Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Reggie Roadtrip: Baltimore and Washington

Part I: Baltimore

Several weeks ago, Boy and I (along with our most beloved Pompey) took a road trip to visit friends and family in Baltimore and Washington.  We had a delightful time.


Before leaving on our trip I was asked by a neighbor here in the Hudson River Valley, "Why would you want to go there?"  To which I responded (rather snappishly, I must admit), "Because the last time I checked there's rather a lot to see and do in Baltimore and Washington, that's why!"

And there was, and we did, Dear Reader, in the all-too-short time we had in these two illustrious American cities.

Our first stop in Baltimore was the new Four Seasons Hotel, where we checked in for a three-night stay.  Located in the trendy Harbor East area of the city on the water's edge, with stunning views of Baltimore's inner harbor, the hotel is a gleaming glass tower, lavishly appointed with every imaginable luxury.

A rendering of the Baltimore Four Seasons Hotel
Image courtesy of same

Our supremely comfortable room had splendid views of the inner harbor.

A view from our room, looking over
a marina and Baltimore's inner harbor
Photograph by Reggie Darling

One of the reasons that we like to stay in Four Seasons Hotels, Dear Reader, is that—other than that they are lovely, beautifully appointed, and have superb service—they welcome one's furry, four-legged friends, too—so long as one's such companions weigh under twenty pounds.  That means we can take our darling pug Pompey, who weighs just shy of fifteen pounds, with us on such trips.  Not only do the Four Seasons' welcome man's best friend, but they thoughtfully equip rooms of guests accompanied by such faithful companions with a dog bed and bowls, and also toys and treats!

Pompey, happy as a clam—I mean pug—in our room at the Four Seasons
Photograph by Reggie Darling

We had dinner the night we arrived in the hotel's very handsome restaurant, Wit and Wisdom, where I would most definitely recommend ordering the restaurant's signature lobster pot pie entrée.  It was divine.

The stylish Wit and Wisdom restaurant at the Baltimore Four Seasons Hotel
Image courtesy of same

Oh, and do not fail to request the restaurant's blue-cheese-stuffed olives when ordering Reggie's preferred cocktail—an ice-cold Beefeater Gin martini—as the olives are delicious enough to make this grown man cry with joy.  And I don't even like cheese stuffed olives!

The next morning we headed straight to the Baltimore Museum of Art, where we spent the better part of the day reveling in the BMA's marvelous collections.

The stately Baltimore Museum of Art
Photograph by Reggie Darling

Although the BMA is justifiably famous for its breathtaking Cone Collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, it is also very strong in its holdings of American decorative arts.  It is these that drew us to the BMA, like bees to honey, given our interest in American antiques.

One of the BMA's rooms displaying but a fraction of its collection
of American furniture and decorative arts
Photograph by Reggie Darling

As readers of this blog well know, Reggie has a "thing" for early-nineteenth-century French gilt bronze clocks depicting George Washington.  I lusted after this one, attributed to Jean-Baptiste Dubuc (1743-1819),  in the museum's collection:

"Yes, please, I'll take it!"
Photograph by Reggie Darling

One of the reasons we visited the BMA was to photograph an American classical secretary bookcase, circa 1825-1835, in the museum's collection that is attributed to the cabinetmakers John Meads (1777-1859) and William Alvord (1766-1853).

The Vanderpoel secretary bookcase in the BMA's collection
Photograph by Reggie Darling

Made in Albany, New York, the BMA's secretary bookcase is nearly identical to one in our own collection at Darlington House, also attributed to Meads and Alvord.  We bought ours from the dealers Charles and Rebekah Clarke ten or so years ago and were inspired to do so by our familiarity with the one in the BMA's collection, as shown in the preceding photograph.  We had come to know the desk from studying it in Wendy Cooper's Classical Taste in America, a book that has been a meaningful influence on our collecting.  Other examples of furniture made by Meads and Alvord can be found in the collections of Hyde Hall, in Cooperstown, NY, and the Minneapolis Institute of Art, among other institutions.

