Thomas Winans was the son of Ross Winans, the famous Baltimorean who built the most advanced coal-burning locomotive train engines of his day. Among Ross Winans customers were the B&O Railroad (his shop was adjacent to their yard), the Philadelphia & Reading, and eventually Czar of Russia who was impressed by his designs.
In addition to purchasing a fleet of locomotive engines, the Czar hired Winans family business to mastermind and manage the building of the Moscow-to-St. Petersburg railway. Thomas, a skilled technician in his own right, spent several years in Russia where he met his wife Celeste, a Russian of French and Italian descent. This tremendous and successful construction effort allowed Thomas Winans, who was paid in gold rubles, to return to Baltimore and buy two plots of land. One was an entire city block at Baltimore and Hollins Streets (Hollins Street Market area) which he called Alexandroffsky.
The second property, his country estate, was 900 acres comprising a good portion of present day Leakin Park and where he built the Crimea mansion. Celeste Winans had been known for her generosity, including running the Winans Soup Kitchen which served hundreds daily. But Celeste had died young following the stillbirth of their fifth child. Thomas, who remained a widower by choice, was known as an eccentric genius for his engineering pursuits in all areas. Among his inventions were a cigar-shaped engine-powered boat, an irrigation system, a ventilation system, and a large pipe organ.
In 1878, Thomas Winans left Crimea to his daughter, Celeste, who lived there until 1922, when she sold much of present day Hunting Ridge to the George R. Morris Organization.
|Winans Cigar Ships|