Lake Falls

How to Dress Like a Gentleman? In Baltimore, Ken Himmelstein of Samuel Parker Clothier Knows Best…

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John Locke once said, “education begins the gentleman, but reading, good company and reflection must finish him.” Sure, John. We can dig it. But we must admit it, seems something’s been left out of that equation. After all, the man who shows up well-dressed and impeccably groomed can usually coast a bit longer than his untailored, unshaven counterpart (and if he can recite Dylan Thomas or hold forth on the natural physics of 19th century tidal-powered mills, so much the better).

And yet, dressing like a gentleman can seem daunting. What does it mean to be—and dress like—a gentleman? And how can this be achieved by the average man? We went Kenneth Himmelstein, owner of Samuel Parker Clothier, to find the answers to these questions. After all, if anyone around town would know, it’s him. When walking into Samuel Parker (named for Himmelstein’s fashion-forward grandfather—a clothier himself) one is immediately struck by the smell and feel of those traditionally masculine elements of cedar, leather, and that certain je ne sais quoi that says “a clean shaved man was here.” And— like a well-dressed gentleman—that’s no accident; it’s thanks to excellent taste, a keen eye for detail, and a willingness to go the extra mile for perfection.

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“We are especially proud of our fine English Heritage Brands, including hand made neckwear by Drakes London and Seaward & Stearn and premium shirts by Turnbull & Asser and Hilditch & Key,” says Himmelstein.

Baltimore Fishbowl: So, how did you get into this business? Where did your interest in men’s clothing start?

Kenneth Himmelstein:  I grew up loving clothes, took a high school job at Frank Leonard University Shop, a Baltimore icon at the time, went on to manage Stonehenge Ltd., one of the first upscale boutiques in town, then spent the next 32 years on the wholesale side of the business. I made a good living, and I loved what I did. I enjoyed the travel, seeing the best shops in America, and meeting many wonderful people. By the way, today I own the Frank Leonard trademark, and I use it as a private label vehicle in my shop!

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BFB: So, in order to dress like a gentleman, we should probably know what that means. Sometimes those traditional values seem like they’re being lost. What defines a gentleman? What kind of values or style does he embody?

KH: I sell my shop as a proper British/American haberdashery. I cater to men who enjoy dressing, and, of course, share my passion for fine fabrics and quality. Dressing well can mean a great suit, a sport coat, a cashmere sweater, a fabulous pair of flannels, or a well-fitting pair of jeans with a pair of bench-made chukka boots. I embrace style. I am fortunate, at this level, to deal with businessmen and professionals who appreciate what I do and look to me for a little guidance with their wardrobes. It’s true, many younger men have taken casual a little too far. There’s no shame in wearing a nice sport coat to a restaurant on Saturday night!

BFB: We’ll drink to that! But what are the basic necessities? If someone isn’t ready for a complete overhaul yet, what should they prioritize? 

KH: A well-tailored navy blazer, a pair of gray trousers, a nice pair of khakis, one great navy or gray suit, and a half-dozen well-fitting shirts that can be dressed up or down is a great start to building a wardrobe. I’m all about adding a piece or two a season to extend the wardrobe. Of course, a well-fitting pair of jeans is a nice weekend alternative. Dress them up with a nice cashmere sweater and a good-looking sports jacket. I’m a bit of a shoe-freak, so don’t get me started…My style is natural shoulder, but even if you dress more forward-fashion, find a line that suits your image, and always buy quality over quantity.

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BFB: Got it. But how do we know quality when we see it? What sort of things should we be looking for? And can the average man afford to prioritize quality?

KH: Quality and style don’t have to break the bank. In my world, quality equals longevity equals good value. I have wonderful shirts that were $125 and I have fine bespoke shirts that sell for $350. A nicely tailored garment, or a great sweater, or a well-made pair of loafers will never embarrass you. You’ll get great return on the investment because you’ll want to wear them often, and they’ll last for many years.

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BFB: Who are some of your favorite gentleman fashion icons? Who can we look to for inspiration? And how can women gently encourage the men in our lives to strive more for that?

