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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: Cleora Barnes Thompson, 08/1975
Henry August Rowland Home
Inventory No.: B-1880
Date Listed: 5/15/1975
Location: 915 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, Baltimore City
Category: Building
Period/Date of Construction: 1880s
NHL Date: 5/15/1975
Description: 915 Cathedral Street is located in a once-fashionable section of Baltimore. The building is a 3-story, red brick rowhouse, probably constructed in the 1880s, and typical of Baltimore rowhouses of the period. A base of stone is punctuated with a basement entrance on the left and a small central window. A short flight of stone steps, flanked by stubby octagonal stone newels with flattened bell caps, leads to the first floor entrance, in the south bay of the west facade. The round-arched entrance is surrounded by a wooden frame and door cap. The framing members are decorated with lozenge and bullseye carvings, a motif which is repeated in the paneling of the double door. The semicircular transom is sheltered by a projecting, flat-arched door cap which is supported by bold consoles with acanthus detail, which flank a rolled keystone. All windows are original. First-floor windows are double-hung with 6/9 lights and are capped with flat-arched lintels, but there are no lintels above those of the third floor. Second- and third-floor windows hold 6/6 sash. All windows have splayed jack arches. A high wooden cornice with a row of dentils and modillions with rosettes adorns the roof. On the interior, the kitchen contains the original stove, and the dumb waiter to the first floor dining room still functions. Significance: Henry August Rowland purchased this house in 1889 or 1890, and lived there until his death in 1901. His wife and daughter continued to occupy the house for many years after his death. Henry August Rowland was one of America's leading 19th century physicists. He joined the faculty of Johns Hopkins University in 1876. Under his direction the physics department at Johns Hopkins, which like the school's other departments embodied the German dedication to pure science, became one of the finest in the United States. On April 16, 1901, Rowland died of cancer at the relatively young age of 54. According to one biography, Rowland possessed an unusual combination of abilities. He had a physicist's grasp of theoretical principles and an engineer's understanding of practical mechanics. To these were added a high mathematical aptitude and manual dexterity. The latter was an important skill in an age when scientists built their own delicate apparatus. Rowland's most important contribution to physics was in the area of electromagnetism. In the early 1870s he prepared a paper, "On Magnetic Permeability, and the Maximum Magnetism of Iron, Steel, and Nickel." His best known achievement, or at least the one for which he is best known, was in the area of spectrum analysis. He devised a method for preparing gratings on concave glass and metal that made the gratings far more accurate than any previously known. Rowland also devised an important formula for determining the mechanical equivalent of heat, i.e. the number of units of work necessary to raise one pound of water one degree in temperature. Isaac Asimov summed up Rowland's significance in the history of science in America in saying, "Henry August Rowland was one of the few important 19th century American physicists."


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