USM Foundation

Hidden Waters History

A 1903 graduate of the University of Maryland School of Law, Jacob France was a prominent attorney and Baltimore banker. He was founding director of The Equitable Trust Company, chairing the board from 1929 until his death in 1962. In addition, he served as chairman of the board of Mid-Continent Petroleum Corporation from 1946 until 1955. Deeply interested in the Maryland Historical Society, he served as a member of its Board as well as vice president and chairman of the finance committee.

Jacob France acquired the Baltimore County property just after World War I. He called it “Hidden Waters” because of several subsurface springs from which flowing streamlets were created and dammed to produce three small waterfalls. One particular pond was stocked with trout which Mr. France, an avid fisherman and Dr. Merrick fed regularly with Uneeda biscuits.

Soon after the purchase, the Frances had the grounds landscaped by one of Maryland’s foremost landscape architects so that when the residence was constructed later, the surrounding ornamental trees and shrubbery were in place and well developed.

Nearly 20 years after the purchase of the property, Gordon Beechler designed the Georgian-style residence, which was built in 1936. At the request of Jacob France, a cornerstone was placed at the northeast corner of the house that is reputed to contain a copper box holding a number of items of the day: a copy of the Sun, a selection of U.S. coins and, for reasons unknown, a paper doll.

Hidden Waters was often the scene of patriotic celebrations on the Fourth of July, enlivened with baseball games, ice cream, and lemonade. Christmastime brought resplendent holiday decorations and gatherings. But most of the time, it was the tranquil home of one of Baltimore’s leading financiers and his devoted wife, Annita.

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