Monday, March 7, 2016

Linwood, Mary Merrick and Jeanne Simons

“Linwood” was the home of a possible future Saint, at one time owned by the great-grandson of Martha Washington and would become a school for children with autism in 1955.  The cupola and flue system were designed to cool the summer house.  ...

Located on Martha Bush Drive, Ellicott City, adjacent to the District Court building, Linwood is a three story granite home with a mansard roof-line.  In the mid1800s the roof was wood shingles covered with fire proof paint.  

The cupola (‘lantern’) with windows opened inward by small pulleys above each window (faint dark spots on ceiling in middle of each) which connected to flues through the vents (seen below each window).  

The entrance hall and two left rooms may have been built in the 1780s. The later right half had long walkout windows with stone steps to the lawn, and inner and outer shutters.  The older side's windows are regular sized.
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The four basement rooms included a kitchen beneath the dining room with a dumb waiter and “gigantic fireplace” hearth; a root cellar room with dirt floor and a hot air furnace in the passageway.  On the third floor were TWO water reservoirs or cisterns “holding many thousand gallons of water” one fed from the roof and the other's water was pumped up by a water ram. The water was used in the second floor “water closet” and the kitchen.  The bathroom (water closet) had a rope to the bell on the roof.

Major George Washington Parke Custis Peter (1801-1877), the great grandson of Martha Washington, was born at "Tudor Place" in Washington, DC and named after his uncle who built "Arlington" now Arlington National Cemetery. He moved to Linwood in 1856 so his daughters could attend the famed Patapsco Institute, and grew a boxwood garden with plants from Tudor Place, originally from Mt Vernon.  Gen. Robert E. Lee, the husband of his cousin, Mary Custis of Arlington, visited Linwood after the Civil War.  When the Major died in 1877 it was sold to Judge Richard T. Merrick (1828-1885) also a Calvert descendant, of Washington, DC, as a summer home.

Mary Virginia Merrick (1866-1955) the second of Merrick's 9 children, fell when she was 14, and further complicated with Potts Disease, became crippled and wheelchair-bound. Despite constant pain she organized her friends to sew layettes with her and to provide presents for poor children. At age 21 she started and led the Christ Child Society for needy children which now has over 40 chapters.  Seen on Linwood's porch between her sisters she also wrote several books for children.  She was declared a "Servant of God" by the Catholic Church in 2003.  Since 2011, she is in the next stage in consideration for sainthood: "The Cause of Beatification and Canonization."  More photos and information can be found on that website link, below. 


Jeanne Simons (1910-2005),born in Belgium, Simons came to the United States in the late 1930s and worked in Washington DC for Mary Merrick and the Christ Child Society.   She graduated from Boston College with a master’s degree in social work. In 1955 (after Merrick died) Simons founded the pioneering school for emotionally disturbed children, the Linwood Children’s Farm in Ellicott City, Md. The doctor who would coin the term autism researched at Linwood.  Simons retired in 1980, wrote The Hidden Child: The Linwood Method for Reaching the Autistic Child, and died in Ellicott City.
The Linwood Center provides "a Special Education and related services program for students with autism in a nongraded (Ages 5 through 21) education program" and has funding from the state.  In 2012 a new school building was built, but was restricted to one story next to the house due to Linwood’s historic designation, and was built of compatible materials with a walk-out level below.  There are 50 students (up from 13 in 2011) living in supervised group homes or with their families.  About 50 autistic adults are at other group homes around HoCo and Baltimore County and spend the day at their facility in Columbia or at the Linwood Center Boutique at 8307 Main St. (lower level, rear).

The stone ruins on the property may be the shrine to the Christ Child which Mary Merrick had built.
For further reading and images:
Cause for Canonization
Linwood Center (source of quote)
Celia M. Holland’s book Ellicott City, Maryland – Mill Town, USA
Linwood. Md Historical Trust HO-193

©2016 Patricia Bixler Reber

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