A Benefit of Volunteering

One of the benefits of volunteering at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, is the opportunity to explore sites in Baltimore with fellow volunteers.  But, since March of 2020, we had to put our in-person sightseeing on hold.  That is, until this month. We were looking forward to seeing each other, and not just on a Zoom screen, for a July 1st tour of the historic Patterson Park.  If you remember on Thursday, July 1st, it rained.  And to our disappointment, the tour was postponed one week.  Luckily, one week later, it didn’t rain until the afternoon and the volunteers were able to finally enjoy each other’s company at Patterson Park in the morning. 

Volunteers gather at Patterson Park.
Volunteers gather at the entrance of Patterson Park.

Most of us were not very familiar with the park which is only 1 mile east from the JMM.  Of course, there are always exceptions, such as Howard D. who, as a child, lived a few blocks from the park and recalled great sledding on the park hills in the winter.  Then there is David S. who, in a previous life, was a lifeguard at the park’s pool. And I remember stories my paternal grandmother told me of playing tennis at her neighborhood’s Patterson Park’s tennis courts.  Yes, in the early 1900’s there was a Jewish presence in the park area with a number of synagogues nearby. Helene G. has current memories – she does tai chi in the park.

This morning the volunteers met in Patterson Park’s White House, the newly renovated building that houses the offices of the Friends of Patterson Park (FOPP). We were greeted by my friend Jennifer Robinson, executive director of the Friends of Patterson Park who was our superb tour guide for the next hour or so. We learned that not only is the park large (137 acres), but it is the most intensively used park in Baltimore City and has a fascinating history. The highest part of the park, once called Hampstead Hill, is where the Baltimore citizens intimidated the British in September 1814.  Thirteen years later, the first 6 acres for the park were donated by William Patterson, a wealthy merchant.  The volunteers recalled seeing the grave of his daughter Betsy Patterson when we toured Green Mount Cemetery a few years ago.  The park was also the site of a Civil War Union Hospital where the wounded from Gettysburg were tended.  

The highlight of our tour was climbing to the top of the most famous building in the park, the Observatory, aka the Pagoda.  The 360 degree view was amazing.  Not only could we see the vastness of the Park and the nearby Baltimore harbor, but I think I was able to identify the roof of the Lloyd St Synagogue!

The observatory.
Volunteers gather outside the entrance to the observatory.

Here are comments shared by some of the JMM’s volunteers after the Patterson Park tour:

Docent Helene G – It was wonderful to see people in person after such a long hiatus. Jennifer was a fabulous guide. I loved learning about Patterson Park. The Observatory was incredible. Great restoration job. Amazing views from there. I’m delighted that there will be an indoor pavilion built soon.  I hope that means I will be able to do tai chi inside in the winter. Anyone can join our group. It is informal and free. Mark Johnson is a very good teacher. We meet Mon. mornings at 10:30 just behind the White House where we were in today. All welcome.

Docent in training Sharan K – Can’t believe that I have lived in Baltimore all my life and never visited this gem! So much interesting history and beautiful grounds. Looking forward to my next visit…

Docent Rita P –  It was truly wonderful to spend a delightful morning together with fellow volunteers at Patterson Park, where we learned so much about the history of the Park from its earliest days in the 1600’s through the War of 1812  and  the Civil War to today.  Due to Covid we had not seen each other and I believe we thoroughly enjoyed the shared camaraderie of previous meetings when we learned about preparing as docents for a new exhibit or benefited from the presentation of a guest speaker. How wonderful to be together again. 

Docent Harvey K – Here are just a couple of random thoughts about our great trip to see Patterson Park.  First, what a tribute to Baltimore City that the land has never been developed for any purpose other than recreation and open space.  I’m sure that over the many years there have been developers who have wanted to get their hands on the land, but that hasn’t happened.  Second, while the very unfortunate story of Freddy Gray gets a lot of press, as it should, it is too bad the urban gem that is Patterson Park is not more publicized.  I was amazed that hardly any of us in the group had ever been in the park before our visit.  I know that I have driven past the park many times, but never visited it before our tour. Thanks again for arranging this!

Looking at the Patterson Park map.
Pointing out landmarks on the Patterson Park map and realizing just how big the park actually is.

All who participated agreed that Jennifer’s tour of Patterson Park was a great experience. Thank you Jennifer for generously sharing your time and your passion for the park with us!


4 replies on “A Benefit of Volunteering”

I would like to volunteer as a docent and/or storyteller. I have past experience as a children’s librarian and elementary school ESOL teacher.
I’m retired now and have time to drive into the city from Ellicott City one or two days a week. Please contact me.

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