The descriptive label for the secretary bookcase
Photograph by Reggie Darling

The secretary bookcase in the BMA's collection was commissioned by James Vanderpoel (1787-1843), a prominent lawyer and statesman who lived in Kinderhook, New York, in the house shown in the following photograph.  The desk remained in the house until only twenty-five years ago.  The Vanderpoel house has for many years belonged to the Columbia County Historical Society, which for some unfathomable reason de-accessioned the secretary bookcase from its collection in the late nineteen-eighties, when it was acquired by the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The James Vanderpoel House, circa 1816-1820
Kinderhook, New York
Image courtesy of Dr. Olver Bronson House Daybook

The Vanderpoel House is attributed to the architect/builder Barnabas Waterman (1776-1839) and is a lovely and beautifully maintained Federal house that is open to the public.  I encourage a visit to see the house, Dear Reader, should you ever find yourself in Kinderhook, New York.  Although not proved definitively, we believe that our own nearby Darlington House was also designed and built by Waterman, as it shares many of the Vanderpoel house's architectural details and stylistic flourishes, albeit on a slightly reduced scale.

The fashionably attired diners at the BMA's Gertrude's Restaurant
Photograph by Reggie Darling

We took a break from touring the BMA's collections by stopping for a tasty and most reasonably priced luncheon in the museum's Gertrude's Restaurant.  We assumed that the restaurant was named after Gertrude Stein, a native Baltimorean who gave a number of paintings in the museum's collection.  However, we learned that the restaurant was named after the restaurant's chef's grandmother Gertrude.

The Oval Room from Willow Brook House
in the BMA's collection
Photograph by Reggie Darling

Afterwards we spent a breathtaking half-hour examining one of the museum's marvelous period-room installations, the Oval Room from Willow Brook House, a long-since-torn-down Palladian-style villa built in Baltimore in 1799 by Thorowgood Smith, a wealthy merchant-shipper who was the city's second mayor, from 1804 to 1808.


These photographs do little justice to the Oval Room's loveliness.  It is beautifully scaled, with tall ceilings and handsome proportions.  The plasterwork, gorgeously picked out with paint, is original.

One of two painted "fancy" settees in the Oval Room
made in Baltimore by the Finlay Brothers, circa 1800-1810
Photograph by Reggie Darling

Within the Oval Room one finds one of the BMA's greatest treasures: an intact, thirteen-piece set of painted Baltimore furniture made in the first decade of the nineteenth century by the brothers and business partners John Finlay (1771-1851) and Hugh Finlay (1781-1831).  The Finlay Brothers advertised themselves as "fancy furniture manufacturers" and specialized in producing the painted furniture that Baltimore is justifiably famous for amongst those of us who appreciate antique American furniture of the highest quality.  What makes the set in the museum's collection particularly noteworthy is that the pieces are decorated with painted images of seventeen of Baltimore's most noteworthy Federal-era houses, only two of which survive today.  The images of the houses on the chairs are attributed to Francis Guy (1760-1820), an English-born landscape artist working in Baltimore at the time.

A detail of one of the Finlay settees, showing Homewood House
Photograph by Reggie Darling

One of the (two) settees in the set includes a rendition of the still-standing Homewood House, one of the true monuments of Baltimore and one of Reggie's favorite destinations in the city.  The house, which is owned by Johns Hopkins University and is open to the public as a house museum, is beautifully restored and furnished and contains one of Reggie's favorite rooms in America, its reception hall, which I posted about previously in my series Reggie's Rooms.

Homewood House, with its portico under restoration
Photograph by Reggie Darling

After visiting the BMA, we stopped by Homewood House to take in the structure's current restoration program, as seen in the preceding photograph.  It is so pleasing that Johns Hopkins takes such good care of Homewood House.

The banner image from Meg Fairfax Fielding's blog, Pigtown Design
Image courtesy of same

One of our primary reasons for visiting Baltimore was to meet Meg Fairfax Fielding, of the marvelous blog Pigtown Design.  If you aren't already familiar with Ms. Fielding's blog, Dear Reader, I highly encourage you to visit it often (she posts every other day or so), as I know you will find it as amusing, interesting, and eclectic as I find it and its charming author.  We were thrilled when Meg suggested throwing a cocktail party in our honor during our visit, followed by dinner afterwards with a few of her closest friends at a new favorite restaurant of hers in the city, the oh-so-of-the-moment Food Market, opened only one or two weeks previously.

