Historic Mothers’ Garden is a public park located at the NW corner of Clifton Park in NE Baltimore City, Maryland. Clifton Park, including the Garden, was once the summer home of Johns Hopkins. Clifton Park was the site that Hopkins originally intended for the hospital bearing his name, but it was deemed too far from the city’s core. Instead, the land was turned into a municipal golf course and community park.
In 1926 then president of the Park Board, William I. Norris, created Mothers’ Garden in memory of his mother and to honor all of Baltimore’s mothers. The five acre garden consisted of a rose covered pergola, terraced flower beds, shaded walkways, benches, and a Japanese styled bridge spanning a lily pond with ornamental fish. This haven for mothers was presented to then Mayor Howard Jackson at a ceremony that attracted over 6000 people in 1926.
Over the years the Garden became neglected and nearly forgotten until 1978, when the Mayfield Improvement Association, under the leadership of George Marsalek, took up the cause of restoring the Park. The MIA enlisted the help of volunteers and summer youth groups to tame back the overgrowth, and began to seek funds for larger capital improvements. After six years of actively promoting and planning the restoration project Mr. Marsalek, joined by Marge Pacunas and others, successfully worked with the Mayor’s office and Department of Recreation and Parks to adopt and implement a plan to refurbish the site through public and private efforts. On May 13, 1984 Mothers’ Garden was rededicated to the Mothers of Baltimore, in memory of Tululu Irene Schaefer, the mother of then Mayor William Donald Schaefer. The event was a ground-breaking ceremony for the major restoration work that followed, which was designed by landscape architects Human & Rohde of Towson (click here to see the 1984 plans). The following Mother’s Day weekend on May 12, 1985 a re-dedication plaque was unveiled, and the completed restoration was celebrated.
In December of 1985, the BCRP stepped back from the “lead role” of maintaining the gardens, and transitioned that responsibility back to the neighboring Mayfield Improvement Association. The MIA used a stipend from the BCRP’s new Parks & People Foundation to hire a part-time caretaker, but the funds for that program were exhausted in 1988 and the program was discontinued.
In 1992, a smaller scale restoration effort sought to curb the four-year deterioration of the garden, and on Mother’s Day, May 10, 1992 then Mayor Kurt Schmoke in conjunction with the Special Women of Maryland Committee presented their 1st Annual Mother’s Day Garden Dedication in memory of Mrs. Marie Bauernschmidt.
No additional records of organized maintenance efforts or celebrations from 1993-2006 have been identified (the Friends of Mothers’ Garden is interested in obtaining any additions or revisions to this history).
In 2007, the Mayfield Improvement Association’s Janelle Cousino and Joanne Trach Tongson volunteered to clean and prepare the garden for the Mayfield Home & Garden tour, which featured the park and a display of historical photos and documentation.
In late 2010, the Friends of Mothers’ Garden community group was formed by Mayfield residents Jim and Courtney Bartlett, and a 9-member Board of Directors voted to establish the FOMG as an Unincorporated Association in January 2011. On March 23, 2011 the group was awarded a $5,000 BCRP grant through the Parks & People Foundation to reinstate the part-time Park Steward program, and to make improvements and repairs to the Garden. In April 2011, the group became a Federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) community charity. To celebrate the new public-private FOMG project, a Mother’s Day event was held on Saturday, May 7th which featured live music, food, a reading by local Haitian author Katia Ulysse, historical photos/documents, and information about the restoration and maintenance plans for the future.