Bald eagles have been spotted on our campus recently. That should be no surprise…we are the McDonogh Eagles after all. The photographs that have been taken have generated excitement and joy at seeing these majestic birds up close. This is reminiscent of a time when the duck pond on our campus was a “happening” place where wild birds were kept and protected under the watchful eye of Mr. A. Ogden Ramsay (faculty 1927-1971).
As reported in the February 24, 1950 issue of The Week, “the duck pond roster has recently been greatly enlarged, some wild birds being paid for with the proceeds of the Christmas sale of about $200 worth of domestic fowl, and others being donated…among them two Blue geese and two Snow geese…”
The duck pond is still a part of our campus. Could it be possible that relatives of the geese and the many wild birds donated to Mr. Ramsay, return to their “home” pond year after year?
A record amount of snow fell in Baltimore on January 23, 2016, followed by days of melting and refreezing. This recalls a time 131 years ago when ice was "harvested" from the pond on campus. The scene is described in The Week dated January 3, 1885. On this particular day, the boys returned from their Christmas holiday to find that the farm hands had cut and hauled the five inch thick ice to the ice house to be stored. A chore usually performed by the “boys."
This is the first winter since I have been here that the boys have not helped with the ice; it is a much hated job to them for their principal part is to throw the large lumps into the wagon, and this cuts their hands and makes them very cold. Formerly some of the larger boys were entrusted with the job of cutting the large blocks of ice with axes , but this year the men sawed them with a large crosscut saw.”
The Week, January 3, 1885
Each year, on Founder's Day, students honor John McDonogh in the way he wished, by planting and watering flowers on his grave. The monument that marks his burial site had originally been erected in 1865 and placed over his grave in Greenmount Cemetery in Baltimore City. For eighty years, the entire faculty and student body would make the pilgrimage to the monument in order to place flowers at the grave. They would travel first by train, which included a walk from Union Station (Pennsylvania Station), and later by school bus. In 1945, John McDonogh's remains and the monument itself were moved to the campus of McDonogh School.
In August of 2009, workers uncovered the original foundation of McDonogh's Main Building, an expansive brick structure constructed in 1883 and destroyed by fire in 1928. They made the discovery while digging to expose underground pipes needing repair.
Read all about the discovery of the foundation of Old Main in the late summer of 2009.
The McDonogh Seal, seen here, was designed by long-time faculty member G. Hall Duncan. Mr. Duncan taught at McDonogh from 1926 through 1942 and again after World War II from 1946 through 1947. The Seal was drawn in 1930 and continues to this day as a symbol of McDonogh. It can be seen on each student's blazer as well as on display in the Memorial Field House, the Rollins-Luetkemeyer Athletic Center, and many other locations on campus.
Its description is as follows: Around the outside are the school's name and the founding date of 1873. The eagle, representative of the nation, and the flag of Maryland are prominently displayed, along with farm utensils that remind us of our school farm beginnings. The six stars symbolize the six virtues mentioned in a poem written by Eustace S. Glascock, McDonogh 1879, entitled The McDonogh Uniform. The virtues are Labor, Patience, Wisdom, Love, Honor and Truth.
Colonel Carey Kenney was a McDonogh faculty member from 1947 through 1980. He came to McDonogh after serving as an infantry officer in Italy in World War II. He was head of the Upper School Art Department until his retirement, and continued to manage the Tuttle Gallery for several more years. Many of his paintings are hanging in various locations around campus: murals in the Louis E. Lamborn Alumni Memorial Field House, portraits of McDonogh notables, landscapes of campus, and pen and inks of many McDonogh subjects, all of which he lovingly produced over his many years here. In 2008, he received the Distinguished Service Award from the Alumni Association. He passed away in July, 2012 just days before his 98th birthday.
Tradition holds when it comes to many things at McDonogh and, for sure, when it comes to the first sighting of snow in a season. Students’ thoughts immediately go to Chapel Hill. This has ever been true. The Chapel was built in 1899 and in the February 24, 1900 edition of The Week the following account is given:
Some boys, wishing to get the full benefit of [the snow] took their sleds and double-deckers to the hill near the chapel and enjoyed themselves as best they could. Going down the hill they pitched head first into the drifts, but calmly got up and tried it over again.
Chapel Hill has long held the thrill of a snowy winter’s day with gleeful children gliding down on sleds, one after the other.
The year was 1914, the date October 12 and McDonogh opposed Gilman in football for the first time. We lost 35 to 0; it was not an auspicious beginning. Our boys were outweighed 148 pounds to 133 pounds. With the exception of 1916 (unable to get it scheduled) and 1918 (due to the Spanish Flu), the contest has been yearly. McDonogh was unable to win for many years. Our luck changed in 1927. After thirteen defeats in a row, McDonogh finally won their first game against Gilman 6 to 0.