The facade of Food Market
Image courtesy of same

We had an absolutely delightful time meeting Meg and her friends, and we found her to be charming, funny, and an all-around good egg (one of Reggie's highest accolades).  Meg's friends clearly (and rightly) adore her, and they were as charming and amusing as our hostess.  Such fun!

The interior of Food Market during the day.
It was a lot busier at night when we had dinner there!
Image courtesy of Meg Fairfax Fielding of Pigtown Design

The Food Market was positively popping when we arrived after cocktails and was filled with hipsters and locals out for a festive evening.  The joint was jumping!  We were immediately shown to our table (it is obvious that Ms. Fielding has sway in this town), and we had a delicious, zesty dinner fueled with libations and hilarious conversation.  What an evening we had!

An aerial view of the glorious Orioles Park at Camden Yards
Image courtesy of AP Photo/Files

I must admit that we were moving slowly the next morning, what with all the excitement and imbibulation of the night before.  Fortunately, the day I planned for us was fairly low-impact and largely devoted to easygoing entertainment and mindless relaxing.  When plotting out our trip to Baltimore, I made sure we could take in an Orioles ballgame at the city's splendid Camden Yards baseball park.  I had wanted to see a game at the marvelously retro ballpark ever since it was built twenty years ago, and I made sure my wish came true during our visit.  We attended a day game with Boy's sister Kitty and her husband, Bart, where we sat in killer seats close to the field, just to the left of home plate.  We all had a lovely time.  The Orioles hosted the Washington Nationals that day, which was great fun, as both Boy and I grew up in Washington, home to the old Senators.  The day's game was referred to as the "Beltway Series."  The game was most enjoyable, and the home team was enthusiastically supported by its adoring fans.  The whole experience brought home just why it is that baseball is—at least in some circles these days—still considered to be the Great American Pastime.

The splendid view of the field from our seats during the game
Photograph by Boy Fenwick

After the game we bid Kitty and Bart adieu, and then made a beeline back to the Four Seasons, where Boy and I spent the rest of the afternoon lolling about the hotel's sybaritic outdoor infinity pool.  I'm not usually a fan of infinity pools, Dear Reader, but this one was gorgeous.

The pool at the Baltimore Four Seasons Hotel
Image courtesy of courier-journal.com

The pool is perfectly situated to take full advantage of the hotel's expansive views over the harbor.  Lounging by it I felt more as if we were staying at an island resort than at an urban hotel.

A glorious summer's afternoon spent by the Four Seasons' pool
Image courtesy of foursquare.com

It was difficult to tear ourselves away from the chaise longues at the pool, but we did so knowing that a delicious seed-to-plate dinner awaited us at the nearby Waterfront Kitchen restaurant, where we had a delightful, simply prepared meal.  I highly recommend it.

The interior of Waterfront Kitchen, with a view of Baltimore Harbor
Image courtesy of the Baltimore Sun

Boy and Pompey and I made an early night of it and were in bed with the lights out by 10 p.m. so that we would be well-rested for the next stop on our journey, Washington, DC, which is the subject of the next post in this series . . .

24 comments:

  1. I love this kind of detailed adventure—especially as you do all the things I'd likely to want to do.

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  2. Enjoyed the post, but was especially thrilled to see the photo of Pompey! Isn't it nice to be able to travel with one's four-legged loved ones?

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  3. Thank you so very much for the lovely words about my fair city...and me. Meeting you and Boy was a highlight of my summer! Xo

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  4. I loved reading this account of your visit here. Does a heart good to hear such appreciation of Baltimore from an out-of-towner.

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  5. "Fashionably attired diners" indeed.

    What a great post Reggie. Love the posters at the Art gallery proclaiming Free, the Finlay furniture (I love painted furniture) and the Oval Room.

    Anytime you and Boy feel like coming to Sydney I'd love to show you our colonial treasures. I've said this before but another time doesn't hurt

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  6. Excellent! Baltimore is indeed a happening city, isn't it?

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  7. Reggie:

    Mrs. Mink and I enjoyed ourselves immensely! It was great to meet you and Boy....hope y'all received my note....looking forward to seeing you both again. MFF: Thanks for including us!!!!

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  8. Does the Four Seasons offer dog sitting services, or is Pompey become so settled in his maturity that he snoozed the day away on the bed provided? Or did he accompany the two of you in a disguised carrier the way he did on the Maid of the Mist as a wee puppy?

