Visiting Tudor Hall

Last Sunday, May 19th, I took advantage of one of the bimonthly tours of Tudor Hall near Bel Air, Maryland.

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On June 30, 1821, famed British tragedian Junius Brutus Booth and his pregnant lady, Mary Ann Holmes, arrived in America. Their voyage across the sea from their native England was due twofold. First, Junius hoped for greater wealth and success in the new land and second, the pair were hoping to escape and start anew to avoid the truth of their relationship. Though assumed to be man and wife, Junius and Mary Ann were not married. Spell bound over her beauty and grace, Junius had fled England with Mary Ann, leaving his true wife, Adelaide Delannoy Booth, and son, Richard Junius Booth, behind. He set foot in the new land with his new woman, determined to start anew. His reputation proceeded him and quickly he was a star on the American stage. By December of 1821, Mary Ann gave birth to their first born, Junius Brutus Booth, Jr. Junius realized quickly that his fledging family would need a place to call home beyond their boardinghouse room in Charleston, South Carolina. In May of 1822, Junius signed a thousand year lease to rent out 150 acres in Harford County, Maryland. The area was isolated about 25 miles north east of Baltimore. It provided the privacy Junius craved for himself and his illegitimate family. The Booth’s first residence on their acreage, and the only one Junius himself would ever know on the property, was a small cabin. Booth had the cabin moved from its former spot on the property to a natural spring that ran through the land.

Junius moved the family's first home, the log cabin, to a spot about where the white car is in this picture. It was close to the natural spring that ran through his newly acquired land.

Junius moved the family’s first home, the log cabin, to a spot about where the white car is in this picture. It was close to the natural spring that ran through his newly acquired land.

The act of moving the cabin to the spot by the spring was a big event:

“It caused quite an excitement in the neighborhood, people coming to witness the novel sight of a house being rolled across the fields, and many lent a helping hand.”

As his family grew, Junius had addition made to the log cabin, but ultimately had a more appropriate home in mind for his family. However, the act of caring for his family in America and sending money back home to England to keep Adelaide off of the scent forced him to continually delay his plans for another home. By 1840, Mary Ann was weary with her isolated life on the farm with so many children and so she and the kids moved to Baltimore, coming back during the summers to their Bel Air cabin.

Fast forward to 1851. After finally being caught in his lies, Adelaide Booth publicly and embarrassingly divorced Junius Brutus Booth, allowing he and Mary Ann to legally wed. The 56 year old actor was looking forward to retiring and so plans were made to finally construct the dream home in Bel Air that he had desired. From architectural plans he chose an Elizabethan style home:

The original, interior layout of Tudor Hall.

The original, interior layout of Tudor Hall.

He commissioned, architect James Gifford to build his new home which he called, “Tudor Hall”:
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Sadly, Junius would never live in the completed house. He died on November 30th, 1852, before it was finished. After her husband’s death, Mary Ann would take her young children back to Bel Air to live at Tudor Hall. Eventually, when all her children had come of age, Mary Ann would leave Tudor Hall and rent it out. In 1878, she sold Tudor Hall and the Booths never returned.

Harford County managed to acquire Tudor Hall in 2006. Previous to this it was always a private residence. The owners who lived there the longest were Ella Mahoney, whose first husband bought the house straight from Mary Ann Booth, and Dorothy and Howard Fox. The second floor of the building currently houses the offices for the Center of Visual and Performing Arts of Harford County.

Tudor Hall, as a museum, is still in a transitional phase. The Junius Brutus Booth Society and Spirits of Tudor Hall, are working hard to get Harford County to give them more control in order to truly turn this gem into a museum dedicated to the Booth family. The guided tours are informative and done by volunteers with a passion for history.

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Other than the building itself, the only other thing on the Tudor Hall property today that was there when the Booths were there is this spring house (minus the roof) which was made around the same time as Tudor Hall, and this pond, which was made by the Booths:

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Tudor Hall is a must see for those interested in the illustrious Booth family. Check out their tour schedule by visiting the Spirits of Tudor Hall Facebook page and blog the former written by Edwin Booth expert and friend of BoothieBarn, Carolyn Mitchell. And please consider joining the Junius Brutus Booth Society. The more members they have and the more funds they receive, the louder their voice becomes to transform Tudor Hall into the Booth family museum it deserves to be. Visit the Junius Brutus Booth Society here.

