Thomas G. Hayes (1844-1915)
MSA SC 3520-12483
This essay is taken from Wilbur F. Coyle, The Mayors of Baltimore (Reprinted from The Baltimore Municipal Journal, 1919), 187-193.
Thomas G. Hayes was Mayor of Baltimore from November 15th, 1899, to May 19th, 1903.
Mr. Hayes was one of the framers of the new City Charter (1898) and was the first Mayor elected under it, although the law automatically became effective during the latter part of the term of his predecessor, Mayor Malster. This instrument made very important changes in the basic law of the city. Mr. Hayes having to organize the City Government under the new Charter, which made sweeping changes, was immediately confronted by many problems. Upon his induction into office it was some little time before the municipal machinery ran smoothly, but soon the organization was working well.
Under the new Charter the functions and powers of the City Council were to an extent nullified by the creation of a Board of Estimates, composed of the Mayor; Comptroller; the President of the Second Branch of the City Council; the City Solicitor; the City (now the Highways) Engineer, which body took over many of the duties and responsibilities of the Council. The new Charter provided that the Board of Awards should award all contracts for expenditures of over $500, after advertisement.
Throughout the whole City Government there was general change and "tightening" up under the new order, and the Mayor had much detail to carry in connection with this rearrangement. The Charter, too, had to be interpreted and eventually a dispute between the Mayor and the City Council was carried to the Courts, which decided in the Mayor's favor. Hence, the early part of Mr. Hayes' administration was much taken up with things that did not fall to the lot of the average executive. The most important single achievement of Mr. Hayes' regime was the sale of the city's interest in the Western Maryland Railroad. This railroad, since its beginning, received financial assistance from the municipality, the loans made at various times exceeding $4,000,000. Upon placing the city's holdings on the market four bids were received. The Fuller syndicate offered $8,500,000; the Reading Railroad, $10,001,000; the Varney syndicate offered as much as $11,000,000, and Hambleton & Company, with the George D. Cook Company, bid $9,250,000. The sale as stated was finally made to the Fuller syndicate at $8,751,370.45, the City of Baltimore thereby making a profit of $4,500,000. The larger part of the surplus was used by the Burnt District Commission appointed by Mayor McLane in 1904. The Fuller syndicate's bid was accepted on the ground or the assumption that these purchasers promised more for the development of the railroad and the City of Baltimore than the interests back of the higher bids. It was a trite saying while the sale was being discussed that "It would pay the city better to give the road to some people than to sell it to others." This feeling explains why the highest bid was rejected. Mr. Hayes, through the sale, had great hopes of immediately giving Baltimore another trunk line.
The public school system was reorganized during Mayor Hayes' administration, resulting in the appointment of Mr. James H. Van Sickle as general Superintendent of Public Instruction. A $1,000,000 water loan was approved and provision made for a reservoir in Walbrook or Forest Park.
The erection of a new United States Custom-House was begun; the new Court House was dedicated January 8th, 1900, and arrangements were made for placing mural decorations in this building; the garbage disposal system was changed under contract to an incinerating method; free public baths and laundries were established principally through the generosity of Henry Walters; the site of the Eastern Female High School, North avenue and Broadway, was acquired; Swann and Latrobe Parks were established; additions were made to Clifton and Wyman Parks, and the latter extended to Druid Hill; a Municipal Lighting Commission was appointed to investigate the practicability and expediency of establishing a municipal lighting plant; an Examining Board for the Fire Department was created and two new fire-engine companies were installed. After considerable discussion an appropriation was made for an infectious disease hospital. This institution, however, was not built for some years, and was located east of the Bay View Asylum. It is known as Sydenham Hospital. A scale of rentals for the use of duct spaces in the underground wire conduit system was fixed by ordinance and a $1,000,000 loan for extending the system of conduits was approved. An ordinance directing that all school buildings thereafter erected be of fireproof construction was signed.
Baltimore's population in 1900 was 508,957.
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Thomas Gordon Hayes was born in Anne Arundel County, January 5th, 1844. When the Civil War broke out he was a student in Alexandria, Virginia, and with many others entered the Confederate Army. After the war he came to Baltimore for a brief period, but returning to Alexandria completed his studies, being graduated in 1867, at which time he was tendered and accepted the appointment of assistant professor of mathematics. He later went to the Kentucky Military Institute, near Frankfort, as a professor of natural sciences. While thus engaged he studied law and was admitted to the bar of that State—Kentucky, but returned to Baltimore in 1872, where, continuing in law, he became known as an aggressive and resourceful practitioner. He was identified with many prominent cases, he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates for the session of 1880, and later served in the Maryland Senate for the terms 1884 and 1886.
During his experience in this body he framed legislation for reassessment of property, which law was generally known as the "Hayes Reassessment Bill." Mr. Hayes was a Democrat, and for years was active in the political affairs, not only of the City, but also of the State. At one time he was prominently mentioned as the party's gubernatorial candidate. President Cleveland appointed him United States District Attorney, June 1st, 1886, which office he held for four years. Among noted cases with which he had to deal, while United States District Attorney, was that of the Navassa rioters, whose prosecution by the Government attracted country-wide attention. Mr. Hayes was appointed City Counselor by Mayor Latrobe, and held the same office under Mayor Hooper, Republican. (This office is not to be confused with that of City Solicitor.) Mr. Hayes never married. He died August 27th, 1915. A statue of Mayor Hayes was unveiled in the City Hall, May 5th, 1919.
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