. 

You plan to step down as Notre Dame president at the conclusion of the current academic year. What is the single most important thing that you learned about higher education during your 15-year tenure? 

What has been reinforced for me is that there is no other factor that has the ability to transform an individual or society the way education can. Spending time with our students is always inspiring.

Defense Rests: It’s up to the Jury Now


Lawyers presented closing statements Saturday in the first-degree murder trial of George Huguely in the death of Yeardley Love.

Deliberations on the fate of the 24-year-old former UVA lacrosse player begin Wednesday.

In presenting their closing statements, lawyers for the defense urged the jury to consider a lesser charge.

Maryland Coalition Strives to Increase African-American Support Statewide for Gay Marriage


Required reading in Wednesday’s New York Times reported on a coalition working to bring more black voters in Maryland to a pro-gay-marriage mindset — the Human Rights Campaign and the Service Employees International Union trains focus on African American Democrats, whose high-population support is essential for the passage of a bill to legalize gay marriage, now headed to the state legislature.  

“The campaign includes videos of well-known African-American Marylanders, including Michael Kenneth Williams, an actor from the television series ‘The Wire,’ and Mo’nique, a Baltimore-born actress; an editorial in The Afro; and conversations in churches and union halls, where most members are black,” reports Sabrina Tavernise in her thorough NYTimes piece.

Tavernise recounts a Washington Post poll from last month which reported that 71 percent of white Maryland Democrats support gay marriage, which only 41 percent of black Maryland Democrats are pro-same-sex union. (Shocking, no?)

The coalition may or may not succeed in shifting the bias of a certain slice of the black community historically opposed to homosexuality, usually on religious grounds. Last year, several black churches joined forces to launch the Maryland Marriage Alliance, their own coalition to fight the gay marriage bill — the massive Maryland Catholic Conference is on board, too.

So, it’s really uplifting to read in this article about activists like the Rev. Larry Brumfield, an African-American pastor in Baltimore, who speaks out regularly on his radio program about gay rights, aiming to be “extra vocal” to change people’s minds and help change the law.

“It really bothers me how black people can be so insensitive to oppression,” he said in the NYTimes story. “They use the same arguments that were used against us by the segregationists in the 1950s.”

It bothers us, too — in fact, the situation outright confounds us. In our view, homophobia is absolutely identical to racism and sexism. Haven’t we all learned anything from the civil rights movement? Why doesn’t a larger portion of the Democratic African American community feel compelled to empathize with a minority making brave strides in the name of basic equality? And if the Human Rights Campaign fails to sway enough black voters, will Obama feel comfortable supporting gay marriage with maximum courage? What are your thoughts on the issue, readers?

Inside Creepy Mansion "Mensana"


Earlier this week I heard about an estate sale that’s happening over the weekend, and since I don’t work on Fridays, I decided to drive north of Baltimore to find the house.I always find it incredibly sad to see a place that had at one time been glorious, filled with parties and laughter, now so run down and pitiful. This is the case in this house. You can read a little bit about the house, and see some images of its former life here .

The house sits high on a hill overlooking the lush and serene Green Spring Valley, just north of Baltimore. As you drive up a winding drive to get to the house, you get a good idea of how massive and well-built the place is.The overcast and gloomy weather did nothing for either the interior or the exterior, and everything was just flat and grey. In fact, some of my shots looked like I’d used a black and white filter to take them.When I entered the house, there were flashes of the place it used to be. Beautiful wood and plasterwork, elegant fireplaces…It’s solid as a rock, and many of the architectural details remain. In a nutshell, the house was built in 1900 by one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, and most recently, it was owned by a rather nefarious doctor who used it as a “pain” clinic, and was later stripped of his medical license.I wasn’t certain whether these walls were papered or painted, but the transition between scenery and paint was badly handled.Even in the overcast, the rooms were bright, and their proportions were good.The details were beautiful.As I went up the sweeping staircase, I was struck by the solidness of the bannisters and railing and the good condition of the hardwood steps.The bedrooms, and there are six of them, all en suite, were used as patient rooms, and there are pieces here and there that remind you that it was a “medical” facility.

But there are also details that remind you of the former good life that the house lived.  The marble fireplace surround,and the sweet sconce, one of only a few that weren’t ripped out.The en suite bathrooms still had their “non-mixer” sinks and tile walls and floors. And having grown up with sinks like these, where the hot and cold water taps don’t mix, let me just tell you that it’s a complete and utter pain!When I walked around the house, I was gutted about how the property had just gone to seed. The beautiful old boxwood were full of dead branches and had become overgrown. Boxwood need air to circulate between their branches or they become diseased. I walked around and pulled handfuls of boxwood branches (with permission) to try and thin them a bit.One of the most melancholy things I saw was an old wicker chair, slowly rotting on the formerly gracious front terrace.To me, the little chair epitomized what the house had become… a slight shadow of its former self.

Oh, what did I get, you ask? Only two books.

1716-18 Greenspring Valley Road, Stevenson, MD  21153 
In between Greenspring Avenue and Stevenson Road on Greenspring Valley. 
Look for two white brick entrance gates and veer to the LEFT when coming up the driveway. 
You can TEXT 443-865-4813 for more info…

Anne Arundel Councilman Uses "Technical" Term, Elicits Gasps


At a council meeting on Thursday, Anne Arundel County Councilman Dick Ladd, 71, casually used the word “gook” in an aside describing his military service in Vietnam. After the utterance sent a shockwave of gasps around the council chambers, Ladd explained that the word is the “technical term for North Koreans” and left it at that. I guess they gasped because he was speaking over their heads?

We’ve seen this kind of thing before. Remember when Michael Richards got “technical” about African-Americans at the Laugh Factory in 2006? Or when Tracy Morgan recently got very “technical” discussing homosexuality? For some reason people were outraged. These guys even had to go on the apology circuit regretting their use of “specialized jargon.”

A warning to Councilman Ladd: it’s unfortunate, but there are plenty of people who just aren’t going to understand you if you get too “technical.” And for some reason (who knows why!) they might even get offended.