Grey Rock Mansion
On a high point near Baltimore, and not far from Pikesville, stands the mansion of Grey Rock, commanding the historic estate on which one of Maryland’s distinguished founders, Colonel John Eager Howard was born in 1752, one of 11 children. The original bequest of 1698 was from Lord Baltimore to Joshua Howard, his grandfather. The land was called Howard’s Square. The simple stone house of one story and a half, was the birthplace of John Eager Howard, hero of the Revolution, close friend of George Washington and our fifth, sixth & seventh governor of Maryland. No remains of this house exist but the Howard family stonewalled graveyard containing the grave of Cornelius Howard and several descendants is located close by. Surrounded by ancient trees, Howard’s Square or The Forest remained in the Howard family for just over a century and a half.
Grey Rock Mansion, was built about 1858 by Dr. James Maynard and is located a little south of the site of the old Howard house. Grey Rock Mansion is built of Maryland grey stone, stuccoed and painted white. It was built in an L-shaped modified Italian villa style with a one story porch.
An interesting connection to Gramercy Mansion is that the Howard property of 150 to 224 acres was sold off in various transactions. Fifteen acres of this property was sold in 1903 to Redmond C. Stewart, the brother of Plunkett Stewart, who married Eliza Cassatt and received Gramercy Mansion as a wedding present.
In 1923, the property was sold to A. Ray Katz who in 1909 had married Ethel Epstein, daughter of Jacob Epstein. Mr. Epstein founded Baltimore Bargain House, the largest wholesale business in America at that time. Later, it was renamed American General Corporation of which A. Ray Katz became Vice-President. Mr. Epstein’s many philanthropic interests included the Federated Jewish Charities and the United Hebrew Charities, both of which he helped found. He also helped in establishing, the Baltimore Museum of Art and sat on their board of directors.
Mr. and Mrs. Katz continued these interests and Grey Rock became the scene of many fundraisers and social events. Under the Katz ownership, the front façade of Grey Rock was transformed to a six column tall portico with hexangular brick flooring resembling Mt. Vernon and the ballroom was added. The first floor rooms were transformed into replicas of 18th century rooms. Window & door trim were also 18th century in design including the rope motif. The garden in the rear included fragrant and flowering shrubs and trees for every season.
Ethel Epstein was an art collector and furnished the house with important antique furniture. She served on many historic and art committees including the Board of the Baltimore Museum of Art. Mr. Katz died suddenly in 1931 and Ethel later married Harold Duane Jacobs.
In the 1960s to 80s, Grey Rock was the home of the Trinitarians who used Grey Rock first as a seminary and then as a retreat center. Half of the property was again sold off and the Trinitarians built a modern retreat center. Grey Rock became a catering and event center. It is now being renovated to past elegance as a third event center by the owners of Gramercy Mansion and the 1840s Plaza.