KH: Clearly, my favorite was Fred Astaire. The man just had style! Cary Grant, Gary Copper, Clark Gable, Bogart. Those guys had their own tailors, and wore their own clothes! Today? Lucianno Barbera, Ralph Lauren, who I’ve known since he sold furnishings at Brook Brothers! I bought his first neckwear collection when I managed Stonehenge! Women play a large part in how men dress. I often see a beautiful woman, hair and nails perfect, great dress , stunning heels…the guy looks like he just came from his kid’s lacrosse game. I wonder why she doesn’t tell him to tuck in his shirt and put on a nice sports jacket?

BFB: Maybe it’s time for us to start demanding that men raise the bar a bit. Any final words of wisdom or advice on how to dress like– and be– a gentleman?

KH: Find a style that makes you comfortable and embrace it. Treat people with respect. Always remember to say “thank you for your business.”

Samuel Parker is located at 6080 Falls Rd. For more information, visit www.samuelparker.com.

In The Woods: Contemporary on Lake Roland

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Hot House: 6029 Hollins Avenue, Baltimore MD 21210

Contemporary style home, cedar-sided, circa 1965, on a wooded lot overlooking Lake Roland. 3,984 square feet, with 4 bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half baths over multiple levels.  Private, landscaped and wooded 1.27 acre lot with waterfall. sauna, two-sided wood burning fireplace in kitchen, two-level deck overlooking lake: $1,035,000

Hot House: Divine Devon Hill Condo

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HOT HOUSE: 3 Devon Hill Road, Unit #3D, Baltimore, 21210

Two bedroom, two and a half baths, 3,400 square foot luxury condo in Devon Hill, with private garden, cook’s kitchen, wine cellar: $845,000

What: In the world of Baltimore condominiums, this is the 1%.  And this particular condo is the glamour girl of Devon Hill.  Originally part of the legendary Windy Gates estate, owned by the Jenkins family, Devon Hill was developed in the early 80’s by Tony and Martin Azola, local developers much admired for their style and historic sensitivity. They turned the main building (Queen Anne, single style) into five modern condos, leaving intact many of the period details. Each condo has unique features that were part of the old house. The stone home at the entrance to the property was the gatehouse.

Robert E. Lee Park: Moving To the County From the City

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For  residents and neighbors in the Ruxton/Riderwood area,  reopening of the Robert E. Lee Park, 454 acres of beautiful wooded land with Lake Roland as it’s heart, is a long-awaited event. The park has been officially closed since fall of 2009, to allow work on the main bridge that crosses the dam. But behind the scenes, a lot of people have been working hard to restore Robert E. Lee Park (one of the largest parks in Baltimore County) to its former glory and rightful place among the most beautiful open spaces in the area.

Interestingly, the most significant aspect of the park reopening will take place only on paper.  In 2009, Baltimore County took over management of the park from Baltimore City in a  no-cost  50 year lease,  automatically renewable for another 50 years.  Similar successful arrangements already exist, including a lease between Baltimore City and Anne Arundel County for Fort Smallwood Park, and between Baltimore City and Baltimore County for Cromwell Bridge Park. 

Beahta Davis is the area coordinator of nature and recreation resources for the Baltimore County Recreation and Parks Department.  She explained the county’s reasons for the takeover of the Robert E. Lee Park and the much needed improvements. “We saw it as a hidden gem that was underutilized” she said in an interview with the Baltimore Daily Record last fall. Our “mission is to revitalize what exists and to add to it in terms of recreational activities”.

A bit of history

While the Robert E. Lee Park is located entirely within Baltimore County, it was until recently owned and operated by the City of Baltimore.  Originally constructed in 1861 by damming  the Jones Falls, the park served as a water source  not only for city residents, but for Baltimore, Harford and Anne Arundel county residents for 53 years, until it was determined that the water quantity was insufficient. Since 1914, the park has been used as a recreational facility managed by Baltimore City. By the 1990’s City budgets were simply too stretched to pay for proper oversight and maintenance, and in recent years, the property was allowed to deteriorate to the point where people were found actually living in the park. In addition, soil samples revealed dangerously toxic levels  of e-coli bacteria due to dog feces. 

