2500 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore, Maryland

Built from 1841, for Patrick Macaulay (1795-1849), after his death it was purchased by the banking Browns of Baltimore and from then on until its demise in 1950 it was also referred to as the Brown Estate. Macaulay spared no money on his refined Greek-Revival mansion which measured 85-feet across with a depth of 42-feet. It stood at Liberty Heights Avenue near Park Circle on what was originally 300-acres adjoining Druid Hill Park. According to legend it was given its unusual name by none other a personage than Harvard's famed Professor, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.....

This house is best associated with...

Patrick Macaulay

Dr Patrick Macaulay, of "Mondawmin" Baltimore, Maryland


George Brown

of Brown & Sons, Bankers, of Baltimore, Maryland


George Stewart Brown

Brigadier-General George S. Brown, of Brown & Sons, Bankers, of Baltimore


Alexander Brown

"Allie" Brown, of Brown & Sons, Bankers, of Baltimore, Maryland


Legend has it that when Macaulay passed comment to his distinguished guest that he was yet to choose a name for his estate, Longfellow gazed over the fields of corn and, most likely after a slight yet suitably dramatic pause, remarked, "there you have the name - Mondamin, the spirit of corn". Moving as the image is, there are three thorns in the story's foot: (1) there is no evidence that Longfellow ever visited Baltimore (2) much less evidence that he visited Mondawmin, and (3) even less that he ever suggested its name!

As it was, Patrick Macaulay was an educated and interested man whose library of 1,700 books that he kept here contained several volumes on American-Indian tradition and culture. "Mondamin" was an Ojibwa word for their corn god. Another perhaps more believable story then explains that the draftsman who drew up the original architectural plans simply wrote the name as "Mondawmin" and it was that spelling that stuck. The architect employed by Macaulay is unknown but Baltimore's well-respected architectural historian, Michael Trostel, has suggested that the style of both the mansion and its entrance gates were strongly reminiscent of the work of Robert Cary Long Jr.

When Macaulay suddenly dropped dead in 1849, it became clear that Mondawmin was heavily mortgaged and his trustees were left with no choice but to put it up for sale:

This well known seat is upon an eminence that commands beautiful views of the city, of the surrounding country, and of the waters of the harbor and Chesapeake Bay... the Ornamental Grounds about the Mansion House... with the Garden, Graperies and Orcharding, are in the highest possible state of embellishment and culture. The exotic trees and shrubbery with which the green-houses and conservatory are stocked, were selected by the late proprietor himself, on his repeated visits to Europe... the water is supplied by springs in almost every field (by) the best modern hydraulic pipes and apparatus, through all parts of the house, the kitchen, and stabling, and in the fullest supplies to the baths, garden, and ornamental basins... the manager's and servants' houses, stabling, barns, &c ., are all new, and in keeping with the rest of the place

The Brown's "Pink House"

In May, 1850, George Brown bought the 300-acre Mondawmin estate for $41,000. In 1834, George had succeeded his father as the head of Baltimore's best known investment bank, Alex. Brown & Sons, at which time he was reckoned the wealthiest man in the city. He enjoyed his country estate for the last nine years of his life before it passed to his son, George Stewart Brown (1834-1890), who divided his time between here and 712 Cathedral Street in town. The Brown's referred to their country home as "the pink house" for the distinctive hue the sun gave it at certain times and in certain weathers.

Alexander Brown (1858-1949) was the third generation of his family to live here and sometime after his daughter's society wedding to T. Suffern Tailer in 1909, he and his wife moved here permanently. "Allie" Brown was a passionate sportsman and Master of the Fox Hounds at Elkridge, and the estate fulfilled all his needs. In 1912, it was noted that even the mansion itself had undergone very few changes since it was built 60-years ago.

The Inevitable Tide of Progress

In 1888, the City annexed all the land surrounding the Mondawmin estate which was then enclosed by a distinctive high green fence. In 1922, developer George W. Schoenhals finally managed to persuade Alexander Brown to part with 13-acres of his beloved Mondawmin (now reduced to 46-acres) for $117,000 on which 300 new homes were built. However, Brown had refused to part with any of the land north of Mondawmin Avenue, and he managed to maintain his oasis of luxury until his death here in 1949.

By 1949, his two daughters were happily ensconced elsewhere and his eldest grandson, Alexander Brown Griswold, asked the developer Jim Rouse what they might do with the land. They formed a company with Harry Bart and the following year the century-old mansion fell to the wrecking ball - only an ornamental marble fountain was rescued, taken to a garden in Frederick County. In 1956, Baltimore's first urban mall was opened in its place and the once great estate is somewhat ingloriously remembered by its name.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 29/04/2020 and last updated on 01/03/2021.
Image credited to Aubrey Bodine, no known copyright restrictions; Mondawmin: Baltimore's Lost Country Estate, by Michael J, Trostel for the Bulletin of the Southern Garden History Society, 1991; Baltimore Glimpses: Converting a Cornfield, by Gilbert Sandler for the Baltimore Sun, 1997; History Trails of Baltimore County, by John McGrain, 2015


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