Letters to the Editor: Fact check on Frederick Douglass, ground rent

Written by on September 12, 2012 in Blogs, Letters to the Editor - No comments

To the Editor:

I read your essay on Sept 5, 2012 from my view as a historian of Baltimore, and want to say that you gave a wrong impression of Frederick Douglass. He was befriended by a white woman, Mrs. Lucretia Auld, who taught him to read and opened his eyes to learning. She was one of many whites who saw in him an extraordinary child, and who gave him much help along the way.

It was Hugh Auld who heard that Betsey Bailey, Frederick’s grandmother, “was going blind and nearly destitute, he sent for her and—although she was not his responsibility—saw to it that she was cared for until her death.” Douglass later turned on the Aulds in his book, “Letters to My Old Master,” with entirely false charges.

Read more about all this in a good book called: “Young Frederick Douglass, the Maryland Years” by Dickson J. Preston, published by Johns Hopkins University Press, with a foreword by James Michener.

Zippy Larson


To the Editor:

Thank you! for the information about 612-614  South Wolfe Street: two curious structures often catching my attention.

Your article, however, may contain a bit of misinformation.

You wrote that Ann Bond Fell Giles “instituted” a ground rent. Ground rents existed, in various formats, in England and many states before Ms Giles.

In England, property is held lease hold (ground rent) or free hold.The leases are for a set time period. You may have a 100-year rent that has been in existence for 60 years. After the remaining40 years, the ground with all improvements, revert to the lease holder. And, any structures have to pass inspections.

England’s richest native is Gerald Grosvenor, the 6th Duke of Westminster. The sources of his wealth—which is over 7 billion pounds—are the once cabbage farms and vineyards that are now  the Mayfair and Belgravia neighbor-hoods of London.  The US Embassy faces Grosvenor Square.

I once inspected new condos in Chelsea, which I could only dream of owning. They were subject to a 999-year lease hold, and I asked the “estate agent” what family could presume that they can retrieve the properties almost 1,000 years in the future.
With an arched eyebrow, the agent quickly put me in place, replying, “The Royal Family!”

Gary F.  Suggars

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