Harford County, Maryland
The Beginning of the First Tudor Hall Web Site
Written by El Penski and dedicated to Ella Mahoney, Dorothy and Howard Fox, and their hard labor and dreams for Tudor Hall, the home of the "first family" of the American Theater
Tudor Hall, 2006
A BRIEF HISTORY OF TUDOR HALL
C. Milton Wright wrote1 that in "1797 Dr. J. Hall owned the tracts of 'Edwards Lott', 'United Lott', and 'Mathews Neighbor Resurveyed' containing 159 acres. This was the Booth farm called 'Tudor Hall.'" In 1824, Junius Brutus Booth, the elder, (1796-1852) leased the land for 1000 years for $733.20 from the Hall family. 2 First, Junius bought a log house from John C. Brown, father of Elizabeth Brown Rogers, and moved the house to the property near a spring. Junius had Tudor Hall built nearby in 1847 by James Gifford3 who also built Ford's Theatre where Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865 and where, on June 9, 1893, 22 War Department employees were killed and 68 others injured when it collapsed due to renovations in the basement. James J. Wollon, Jr, Mrs. Mahoney's great-grandson, has shown that Tudor Hall matches a design published for a Gothic Revival cottage designed by an architect named William H. Ranlett in "The Architect" Volume I, 1847.4
Junius Brutus Booth, the elder, died in 1852. Before Lincoln's assassination in 1865, the Booths had rented Tudor Hall to the Patrick Henry King family from Washington, D.C. Mrs. Junius Brutus Booth, the elder, (Mary Booth) transferred the property to Samuel A. S. Kyle in 1878 for $3,500.5 Samuel Kyle married Ella Harward in 1879. The log house was moved or destroyed. The exact fate of the log house remains uncertain despite the important and great efforts of Dinah Faber to track it down. (Publication of the results of her research has been delayed. )
After Samuel Kyle died in 1893, Ella remarried and became Ella V. Mahoney in 1897. According to the 1952 Harford County Directory and other records, Ella opened the house to visitors in 1928 after she and a daughter, Grace Kyle, assembled many relics and made the house a museum. She died on September 7, 1948 after 70 years in Tudor Hall.
According to Harford County records, when Mrs. Mahoney died, she left Tudor Hall to Grace H. Kyle and Anna K. Cooley, her daughters. They sold it in 1949 to John E. Clark, a local lawyer. He kept it open to the public. In 1954 Richard and Betty Worthington bought the property. They were the owners of The Aegis, a Bel Air newspaper. It is commonly claimed that the Worthingtons sold off most of the land, except for 8.33 acres and closed Tudor Hall to the public.6 In 1961 it was purchased by a rubber company executive who died and whose widow, Miriam Yates, is said to have moved to Mexico. Tudor Hall was closed to the public during this period.
Howard L. and Dorothy Fox purchased the house ($175,000) as a pleasant country place to live in June of 1968. They claimed they did not know its historical significance until a bus load of tourists pulled into their front yard.7 They made extensive efforts to reopen it to the public. Also they tried to preserve and restore the house and the history associated with it. Thus, Tudor Hall played multiple roles as a home, museum, inn, bed & breakfast, and occasional ballroom and theater. In 1973, Tudor Hall was included in the National Register of Historic Places with a historical boundary of 136.5 acres to maintain the rural surroundings and distant views since Tudor Hall had been a farm during the Booth period. In 1982, the State of Maryland reduced the protective boundaries to the 8.33 acres. Mr. and Mrs. Fox and historical experts opposed this action, but the State ignored their pleas.
In 1984, PATHWAYS 8 announced on its front page of its first edition that "Tudor Hall" was "Preserved" by the Preservation Association for Tudor Hall (PATH). PATH obtained a 99 year lease with an option to buy Tudor Hall in 1986, but events did not continue as well as anticipated. Court actions initiated by neighbors limited funding raising at Tudor Hall. PATH failed to pay its rent and lost its title to Tudor Hall in 1997. In 2000, PATH stopped functioning and later forfeited its charter. The elderly Foxes, with their many health problems, were forced to replace PATH by trying to set up Tudor Hall, Inc., a task that was never completed. The couple died in early 1999, sooner than they expected, from cancer without wills.
In 1999, Robert and Elizabeth Baker out bid Harford County to buy the house for $415,000. The Bakers closed Tudor Hall to the public. On August 11, 2006, at a ceremony at Tudor Hall, Harford County Executive David Craig and the Bakers completed the transferring of ownership of Tudor Hall to Harford County. The County paid $810,000.9 Present at the ceremony were people who had been members of PATH and the Edwin Booth Theatre (about 1976-1996): Mary Cogley, Ann C. Phillips, Jill Redding, Frederick Redding, Fred Ruthke, Andy Schmidt, and Kristen Thomson.
The Historical Society of Harford County, Inc. had several representatives: Maryanna Skowronski (Administrator), Dinah Faber (writer and historian with an interest in the Booth family), Henry Peden (professional genealogist and Head of the Research Library), Elwin Penski (Webmaster), Eric Richardson (professional actor and Tudor Hall advocate), James T. Wollon (restoration and preservation architect and great-grandson of Ella V. Mahoney who lived at Tudor Hall for 70 years).
Also, attending were: Tom Rimrodt (Assistant Secretary, Planning Services, Maryland Department of Planning), Laura Keene (actress Tamara Johnson, star of In Haste, Laura Keene), Joseph Jefferson (actor Steven Lampredi), Aimee O'Neill (real estate representative of the Bakers), Aaron Tomarchio (County Executive's Chief of Staff), Pamela DiMauro (County Executive's Secretary), Richard Carr (Chief of Facilities and Operations), Robert S. McCord (County Attorney), Robert Mercado (County Historic Preservation Planner), Deborah L. Henderson (County Director of Procurement), Mary Gail Hare (reporter for the Baltimore Sun) and a few others.2
Signing the Transfer of Tudor Hall to Harford County
left to right at the table: Robert Baker, Elizabeth Baker, David Craig, Pamela DiMauro
left to right standing: Tom Rimrodt, Maryanna Skowronski, Laura Keene
Photographed by Dinah Faber, August 11, 2006
The Check Made Them Smile
Photographed by Dinah Faber, August 11, 2006
On February 8, 2007, the Harford County Board of Estimates approved a contract to lease Tudor Hall for office space to The Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, Inc. for a nominal fee._____________________