    Sounds like a lovely trip.

    love,
    Yr. Sister, Hermione

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  9. That Four Seasons Hotel is huge isnt it? I wonder what Balitmoreans ? thought of it on paper? It certainly dominates that part of the city. Maybe it is the first stage in the re development of that area?

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    1. That whole part of the city was previously vacant lots and old warehouses. It's now a new and vibrant part of the city with waterfront hotels, condos, offices, restaurants and shops. It straddles the part of the city between the Inner Harbour section and the old Fells Point area.

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  10. Thanks for the tour of the Baltimore Museum of Art, and your introduction to their strong decorative arts holdings. I do prefer your secretary to the Vanderpoel example. Those curved elements on the Baltimore glass doors are overdoing it a little, and they incidentally form large hearts, not my favorite shape. I also like the drawer arrangement on your example better, but as you say, the pieces are really directly comparable.

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  11. A Four Seasons hotel is always an oasis of grace,luxiry and civility...where ever it may be....
    Well done on the ball game..Camden Yards is a great ballpark. Loved these photos.

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  12. I love visiting my youngest brother in Baltimore and you've given me ideas for a future trip! Your opening had me shaking my head, ""Why would you want to go there?"" -- that mindset never ceases to amaze me. I've encountered it everywhere I live, people of every age and background ... I know it takes all kinds, but those LIMITED folks are BOring and missing out!

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  13. We had a similarly wonderful time in Baltimore last Spring - visited the Baltimore Museum of Art and took in a Oriole vs Yankee game at their beautiful stadium. A young man in front of us kept going out and coming back with the most delicious looking food. I'd run and and buy the same wonderful item. He soon reappear with another tempting treat. I must have gained 5 pounds during that evening! Really great ball park all round.

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  14. I,too, am from the Washington area and I now live close enough to get there with ease and far enough away to feel as though it is a treat each time I visit. I have not been to Baltimore in 20 years. I really should make the time.
    Can't wait to read what you got up to in D.C.

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  15. Wow! Many fabulously great reasons to visit Baltimore! I've been wanting to go for quite some time. Pigtown Design must have been in hog heaven (pun intended) getting to meet you and Boy and share her views of Baltimore. :-)

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  16. As a native Baltimorean, I am pleased to hear you enjoyed our city! You engaged in many activities I myself frequent. Pompey looked most adorable at the Four Seasons.

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  17. This is such a lovely post, showcasing how wonderful Baltimore can be! Also a native Baltimorean (Hi, Baltimore Prep!), I now live in Texas and people here have such a distorted view and opinion of my hometown. Now when they ask about it, I can point them to this post, so that they can read about and experience the true Charm City.

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  18. I hope your readers not only revisit the museums in their hometowns and consider seeking out the museums in cities they visit. Many museums, in the most unlikely places, hold undiscovered treasures unless you walk through the doors. Wes Anderson (a fan of taxidermy) would enjoy the vast collection on display in Anniston Alabama. Columbus Georgia has another incredible museum it was there I experience my first Chihuly-- that glass artist with the eye patch. Outstanding post.

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  19. What a fun post Reggie. I enjoyed the virtual visit to a city I've yet to step foot in. I too very much enjoy perusing the decorative arts collections in fine museums such
    as the BMA. I recently visited the DeWitt Wallace museum and lolled about the rooms imagining some of the fine pieces on display in my own home. We can all dream, I suppose.

    To the subject of your supremely delish lobster pot pie, yes, I know it well. It was indeed a very popular item on the menu of Michael Mina's elegant restaurant at the St Francis hotel in San Francisco, up until a few years ago. The restaurant was, unfortunately, reinvented as a steak house and the white tablecloths dispensed with. I've not been back since.

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  20. Reggie-
    I always love your posts full of tasty treats.
    Does Pompey have a passport? I love when dogs travel in style.
    Baltimore is on my list.
    pve

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  21. I'm going to Baltimore this weekend, after a conference in Washington, and I'm staying at the Four Seasons. I would not have known they opened in Baltimore if not for your post, so thank you.

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  22. Pompey looks quite happy in his hotel room!
    Thanks for sharing the photos. Now Baltimore is added to my bucket list of travels.

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  23. Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting.I will be waiting for your next post.
    baltimore cafe

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