References:
My Thoughts Be Bloody by Nora Titone
Sketches of Tudor Hall and the Booth Family by Ella Mahoney (free online version here)

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: | 21 Comments

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21 thoughts on “Visiting Tudor Hall

  1. Hi Dave,

    As always great post and thank you for your support. Could you tell me how many showed up at this tour? Also, a correction, the Spirits of Tudor Hall blog is actually handled by Tom Fink, president of the Junius Brutus Booth Society. He has been very helpful with my inquiries and very knowledgable on the Booth family.

    • Carolyn,

      Thanks for the correction regarding the blog. I actually had a chance to chat with Tom a bit after the tour was over. He’s the one who pointed out to me where the old log cabin would have stood and where the family cemetery would have been. Sadly that is now lost to the nearby housing development.

      I would say there were about 25 people on the 1:00 o’clock tour we were on and I saw about ten waiting for the 2:00 o’clock one when we were leaving. Just an estimate though.

  2. I can’t wait to finally meet Tom. I’m crossing my fingers I can make my trip later this year.

  3. Just curious Dave and Carolyn…do the folks who have access to the second floor ever stand on the Romeo and Juliet balcony? Is it off limits? Is it considered structurally sound?

    • Just from the glance I had of it, it does not appear to be capable of bearing weight. Some work needs to be done, I think.

  4. Heath

    It’s interesting that the historical marker beside the road does not mention JWB specifically.

    • I think Tudor Hall has to be careful when it comes to John Wilkes. On one hand, his story is a draw and would help bring in visitors, but on the other some people won’t understand and will see Tudor Hall as a museum to an assassin. He’s a polarizing figure. When this sign went up in 1931 it was probably better to just leave him out of it.

      • Steve Lohrmann

        Well put. Dave

        • Thank you, Steve. I find the Booth family absolutely fascinating but I never would have looked into them if it wasn’t for my interest in Lincoln’s assassination and John Wilkes Booth. I think Tudor Hall and the Junius Brutus Booth Society are doing a great job of highlighting the interesting Booth family while, at the same time, acknowledging that John Wilkes has gone down in history as the most famous Booth though for a terrible reason.

  5. Steve Lohrmann

    Thanks Dave, Excellent! I really like the photos. The one’s of “Rocks” makes me want to go back!. I’ve been to Tudor Hall twice when it was a private residence, and met the owner of that time, Mr. Fox. He was very nice an showed me around the place. The little tour he gave me was very interesting, but there is one thing Mr. Fox told me that I forgot until I read about the cabin. He told me Tudor Hall’s kitchen is built around the old cabin. Is that true?

    • Well I did not get that story about the kitchen from the guide at Tudor Hall. I don’t know about that. I’ll be sure to include that idea when I blog about the cabin later.

      • Steve Lohrmann

        Okay, thanks Dave. While I was reading your blog about Tudor Hall I remembered Mr. Fox telling me about the cabin and it’s connection with the kitchen. I’ll look forward to reading about what you find out.

  6. Anthony Classick

    Please don’t spoil a future tour with all these photos. To think I could have gone, but after two trips to
    Washington, that’s it for a long while.

  7. Pingback: The Booth Log Cabin | BoothieBarn

  8. Pingback: JWB at The Rocks | BoothieBarn

  9. Pingback: When is Edwin Booth’s Birthday? | BoothieBarn

  10. Hi Dave,

    The link you provided on this article is the old website. The new link to the Junus B. Booth Society is http://juniusbrutusbooth.org

  11. Also, according to Wikipedia and a couple of other sources I found online, Edmund Spangler helped built Tudor Hall:

    “While in his early 20s, Spangler trained as a carpenter. He eventually moved to Maryland and began working with another carpenter, James Johnson Gifford. In the early 1850s, Spangler and Gifford helped to construct Tudor Hall, the summer retreat for the Booth family. ”

    Any truth to this story? I didn’t see anything mentioned on the history of Tudor Hall on the Junius B. Booth Society website. Thanks again.

    • Yes, Edman Spangler did help construct Tudor Hall under the supervision of James Gifford, the architect of both Tudor Hall and Ford’s Theatre. In one of the statements Spangler gave to authorities after his sentencing and imprisonment at Fort Jefferson, he stated the following:

      “[I] became acquainted with J. Wilkes Booth when a boy, I worked for his father in building a cottage in Harford County, Md A.D. 1854.”

      Spangler’s date of 1854, would be after Tudor Hall’s construction and could just be a mistake in memory of the year. Or perhaps, Spangler assisted the Booth’s in doing some repair or finishing work on the house later on, I’m not sure.

      But, yes, Edman Spangler first met John Wilkes Booth at Tudor Hall.

  12. Great article and overview – I went to see the house last week and wondered about the tree lined drive – too bad they couldn’t save more land around the house – the suburban sprawl was an eyesore.

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