Cylburn Arboretum: Baltimore's Best Victorian Mansion and Public Garden

Updated on November 19, 2018
Dolores Monet profile image

A lifelong resident of Baltimore, Dolores loves to share her interest in the historic spots of her beautiful and quirky home town.

Cylburn Mansion
Cylburn Mansion | Source

Cylburn Arboretum is a beautiful Baltimore City park and nature preserve, featuring a Victorian mansion and carriage house, tree collections, and a wide variety of themed gardens. Set on a hilltop at 4915 Greenspring Road, just off Northern Parkway and close to I-83, Cylburn is like a secret garden—a nature sanctuary with its own micro-climate. Surrounding woodlands protect the park from the nearby urban hard-scape, roads, and highway. Cool breezes and the scent of nature sweeten the air.

Not far from Pimlico Racetrack, Cylburn is free to the public and offers educational workshops and plant sales. It is also available for private events like weddings, dinners, and banquets.

Cylburn Wall Tapestry
Cylburn Wall Tapestry | Source
Cylburn Carriage House
Cylburn Carriage House | Source

Cylburn Mansion

Cylburn Mansion is set on the highest point of the property. Construction on the Renaissance Revival Mansion started in 1863 and was completed in 1868 (or 1888, depending on the source) by local tycoon Jesse Tyson. The house—with its wrap-around veranda, tall French windows, and mansard roof—was designed by George Aloysius Frederick, the designer of Baltimore City Hall.

Victorian mansions often contained several architectural styles. Cylburn's design is often referred to as Italianate but presents Second Empire features such as the mansard roof. In the past, houses were often taxed on the number of stories, measured up the roof line. By building a mansard roof, a top story was added but not counted for tax purposes. Extending the roof line downward also saved on building materials.

Materials and Interior

Cylburn Mansion was built with gneiss stone from Tyson's Bare Hills quarries located on the outskirts of Baltimore. This attractive stone is characterized by bands of minerals and can have a greenish tinge.

The interior of the house features black walnut trim and staircase, inlaid wood flooring, handsome wood paneling, ornate plasterwork, and marble fireplaces. Four rooms grace the first floor and were used as a drawing room, library, dining room, and parlor. The wall tapestry was imported (probably from Belgium) in the early 20th century. Spring water was piped into the home.

Origins of Cylburn Mansion

Jesse Tyson built Cylburn as a summer home to share with his mother. (He wintered in the city) In those days, before air conditioning, the elite often built second homes in rural settings in order to avoid the heat and stench of urban areas.

In 1888, at age 61, Jesse Tyson married 19-year-old Edyth Johns. The house was furnished with European antiques. After Tyson's death, Edyth married Major Bruce Cotten. She remained childless and lived at Cylburn until her death in 1942. Baltimore City purchased the property for $42,000.

The Carriage House, Then and Now

The Carriage House behind the mansion burned down in 1912. Only the outer walls and porch remained. Originally designed to shelter horses and carriages, the reconstructed building was built to house automobiles.

Today the Carriage House is a Nature Museum offering over 200 specimens of mounted birds, bird eggs, fossils, shells, and rocks. The main house is open to the public and used to host events while the upper floors contain offices.

Cylburn Arboretum Rock Garden
Cylburn Arboretum Rock Garden | Source

Gardens at Cylburn Arboretum

Several gardens surround the mansion, including Formal Gardens, a Rose Garden, a gazebo, and statues. Behind the house are three Backyard Gardens, small-sized areas themed for shade, sun, and a four-season garden.

Other gardens include raised beds that produce scented and culinary plants, a perennial garden, rock garden, a compost demonstration area, and greenhouse.

Note: The Rose Garden is tended by the Maryland Rose Society.

Garden at Cylburn
Garden at Cylburn | Source

The Trees at Cylburn Arboretum

Several trails wind through the surrounding woodland, a typical Piedmont forest of mixed hardwood, understory plants, and wildflowers. Trail loops are mulched for comfort and convenience (no hopping over muddy areas).

Cylburn Arboretum showcases several attractive groupings of trees including a fantastic Japanese maple collection and a hill covered with evergreens. Individual specimens include several Baltimore City champion trees, which in the past included a Paperbark Maple, and Italian Maple, and a Painted Maple.

There is no special season for tree viewing at Cylburn. Spring highlights flowering trees, including crabapples, magnolias, and dogwoods, while summer shows them in their full glory. Fall is a great time to see awesome autumn color, and snow transforms Cylburn into a winter wonderland.

Japanese Maple at Cylburn Arboretum
Japanese Maple at Cylburn Arboretum | Source
Cylburn Evergreens
Cylburn Evergreens | Source
Cylburn Lion Statue
Cylburn Lion Statue | Source

Sources Consulted

Personal Visit

Baltimore Gaslight - Newsletter of the Baltimore Historical Society Volume 8, #2

Google eBook: An American Geological Railway Guide...edited by James Mac Farlane

Cylburn Arboretum Association

Baltimore's Historic Parks and Gardens by Eden Unger Bowditch; 2004; Arcadia Publishing; Charleston SC

Victorian Houses: A Guide To The Major Architectural Styles; Dave's Victorian House School

A Tour of the Beautiful Cylburn Mansion

© 2014 Dolores Monet


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Dolores Monet profile imageAUTHOR

      Dolores Monet 

      6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      James Cotten Lamb - thanks for your input into the spelling of the name. I had some trouble with this one. The Cylburn website spells the name as "Cotten." Yet several articles and books spell the name as Bruce Cotton. Use of the letter O instead of E appears in:

      An article in the Baltimore News on Oct. 22, 1918

      A book entitled "50 Best Places to Hike With Your Dog in the Baltimore Region"

      A book entitled "Outdoor Sculpture in Baltimore : A Historical Guide to Public Art in the Monumental City," by Cindy Kelly

      Online article in Geocaching called "Fairest House in Maryland"

      Bruce with an E Cotten appears in

      The North Carolina Collection Photographic Archives (Bruce collected 19th century images) But they spell Edyth's name as Edith. spells Cotten with an E

      So, was the actor Joseph Cotten related to our Bruce? I will go with your spelling and change mine forthwith.

    • profile image

      James Cotten Lamb 

      6 years ago

      Actor Joseph Cotten passed away twenty years ago yesterday which inspired a little research of family members. The article refers to Bruce "Cotton", correct spelling- "Cotten".


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)