David A. Wallace, a distinguished architect and urban planner, and his wife, Joan, were found dead in their Chestnut Hill home yesterday, in what police said was a double suicide. From the Philadelphia Inquirer
Wallace - who is best known for his work to revitalize Baltimore's Inner Harbor - and his wife, 83, both of whom had been ailing, were found about 11 a.m. by a hospice worker who regularly visited Joan Wallace, police said. David Wallace, 86, had been suffering from cancer, and his wife was terminally ill with heart disease, authorities said.
Police said the couple were found in bed with plastic bags on their heads. They had apparently taken alcohol mixed with crushed pills.
David Wallace left a suicide note and a separate note to his lawyer, police said.
"They were one of the finest couples I've ever known," said former neighbor Sandi Polillo Innes.
Innes, a real estate agent, said she had sold the couple their sprawling ranch home on Moreland Circle about eight years ago. She described them as "very bright and intellectual, yet very private. They were married to each other for the duration."
David Wallace grew up and studied in Philadelphia, but he will be remembered as the planner who saved Baltimore from imploding. In 1955, he prepared a plan to revitalize that city's shopping district with the construction of the Charles Center, a two-million-square-foot mega-project. He followed that in 1964 with a master plan for the Inner Harbor.
Wallace, cofounder of the Center City planning and design firm Wallace Roberts & Todd, would ultimately spend 25 years shaping Baltimore's waterfront.
He was also widely known for his work on Center City's Liberty Place, in Lower Manhattan, and on New Jersey's Hudson riverfront. He also trained scores of planners as a faculty member at the University of Pennsylvania.
Wallace started out in architecture, earning a master's degree from Penn in 1941. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. After the war, he worked for architects in Pennsylvania and California. He also got a doctorate in planning from Harvard University.
Back in Philadelphia, Wallace became planning and development director for the city redevelopment authority under Mayor Joseph Clark. In 1957, he left to direct planning activities for the Greater Baltimore Committee, a private business group.
The development of the Charles Center became a catalyst for downtown Baltimore. Today the project is considered one of the great U.S. urban renewal successes.
It led to a later plan for revitalizing Baltimore's beat-up waterfront, the 300-acre Inner Harbor.
At the time the plan was conceived, most U.S. downtown ports had been reduced to a collection of rotting piers and empty warehouses that kept people away from the waterfront. Wallace understood that if those run-down buildings could be incorporated into a recreational and cultural ensemble, people would eagerly come to the waterfront.
"The fact that he did the Inner Harbor woke up planners. It made them think about cities and how they really work," said Bob Brown, a partner at Brown & Keener Urban Design in Philadelphia. "He created a movement in waterfronts that was more humane."
His plan changed the way people thought about urban waterfronts and set off a major planning trend. Dozens of cities around the world have copied the model that Wallace established in Baltimore. Philadelphia has tried numerous times to repeat Baltimore's experience at Penn's Landing, but without success.
In 1963, Wallace teamed up with Ian McHarg, now deceased, to produce a plan to preserve two important and undeveloped valleys in Maryland, Green Valley and Worthington. Although anti-sprawl measures are widely supported today, such preservation was a new idea in the 1960s.
The two men later had a falling out, and McHarg left the firm, which was then called Wallace McHarg Roberts & Todd.
Wallace officially retired as a partner in the firm in 1991 but remained for many years as director of special projects.
One of his partners, Thomas Todd, said Wallace's strength was getting communities to accept new and complex proposals. "He knew how to get people to embrace an idea and carry it through. That was his major contribution," said Todd, who is now retired. "He was splendid at it."
Despite his ability for persuading reluctant communities to accept his big plans, Wallace was remembered yesterday as a courtly gentleman who took the train daily from his Chestnut Hill home to his Broad Street office. Until about three weeks ago, he came to the office to work every Thursday morning, and would often lunch with former students and colleagues.
Last year, the American Planning Association gave Wallace its Distinguished Leadership Award. The award is supposed to go to a professional planner who made a sustained contribution to the profession through distinguished practice, teaching, or writing. It was noted that Wallace, in his long career, had done all three.