George A. Frederick

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George A. Frederick
Born (1842-12-16)December 16, 1842
Died August 17, 1924(1924-08-17) (aged 81)
Baltimore, Maryland
Nationality American
Occupation Architect
Awards Fellowship with the American Institute of Architects, 1877
Buildings Baltimore City Hall; Maryland House of Correction; Abell Building (Baltimore)
Projects Repairs to the Maryland State House; Architect to the Baltimore Parks Commission, 1863-1895; 1893 Maryland Exposition Building, Chicago World's Fair

George Aloysius Frederick (December 16, 1842 – August 17, 1924) was a German-American architect with a practice in Baltimore, Maryland, where his most prominent commission was the Baltimore City Hall (1867–75), awarded him when he was only twenty-one.

Baltimore youth[edit]

George Frederick was born on December 16, 1842, to German immigrants from Bavaria who settled in Baltimore. As a child his parents called him Volishis Georg, but before entering his apprenticeship he Americanized his name to George Aloysius, remaining George A. Frederick for the rest of his life. His father was employed as a clerk and supported seven children: George, Mary, Alphonse Joseph, Wilhemena, Anna, Catherine, and Cecelia. Alphonse would become a Sulpician priest at St. Charles College in Catonsville, taking the name Reverend Joseph A. Frederick. The German Catholic roots nurtured in George's youth would influence the work he accepted throughout his career. He was educated at the Christian Brothers School in Baltimore until 1858 when he was accepted as an apprentice in Lind & Murdoch's architecture firm of Baltimore. Without formal architectural schools, apprenticeship was the most common way to enter the building profession. For the next four years he worked under this firm and had some experience also with Niernsee & Neilson of Baltimore.[1]


Constructing Baltimore's City Hall[edit]

Baltimore City Hall

The young architect left his apprenticeship around 1863 with a masterful command of architecture and set up his own practice. At that time, Baltimore architects and builders looked to the City Council's arrangements for a new City Hall, with a budget estimated at $1,000,000, as the most enticing public project. The first competition to plan a new City Hall was in 1860, but the winner, William T. Marshall, fled from Baltimore during the Civil War. The second City Hall competition failed to elicit any entrants as the chaos of army movements to and from Gettysburg overwhelmed the city. Finally, a July 1, 1864, deadline was set for the third and final competition. At the age of twenty-one, Frederick submitted a design and beat out the only other competitor, the more experienced British architect, Thomas Sims Godwin. Mayor Chapman and City Council summoned Frederick on September 18, 1865, to explain his plans and make any corrections. After doing so, Frederick was commissioned as architect for the New City Hall on a two percent commission, paid monthly as the work progressed. His plan was in the French Renaissance style of the Second Empire, capped by a cupola or small dome; the latter is thought to be inspired by the construction of the United States Capitol expansion with new north and south wings for the Senate and the House of Representatives during the late 1850s with the building of a new, considerably higher and larger cast-iron dome than the earlier Bullfinch-designed lower copper-clad one from the 1820s, began in 1856 (and appears partially completed in famous photographs of President Abraham Lincoln'c first inauguration on March 4, 1861 and was substantially completed by 1863. Frederick's design looked to the new additions to the Palais du Louvre, completed under Hector Lefuel in 1857, and well publicized to professionals and architects alike through engravings, lithographs and description; its high Mansard roofs, bold corner pavilions, richly framed dormers are reflected in Frederick's design for the City Hall,[2] above which rises the central dome, 227 feet (69 m) high, above an interior rotunda 119 feet (36 m) high. Twin interior courts provided every room with natural light. It was constructed with Baltimore County marble (also referred to as Beaver Dam Marble) and Falls Road bluestone. Baltimore carpenter J.M. Sudsberg designed and carved the doors bearing the seal of Baltimore and Battle Monument. Remarkably, the building was designed to be fireproof, the first municipal building so built in the nation. The Building Committee appointed him consulting architect in 1867, and as with many of his other projects, Frederick remained involved throughout the construction of his plans.

