How did the Linden Avenue gazebo wind up there?

Some of the first-generation gazebo gang

There are only a handful of gazebos scattered about Greater Baltimore. One of the older ones is on Linden Avenue, just south of Sumpter Park.

But how did it come to be located smack dab in the middle of the brick roadway, blocked off to through traffic? Your intrepid reporter found the answer in Fells Point, where Charles and Darcy Norton have lived since 1980, above their small store that stocks exotic woolens, called Sheep’s Clothing. They were happy to talk about moving to a part of Bolton Hill that was somewhat neglected in 1972 when they found it, the 1700 block of Linden Avenue. Houses could be purchased for just a few thousand dollars.

“We were young and foolish. The house was a wreck,” recalled Charles Norton. A young acquaintance who lived near the Mt. Royal Tavern, Bill Trenner, worked for a company that had salvage rights to Seton Psychiatric Institute, which had closed and was being dismantled. (It’s now Seton Business Park.) The Nortons and neighbors bought remnants for their houses – wainscoting, window grates, pendant lights and other items from the hospital that had been in northwest Baltimore since 1844.

“There were three gazebos on the property of the hospital, and we were told we could haul one away for free,” said Norton. It’s not clear when they originally were constructed.

Cathy Shelley, who with her then-husband Bob purchased 1704 Linden, said “Sandy Sales, Peggy Webster and I approached city housing director Bob Embry about blocking off the brick street and plopping down the gazebo to stop thru-traffic. “’It sounds like a great idea,’ he told us.” The men of the Linden Avenue gang of about 8 -10 residents dismantled the gazebo that was most accessible, stored it somewhere for a while and the city helped move and re-assemble it, she said.

Shelley said they paid $7,000 for their house. “We bought it for the architecture.” She said the block was a bit lonely and isolated, with what is now Sumpter Park to the north and a strip mall to the south. The mall that now has Save-A-Lot and Walgreens then had an A&P supermarket, a hardware store, a liquor store, a laundromat and a Rite-Aid. (Linden Avenue had been blocked in the 1960s to make way for townhouses and green space south of the strip mall, which was constructed in the early sixties.)

When the gazebo installation was complete, Bob Shelley created a poster for its dedication. “We drank champagne to celebrate, and we did it again for solstice celebrations” Cathy Shelley said. Musician Jimmy Wilson, who still lives in Bolton Hill, performed at the ceremony.

That generation has moved away, but a newer and younger cohort of Linden Avenue dwellers half a century later keep the gazebo in good shape. In 2022, with help from the city arranged through Councilmember Eric Costello and lots of fundraising, they managed a major restoration.

Gareth Morgan, one of several Linden Avenue residents who helped organize the restoration, said they painted the gazebo red, green and ivory to carry forward the color themes that characterize the block: “red for the brick houses, green for the linden trees around us and ivory to reflect the marble steps.” Steven Skerritt-Davis is president of their block association today.

Bill Hamilton