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Cylburn Mansion: A victorian vestige

Construction of the Cylburn mansion completed in 1888, but the lion statues that adorn the porch of the mansion and the entrance to the Formal Garden still seem to stand guard after 125 years.

Now, the mansion, once property of businessman and importer Jesse Tyson, is part of the 207-acre Cylburn Arboretum, and is open to the public, as a place to visit one of the few original Victorian mansions remaining in Baltimore.

"The lions are actually mascots of the Tyson family. A lion also appears on their coat of arms," said Jane Baldwin, president of the Cylburn Arboretum Association.

Construction on the four-floor mansion began in 1863, but was soon halted by the Civil War.

"He had houses in different parts of the country. He was, most likely, in one of his other abodes," said Baldwin of Tyson's time during the Civil War.

While Tyson had intended for the mansion to be a summer home for both him and his mother, it ended up the home of him and his much younger wife, Edith Johns.

Presently, visitors to the grounds can tour the mansion and its gardens or, simply, enjoy the architecturally impressive mansard roof and Italianate cupola atop the mansion’s tower.

Inside the mansion, many of the tapestries, ornate plaster-works and mosaics have been preserved, but steps need to be taken to ensure they stay preserved.

"We’re talking about extremely expensive, extremely difficult things. We value them very much," said Baldwin.

Measures are being taken to revamp some of the mansion though.

"Right now, they’re renovating the bathrooms," said Cylburn Arboretum Association Chairman Bill Vondracek. "There will be both men’s and ladies’ washrooms in back of the mansion. And, also, they’re making the first floor of the mansion handicapped accessible."

Yet, the mansion is not the only structure of importance.

Inside the formal garden stand two large Lady Baltimore statues.

"They used to be on one of the bridges over St. Paul Street," said Baldwin. "They were moved to Cylburn about 20 or 30 years ago, and that’s where they are going to stay."

While the mansion may be in the process of restoration, the grounds certainly restore much serenity to an otherwise bustling city.

Besides the architecture and sculptures, there is much to see and do, such as visit the Cylburn Natural Museum.

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Cylburn’s Nature Museum and its Arboretum: Cylburn’s Nature Museum and its Arboretum: 200 acres of open space inside the city limits.