On October 18 of that year the cornerstone was laid. Though an address by the Hon. J.H.B. Latrobe and a Masonic cornerstone-laying ceremony provided a spectacle to draw the crowds to the cornerstone laying ceremony, The Sun believed that the small crowd of onlookers represented the populace's view that a new City Hall at $1,000,000 was an unnecessary expenditure when economic strains from the war still crippled the city. In the summer of 1868 The Sun's fears were realized. The entirety of the Building Committee was forced to resign after charges of fraud revealed that they did not choose the lowest bidding contractors for marble, brick, lumber, and cement. Frederick was partly to blame for the brick contract. He used the term "common red" brick on his list of materials needed for the structure, when in fact no red bricks were used. Not knowing this, the Building Committee paid $8,188 for unneeded red bricks. Construction went on despite this setback. The new Building Committee included three mechanics to provide expertise and prevent a similar mistake. The building was finished in 1875, and to the surprise of the municipality, cost only $2,271,135.64 out of a total appropriation of $2,500,000 (the budget was expanded as construction progressed). The Building Committee and Frederick were seen as heroes for leaving $228,864.36 as a surplus to the city. A grand ceremony handing over the new City Hall from the Building Committee to Latrobe, representing the people of Baltimore, took place on October 26, 1875. Governor James Black Groome headed the procession, followed by the two regiments from Fort McHenry, civic and trade groups of the city, and the Baltimore Fire Department.

House of Correction corruption[edit]

Governor Groome recognized the talent of an architect that could take on such a large undertaking and stay under budget. As a member of the state Board of Public Works, he quickly hired Frederick even before the completion of City Hall. Unfortunately for Groome, Frederick's notoriety in state projects came from grossly exceeding appropriations rather than finishing with a surplus. He was commissioned as architect for the House of Correction in Jessup, Anne Arundel County, in 1875. Though not related to Frederick's actions, the Board of Public Works came under scrutiny in their management of this project. On July 17, 1875 the individual members of the Board of Public Works—Governor James Black Groome, Treasurer Barnes Compton, and Comptroller Levin Woolford—filed suits of libel against Charles C. and Albert K. Fulton, proprietors of the Baltimore American, claiming $20,000 each in damages. The conflict originated in a letter to the editor and follow-up article published in the American on June 26 and June 28, 1875. Both charged the overseers of the new House of Correction in Jessup with mismanagement at best, political corruption at worst.

After the officials filed their suits against the Fultons, the case was settled in open court on February 17, 1876. The Hagerstown Mail chastised the Board for failing to be open to public criticism, a requirement of American officeholders. A day after the court agreement, the Baltimore Sun reported that the Board of Public Works was expected to petition for an extra $200,000 over the $250,000 appropriation in order to complete the House of Correction as planned. Though optimistic at staying on budget in 1876, Comptroller Woolford’s 1877 Annual Report recognized that nearly the whole of the budget had been spent and “a considerable sum will be necessary to furnish the building and provide heat, water and light, so as to fit the institution for the reception of prisoners.” That considerable sum was expected to total $25,000 in 1878 and another $86,000 in 1879.

Repairs to the State House[edit]

State House, Annapolis

Not deterred by the overspending, or at least not blaming it on Frederick, the Board hired him again in 1877 to design the repairs to the State House in Annapolis. Frederick was likely an apprentice to Lind & Murdoch when they worked on the octagonal library in the State House in 1858. In 1876 Governor Groome signed into law an act appropriating $32,000 for the repairs. After a year of delays, Frederick was finally instructed to contract with various builders in April 1877. Once work began, Frederick and the Board quickly realized that the building was in much worse condition than imagined. The cellar was too small to hold a heater, the floors had settled unevenly and were unsafe, and the roof was covered with tin which leaked and rotted the wood underneath. In fact, the American Architect and Building News reported that as Frederick worked on the repairs he discovered that the roof had been renewed three times, but each time the old shingles had been left underneath. The architect later commented "that under such conditions the State House had not resolved itself into a holocaust was a surprise to the architects when employed and of necessity made familiar with such surroundings." Once the building was stripped to address these repairs and install heating, it needed to be plastered and painted. Though the original intention had been to preserve the Senate Chamber and other historic rooms in their original Revolutionary appearance, as Groome testified on behalf of the Board of Public Works, having redone the entire building it would seem awkward to simply put back the old furniture. "We could have finished in a plain, simple and Quaker-like way," he said, "But...if we did the work slovenly and in a plain manner, we did not think we would be justified in exceeding the appropriation."

