Mencken House

The day before Pam was scheduled for her back surgery, we had to check into Johns Hopkins Hospital by 10 am for her to take a COVID test. The test results had to be negative in order for her to proceed with her next day’s surgery.

After we took the COVID test, we then cruised around town and made our way over to West Baltimore to check out H.L. Mencken’s house. I had visited there many years ago and thought that Pam might enjoy checking it out. (For those of you not familiar with Mencken and his house check this out (click here.)

1524 Hollins Street

Known as “America’s Critic,” the “Sage of Baltimore” and “Court Jester of American Democracy” Mencken, in his time, was a very controversial, influential, funny and well respected author and publisher. However, he also had a dark side about him that was more than confirmed once his diary was published 25 years after his death as discussed here (click here.) His overall career and impact is summed up very well in this article (click here.) While I am not trying to explain nor defend Mencken for his ugly views, when I read all this negative stuff about him, I thought of the joke “He wasn’t a racist, he just hated everybody.”

When Pam and I arrived at Mencken’s place, we were disappointed to find that it was closed. As we were turning around in front of the house, a very nice lady, who just happened to be coming out of her home next door to Mencken’s place, informed us that visits to the Mencken House are by appointment only.

I told her that I had been there many years ago and had enjoyed my visit so much that I wanted to show it to Pam. I told her how I also enjoyed meeting and interacting with a Mencken portrayer who acted as the tour guide/escort thru the home when I last visited there.

The lady introduced herself as Karen and then invited us in to look at her home which had the same floor plan as Mencken’s. Here she is posing with Pam in front of her home next door to H.L.’s place.

Karen and Pam at 1526 Hollins St.

I later learned that Pam and I were not the first couple Karen has been so nice to in taking folks on a tour of her Mencken-mirror-home. Thank you very much Karen for your gracious hospitality. (Having now been in both homes, I can say that I like Karen’s more than H.L.’s.)

While looking for info on Mencken and his place, I also was able to land on this Oral History interview that Karen did a few years ago. In the interview, she discusses her Union Square neighborhood and the Mencken House and how its management has or has not grown through the years.

Also in her comments (click here) Karen talks about her brother-in-law Chuck Chalberg (32:30 mark) as the Mencken portrayer whom I visited at the House several years ago. How’s that for a full circle moment?! Too I found this video of Chuck doing his Full Mencken.

P.S. As for Pam’s back surgery, it went well and she is now spending a couple days here at Johns Hopkins recuperating before we ease on down the road back home to the Point. Meanwhile, Buzzy’s is in capable hands and unlike Mencken’s House, no appointments are needed for you to drop in.

Wonder what Mencken would have said about the Wizard of Oz with an all black cast?

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