From the scrapbook given to McDonogh by Len Lewis, class of 1927, here is a photograph of that game. The winning ball resides in the Archives.
As McDonogh starts its 142nd school year, the Archives begins a yearly job of entering each new student alphabetically in the Registry Book. The student numbers include every student who ever attended McDonogh, whether they graduated or not and is a complete history of the student population starting with student number one in 1873.
His name was John Baker and he is pictured here. He was born on January 12, 1864 and entered McDonogh on November 21, 1873, just shy of his tenth birthday. We are fortunate to have his photograph, especially since he is dressed in the school’s first uniform. The uniform took many forms over the years until the semi-military program ended in 1971.
Reported in The Week July 6, 1907 —
Swimming has now struck the fancy of all the boys. Warm weather has come, and we hope it will stay. Our swimming place is not very large, but large enough for all the boys to get in at one time. We have to walk about half a mile from the school to the swimming place, and therefore we get very warm.The boys take great interest in swimming and nearly every day you may see about fifty boys going to the swimming place to take a good swim. We have two diving boards, and sometimes a boy puts up a rope to swing on. Boys catch hold of the rope, and swing from the bank far out into the water. In this way they have a great deal of fun....
Summer had arrived at McDonogh one hundred years ago. The photograph, circa 1920, gives us a look at what swimming looked like then; a far cry and a century away from our Henry A. Rosenberg, Jr. Aquatic Center.
On display in the Archives is this photograph taken July 4, 1887, the earliest alumni group photo in our collection. Most of the notables of the day are pictured. – on chairs left to right - Duncan Campbell Lyle, the second principal, David L. Bartlett, a Board member, Samuel Tagart, President of the Board of Trustees when the school was founded, Colonel William Allan, the school’s first principal, and many of the “boys” who had entered the school on that founding day November 21, 1873. Even Mr. Lyle’s dog Jet is seen lying in front of the group.
These reunions have been held each year and the earlier gatherings are documented in the school's newspaper The Week. This particular reunion was remembered in the paper as follows:
On the 4th J. W. Riley, one of our alumni, paid us a visit. He brought with him a photographer from Richard Walzl’s establishment. After dinner was over, Riley collected the members of the alumni together, and they with Mr. Tagart, Mr. Bartlett, Colonel Allan, and Mr. Lyle had their photograph taken. The four gentlemen named sat on chairs, a few of the alumni sat at their feet, while most of them stood behind the chairs.
Any person wanting to obtain any of these pictures may do so by applying at Richard Walzl’s photograph gallery, on Baltimore Street. The picture of the alumni will cost seventy-five cents.
The account also describes the school boys meeting the train that brought the “old boys” from Baltimore as follows:
The boys dressed in their Sunday clothes and marched to the station in two companies to escort the old boys from the station to the house. We drew up in line before the track, and when the train came up Pattison fired off a gun which we had brought along for the occasion. Hauer then gave the signal for cheering the old boys, and the cheers were given with a hearty good will, while a cheer for the new boys was returned by the old boys. The companies then escorted the old boys up from the station, the little company marching in front and the big company bringing up the rear. After mutual greetings we repaired to the school room, where a speech of welcome to the old boys was given by Colonel Allan. After this all were dismissed to do as they pleased, most of them visiting old haunts, going swimming, and playing baseball.
That day was 128 years ago but can be vividly envisioned because of the thorough description supplied by the boys who worked in the newspaper printing office. Their words make this very old photograph come alive.
As the Campus Master Plan continues to unfold, the first aerial view of the school becomes even more meaningful. Taken in 1926, it shows a substantial section of the 835 acres of the property. The structures pictured remaining on campus today are the Tagart Memorial Chapel, Bowman House, and two small houses visible above the main building. These two houses were moved to Woods Road in the 1940s to make way for Memorial Court.
The main drive appears white due to the fact that the road surface was made up of oyster shells, which is why the road today is called Shell Road. Going clockwise from the Chapel, the buildings are Moreland Cottage (replaced by Elderkin Hall), Main House (consumed by fire in 1928 and replaced by Allan Building), and Edwards Gym (demolished to make way for the Burck Center). All the buildings towards the top right of the photograph no longer exist, including the largest building visible, the first Jane Bay, torn down when Rollins Hall, the new Jane Bay Hall, and Keelty Hall (formerly South Hall) were built.
No tennis courts, no John McDonogh Stadium, but loads of open land that was home to the "school farm" that John McDonogh envisioned. The student body in 1926 was 170 students who were required to work the land. Ninety years later, the school and the campus are still evolving and will continue to do so.