And they certainly exceeded the appropriation. The budget of $32,000 more than tripled to $111,388.29. In 1878 the House of Delegates appointed a Select Committee to Investigate the Repairs upon the State House. They heard testimony from the Board of Public Works, Frederick, and all contractors involved in the repairs. After concluding that it was not the 1876 Legislature's fault for appropriating so little money—they had no way of knowing the extent of the building's damage—and pardoning the Board of Public Works for simply insuring the safety of elected officials, the Select Committee placed blame squarely on the architect, George Frederick. While the government officials were not to blame for failing to realize the magnitude of the repairs until the building was torn apart, Frederick should not have put in such a low bid. The Committee questioned both the Board and Frederick on the 5% commission for the project, implying that he added costs in order to raise his compensation. Frederick later claimed that he worked harder on the State House project than any other in his life. As with the House of Correction, Frederick made sure his contractors were paid in full for their time and materials. The architect himself, held by a verbal agreement rather than written contract as was common in his profession, never received payment for working on the State House.

Return to Baltimore[edit]

Rightfully dissatisfied with these experiences, Frederick did not work again with the state government. He had married Mary E. Everist in 1865, and their first and only child, Katherine, was born in 1876. Privately funded projects closer to their home in Baltimore formed the bulk of his employment over the next twenty years. His previous projects in Baltimore included Hollins Market; Gottschalk, Donnell and German Correspondent buildings; Baltimore City College; Baltimore City Hall; the Edgar Allan Poe Monument; and the Abell Building. The Abell Building warehouses were known for their remarkable combination of materials (Baltimore brick, bluestone, white marble, and terra-cotta trim) and styles (Neo-Grec and Italianate). He planned the Rennert Hotel on Fayette Street in 1885. The U.S. Marine Hospital in Baltimore was also a work of Frederick.

Two notable residences designed by Frederick were the Bauernschmidt House and Cylburn. The former, located at Broadway and North Avenue, was the home of a Baltimore German American beer baron John Bauernschmidt. Frederick designed Cylburn in 1863, his first year out of apprenticeship, but the Civil War interrupted its construction. Industrialist Jesse Tyson originally planned the summer home for his mother as a retreat from the heat of the inner city, but the delay meant that the home was instead used to welcome his new bride. Cylburn was not completed until 1889, the year Jesse, in his sixties, married nineteen-year-old debutante Edyth Johns. The couple decorated their lavish Italianate and Second Empire style home with imported European furniture, no doubt to impress high society summer visitors from Baltimore.

In contrast to these commercial buildings and private homes, Frederick also maintained a relationship with the roots of his family: German Catholics. Greisenheim, a home for aged Germans, Baltimore's German Orphan Asylum and the German Correspondent (German language newspaper) building reflected ties to his parents' homeland. The last of these was completed in 1869 on a prominent corner lot on Baltimore Avenue; it had three main floors and an attic behind French mansards, with a marble-clad facing with Venetian-Gothic windows. Frederick also designed a number of buildings for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. His churches include St. Pius, St. James and St. John's Church, St. James the Less, and Fourteen Holy Martyrs. St. James and St. John's, a Redemptorist church, catered to the neighborhood German Catholics. Whiteford Hall, a school at St. Joseph's Monastery, was completed in 1890. St. Joseph's Hospital, now relocated in Towson, was also a Catholic enterprise finished in 1871. In 1890, he entered a competition to plan Catholic University in Washington, D.C., but was beat by fellow Baltimore architects Baldwin & Pennington.

