Uplands, a 42-room Victorian mansion in Baltimore, Maryland, originally served as a summer residence for Mary Frick Garrett Jacobs. It was subsequently repurposed for the Uplands Home for Church Women and the New Psalmist Baptist Church. Tragically, the mansion was destroyed by a fire in October 2023.
John Scutt was the first to claim land at Hunting Ridge, west of Baltimore. 2 In 1865, he secured a patent for 400 acres. Later, this property was deeded to English colonist John Bailey. By 1769, Bailey’s son sold it to Daniel Dulany.
Despite trying to remain neutral during the Revolutionary War, Dulany saw his loyalist friends lose their assets to colonial factions. 2 3 This compelled him to divide and sell his estate into four parts. One of these parcels was acquired by John Swan in 1850, 13 where he built Uplands, a grand 42-room Victorian mansion. 2 3
Mary Frick Garrett Jacobs, Swan’s granddaughter, had several residences. 1 She and her spouse, Robert Garrett, who was the president of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, would stay in Mount Vernon or Uplands during winter. 5 In the warmer seasons, they would reside in Newport’s Whiteholme, Bar Harbor, Deer Park, or again at Uplands. 4 6 12 The couple traveled with a large entourage that included 17 servants and 18 laborers, who ensured the seamless movement of their possessions based on the season and their social engagements. 12
In 1885, they commissioned Ephraim Francis Baldwin from Baldwin & Pennington to refurbish Uplands. 1 Baldwin was renowned for his collaborations with the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Roman Catholic Church.
After Robert Garrett’s death from kidney failure in 1896, Uplands became Mary Jacobs’ primary home. 4 In 1902, she married Henry Barton Jacobs, who had been Garrett’s physician. The couple continued living in Uplands until 1929. 8
When Mary Jacobs passed away in 1936, she bequeathed an estate valued at $5.5 million to her husband. Her will included a provision granting the Uplands estate and $1,000,000 to the Protestant Episcopal Church. 6 7 However, the principal amount could not be used for Uplands’ renovation, construction, or upkeep. 10 Her will also indicated that Uplands should be updated with electrical lighting since it was still using gas, and its exterior should be stuccoed. 12
Uplands Home for Church Women
Jacobs’ will expressed her wish for Uplands to become “a residence for churchwomen who couldn’t fully support themselves.” 7 She specifically stated that only clergymen affiliated with the Protestant Episcopal Church could conduct religious services there.
The transformation of Uplands into an elderly home faced delays. The Church wanted to grow the principal amount through interest. Also, governmental restrictions, material scarcities, and escalating costs due to Pearl Harbor and World War II played a role. 10 A series of wartime fires in elderly homes led to enhanced fire safety standards across the nation.
Furthermore, the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Maryland questioned Uplands’ suitability for the elderly. 9 James A. Latane, board president, highlighted the mansion’s extensive refurbishing needs. For instance, the installation of a fireproof elevator and stairway system was required, and some rooms were challenging to partition. 8 9
As a solution, the Church suggested constructing an elderly home near the Church Home and Hospital at Broadway and Fairmont Avenue. 8 They believed this location would provide better access to medical staff and be more cost-effective than staffing Uplands. In January 1949, this plan was approved by the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, only to be reversed a year later. 9
By August 1950, Uplands’ transformation commenced with a contract awarded to the Consolidated Engineering Company of Baltimore for $531,500. 10 The project involved stuccoing over the original clapboard and constructing a fireproof extension linked to the mansion by a glass corridor. The annex housed 36 bedrooms and an infirmary, while the main building got a makeover to include communal spaces and staff accommodations.
The renovated Uplands Home for Church Women was scheduled to open in October 1951 10 but only began admitting residents in 1952. 12 13
By November 1984, plans were in place to move the 30 Uplands residents to Fairhaven, a comprehensive retirement community near Sykesville. 13 This $7.5 million project encompassed building a three-story solarium, Uplands Hall, and refurbishing the historic Beasman House. Uplands stopped accepting new residents, and by August 1986, only 21 remained. 12 By late autumn, after the property was sold to New Psalmist Baptist Church, the last residents were relocated to Fairhaven.
New Psalmist Baptist Church
New Psalmist Baptist had been keen on building a new church at Uplands for a while. 11 The congregation had been using a former Presbyterian church at Franklin and Cathedral Streets since 1978. However, it could only accommodate 1,000 worshippers and was overcrowded.
In October 1993, the city granted a construction permit for a $7.5 million church at Uplands for New Psalmist Baptist. 11 The design had space for 2,000 people, and it was to be connected to the Uplands mansion. By 1996, the new sanctuary was operational. However, within a year, the church had to hold three services on Sundays and one on Saturday nights due to its growing congregation. 14
In September 2004, New Psalmist Baptist opted to relocate to a 33-acre site at Seton Business Park. 14 This decision was part of a larger $200 million city initiative to rejuvenate the Uplands neighborhood by introducing 1,100 affordable housing units. The plan included compensating New Psalmist Baptist between $14.2 million 14 and $16.5 million 15 for the Uplands property.
While the project faced a four-year delay because of a legal dispute with former Uplands residents, 16 New Psalmist Baptist successfully inaugurated its expansive new campus at Seton in 2010. 14 This campus included a sanctuary that could host 4,000 people. 14 The older Uplands sanctuary was eventually torn down, but the historic mansion from around 1850 was preserved for potential future use.
However, a significant three-alarm fire devastated the vacant Uplands Mansion on October 30, 2023. 17
- “Uplands.” Baltimore Heritage, 30 Sept. 2019.
- “History of Hunting Ridge.” Hunting Ridge Community.
- “Hunting Ridge.” City of Baltimore, 2018.
- “Mary Frick Garrett Jacobs.” Garrett-Jacobs Mansion Endowment Fund.
- Sander, Kathleen Waters. “Could the famed B&O Railroad be saved? In 1858, one man thought it could.” John Hopkins University Press Blog, 21 Jul. 2017.
- “Robert Garrett Dead.” Baltimore Sun, 30 Jul. 1896, p. 8.
- “Mrs. Jacobs Gives Hospital Bequest.” Baltimore Sun, 11 Nov. 1936, p. 9.
- “Uplands Home Shift Planned.” Baltimore Sun, 13 Feb. 1949, p. 16.
- “Church ‘Uplands Home’ Project is Approved.” Evening Sun [Baltimore], 25 Jan. 1950, p. 42.
- “Long Struggle for Women’s Home Nearing Success.” Evening Sun [Baltimore], 9 Mar. 1951, p. 44.
- Daemmrich, JoAnna. “Baltimore church gets OK to build sanctuary in city’s Irvington area.” Baltimore Sun, 22 Oct. 1993, p. 9B.
- Kelly, Jacques. “They’ll miss the Uplands.” Evening Sun [Baltimore], 28 Aug. 1986, p. D1-D7.
- “Lombardi, Bill. “West Baltimore nursing home to move to Fairhaven.” Carroll Sun, 25 Nov. 1984, p. 2.
- Park, Madison. “Church moves to new home.” Baltimore Sun, 8 Jun. 2008, p. 1B-2B.
- Siegel, Eric. “Church’s vote gives city land to build 1,100 housing units.” Baltimore Sun, 2 Sept. 2004, p. 1A-6A.
- Scharper, Julie. “Replacing troubled housing goes slowly.” Baltimore Sun, 1 Oct. 2010, p. 1-19.
- Taylor, Roy and Kim Dacey. “3-alarm fire destroys abandoned Uplands Mansion in west Baltimore.” WBAL-TV, 31 Oct. 2023.