A house built by a black sheep from one of America's founding families serves as an inspiring classroom for students at the Johns Hopkins University.





Charles Carroll Jr. — spendthrift, drunkard, ne'er-do-well — would be long forgotten but for a single notable accomplishment: He built an exceedingly handsome house.

Begun in 1801 with money from his wealthy father — Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence — the Federal-style home has near-perfect proportions and airy rooms. It boasts exquisite plasterwork, faux-marble baseboards, and, above its doorways, spectacular fan windows that usher light into the middle of the house. Even the privy is a gem, with chestnut paneling and a domed ceiling.

The house is called Homewood. In the early 1900s, after the Johns Hopkins University was given what had once been the younger Carroll's 130-acre estate, Homewood set the architectural tone for the university's new campus, to which the house lent its name.

There's just one problem, says Catherine Rogers Arthur, Homewood's curator: Hopkins students rarely venture inside, even though Homewood is now a museum that attracts tourists six days a week — and even though the house stands right next to the university library, and the privy is in plain view of several freshman dorms.

Now Ms. Arthur and a donor whose father paid for Homewood's renovation in the 1980s are working to make the house "an academic resource for students." Last fall Ms. Arthur and S. William Leslie, a professor of the history of science and technology, welcomed a group of undergraduates to Homewood's wine cellar for a full-credit course in which they researched and planned an exhibit that opened in the house this month: "Feathers, Fins, and Fur: the Pet in Early Maryland."

The show is rich with the bounty of the students' research.

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