Despite his aversion to state commissions, Frederick continued to work for Baltimore City as the architect for the Baltimore Park Commission, a position he held from 1863-1895. He worked on projects in Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park and Federal Hill Park. Baltimore's Druid Hill Park, purchased for the city in 1860, was designed by Howard Daniels, Baltimore Park Commissioners' landscape designer and John H. B. Latrobe,[3] who designed the gateways to the park and the alterations made to the early-19th century Nicholas Rogers mansion that already stood in the site. Druid Hill Park ranks with Central Park in New York City, begun in 1859, and Fairmount Park in Philadelphia as the oldest landscaped public parks in the United States. Among Frederick's playful structures for Druid Hill in Moorish and Chinese styles was the Chinese Station erected in 1864[4] and the Moorish Station,[5] which were stops on a narrow-gauge railroad that once wound through the park.

Frederick represented Maryland in the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia by designing a building to represent the state. In 1893 he planned the Maryland Exposition Building at the Chicago World's Fair.

The retired architect[edit]

Frederick retired around 1903. He had been a charter member of the Baltimore Chapter of the American Institute of Architects since 1868, and was given a Fellowship in 1877. Later in his career he sat on the Board of Directors. In 1913 he recorded his Recollections of Baltimore architects from the mid- to late nineteenth century for the A.I.A. On February 24, 1923, he lost his wife of fifty-eight years to a brain hemorrhage. A year later, on August 17, he died of the same cause and was interred in New Cathedral Cemetery. He was survived by his daughter Katherine, brother Rev. Joseph Frederick, and sister Miss Philomena Frederick. Though he witnessed the Baltimore Fire of 1904 destroy many of his creations, one obituary proclaimed that "Mr. George A. Frederick in his long life of eighty-one years never had to complain of lack of employment or lack of appreciation."


  • Chalkley, Tom. "Built to Last." Charmed Life. City Paper, Baltimore, 10 November 1999.
  • Dorsey, John and James D. Dilts. A Guide to Baltimore Architects. 3rd Edition. Centreville, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1997.
  • Frederick, George A. "Recollections of George A. Frederick." 1912. Maryland Historical Society
  • "Frederick, George Aloysius." The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography being the History of the United States. Vol. IX. New York: James T. White & Company, 1899. p. 334.
  • "George A. Frederick." Baltimore Architecture Foundation. 18 Oct. 2007 [1]
  • George A. Frederick. Biography. Maryland State Archives. [2]
  • "George Aloysius Frederick." Baltimore Architects. The Sun, Baltimore, 22 September 1954.
  • Giza, Joanne and Catharine F. Black. "Cylburn." Great Baltimore Houses: An Architectural and Social History. Baltimore: Maclay & Associates, 1982. p. 79-81.
  • Hayward, Mary Ellen and Frank R. Shivers, Jr. The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
  • Jones, Carleton. Lost Baltimore Landmarks: A Portfolio of Vanished Buildings. Baltimore, MD: Maclay & Associates, Inc., 1982.
  • Perlman, Bennard B. “The City Hall, Baltimore.” Maryland Historical Magazine. Maryland Historical Society. Vol. XLVII. no. 1. March 1952. p. 40-54.
  • "Poe's Grave." The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore. 2 January 2001.
  • "The Cator Prints: City Hall, Now & Then." Enoch Pratt Free Library. [3]
  • Withey, Henry F. and Elsie Rathburn Withey. Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (Deceased). Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, Inc., 1970. p. 220-221.


  1. ^ Mary Ellen Hayward, Frank R. Shivers, Richard Hubbard Howland, The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History 2004:147.
  2. ^ Mary Ellen Hayward, Frank R. Shivers, Richard Hubbard Howland, The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History :186-89.
  3. ^ John Hazlehurst Boneval Latrobe (1803-1891), though a son of the famous American architect Benjamin Latrobe, was a lawyer, whose design supervision must have been general.
  4. ^ Baltimore Parks
  5. ^ J. Dorsey and J.D. Dilts, A Guide to Baltimore Architecture (3rd edition), Tidewater Publishers, Centreville, MD 1997:298 (on-line illustration).

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