H.L. Mencken and Sarah Haardt on Cathedral Street
Mencken lived in an apartment at 704 Cathedral Street for five years with his wife, nee Sara Haardt. The third floor apartment’s east windows faced Mount Vernon Place, and the inside was decorated with a distinctly Victorian style. Marion Elizabeth Rodgers provides detailed description of the apartment in Mencken: The American Iconoclast, a thorough chronicle of the writer’s life, who is perhaps best known for his Baltimore Sun editorials and opinion pieces.
The third floor apartment was reached by climbing numerous steep stairs, as the building did not have an elevator, for which Mencken apologized to guests, promising comfortable chairs and a stocked bar once in the apartment. Inside, Sara decorated the drawing room with green chenille and mulberry silk; gilt mirrors, fancy fans, lace valentines, and glass bells hung elsewhere.
There were not many traces of Mencken in the apartment, save a lithograph of the Pabst Brewery plant operating at full swing in the dining room, which was also decorated with his 267 beer steins, a collection of ivories, and an autographed portrait of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Hamilton Owens wondered “how a boisterous and rambunctious fellow like Henry could manage to be comfortable” in the apartment, and many friends privately felt the lithograph of the brewery was Mencken’s one salvation. Before Sara, Mencken was known to be a notorious bachelor.
While living in the apartment, Sara’s health, which had always been poor, continued to deteriorate. Mencken recalled that when he “married Sara, the doctors said she could not live more than three years... actually, she lived five, so that I had two more years of happiness that I had any right to expect.” Mencken continued to live at the Cathedral Street apartment in the months after Sara’s death, but returned to the family home 1524 Hollins Street early in 1936.