New funding

As a result of the takeover by Baltimore County,  $6.1 million in state and county funding was obtained for improvements  determined to be necessary for the safety and preservation of the park. These improvements include rebuilding of the bridge, improving parking and Light Rail access to the park, restoration of walking and biking trails, and shoring up the banks of the reservoir, which had severely eroded. In addition, a one-acre, enclosed, off-leash dog walking facility is planned. Security will be provided by Baltimore County police.  While the $6.1 million will cover the cost of all of the initial improvements, is hoped that  voluntary contributions by residents and neighbors, as well as monthly event programming, will help to offset costs of park maintenance and stewardship.

In October of 2010, members of the already existing Riderwood/Ruxton/ Lake Roland Area Improvement Association and other volunteers formed the Robert E. Lee Park Nature Center (RELPNC), and began monthly meetings  under the leadership of Peter Maloney, President. A Community Plan for the park was officially adopted by the Baltimore County Council,  reinforcing the commitment on both sides to working closely together to run the park. Volunteers at the Nature Council will work closely with the Baltimore County Recreation and Parks on improving and maintaining key areas of the park, and will begin a membership drive in Fall 2011 through Spring 2012.

Jeff  Budnitz, Treasurer of the Nature Council, and an early supporter of the Robert E. Lee Park revitalization efforts, credits the hard work of many individuals for the success of the park take over, including Baltimore County councilman (now County Executive) Kevin Kamentetz, for his  “tremendous advocacy of the park, including the establishment of new RC7 zoning” to prevent the selling of park land for development. “The county put together the budget” says Budnitz, “and everything that was committed to is being done. A long term Master Plan is being developed, to be accomplished in multiple phases. We are completing phase I now, and there will have to be public input going forward”.  

What’s on the table? Very likely, a multiple-use facility with easy access from the Baltimore Light Rail, that will include boating, biking, trail-walking, educational programming, a child’s play area and dog walking. Robert E. Lee is a “passive” park, which typically means no lighted athletic fields, no swimming pool, and no tennis courts, among other things. While the definition of “passive park” often includes no dog walking, there are plans to include an enclosed off-leash dog walking area at Robert E. Lee, possibly open only to members, for a nominal annual fee. Eventually, playing fields may be added. Overall, the park improvements promise a big leap forward in quality of life in the Baltimore area.

Local reactions? Surprisingly positive 

We questioned local residents and park neighbors about the changes, and got a uniformly enthusiastic response – even on the  potentially touchy issue of voluntary private funding to supplement the  initial Baltimore County investment. 

 “If you care about your community, you need to be willing to get behind it” says Chris Feiss. “I can see bald eagles flying over the lake from my backyard, and that’s got to be worth something to me”. Cheryl Finney, another park neighbor, agrees.  Although the park has generally been a good neighbor, Finney cites occasional problems in past years of trash and off-leashed dogs making the northwestern peninsula occasionally unpleasant. “I am a believer in private involvement and ownership of issues relating to community” Finney states. Asked how much she would be willing to contribute, she says “I’m not sure, but I’m willing to listen.  I’d love to see the public use the park more, and it definitely deserves stewardship”.

The specific financial goals of the Nature Council are still being determined. Jeff Budnitz points out,  “You have to have a pretty solid plan before you ask for the money. We are almost there”. According to Beahta Davis, “the Nature Council is in the driver’s seat with this,” referring to both the fundraising and planning for park programming and maintenance . The hope, everyone agrees, is to eventually be largely self-sufficient.

The  official reopening of Robert E. Lee Park is tentatively scheduled for September, 2011. Stay tuned for further updates and opening day activities.

 

Jim Rouse’s Mid-Century Masterpiece Hits Market

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One Overlook Lane comes in the form of a well-designed time capsule (even the address sounds swell). It is very mid-century, very California-modern, and seemingly unaltered by passing fancies. What a tragedy it would have been had this gem fallen victim to an ’80s mauve moment. Check the built-in lounge/fireplace areas:  see yourself in repose, reading Tropic of Cancer, while twirling a cocktail from the Lucite bar cart. Originally designed and built for James Rouse in 1961, the home is still owned by his first wife Elizabeth who is selling. Is some of the furniture original and could it be part of the deal? (I call the blue chair in the living room!) Located just off Lake Avenue in Baltimore County it is currently listed at $1,550,000. For that price the 2.75 acres, 5 bedrooms, tennis court and pool are included. Sure, a mind-blowingly expensive period-faithful renovation is needed, but this place inspires you to make jello molds while smoking and what could be better than that?

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