West Baltimore History: Protest, Public Space, and Justice

Baltimore Heritage developed this tour in February 2017 as a private tour for the Open Society Institute. A map of the tour route is available here. These tour notes are very rough – please use with caution.

Hotel Monaco/B & O Railroad Company Headquarters Building

2 North Charles Street, Baltimore (1904-6, Parker & Thomas, architects)

Adapted from Built to Last from National Park Service.

  • July 4, 1827: First spike struck for the B & O; America’s first railroad became pre-eminent driving force behind Baltimore’s importance as a commercial center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • 1830: B&O begins operations on a whopping 13 miles of line (out the 23 miles in the entire Unites States at the time). It was, by all accounts, the first planned general-purpose, long distance railroad in the world, intended from the start to span the 300-miles from West Pratt Street in Baltimore to the banks of the Ohio River.
  • 1905: The pioneer railroad had reached 13 states, running as far west as St. Louis and Chicago.
  • 1904: Great Baltimore Fire destroyed the Second-Empire style B & O headquarters on the corner of Baltimore and Calvert Streets, the corporate officers elected to rebuild a grand, 13-story tower on a new site, two blocks west (corner of Baltimore and Charles).
  • 1905-6 building’s 13-story height was a local novelty and its well-publicized “fireproof ” construction was clearly a material reaction to the 1904 Great Fire that destroyed the company’s previous headquarters building.
    • The design by Parker & Thomas, architects, of Boston and Baltimore, exemplifies the style which defined the city’s rebuilt commercial center
    • only known Baltimore work of associated architect James Gamble Rogers, who later established a reputation as a premier “image maker” architect for America’s corporate elite and for Yale University.
  • … Thus, while the building represented the pre-eminent local company’s triumphant rebuilding “bigger and better” after the 1904 Fire, it also represented the reassertion of “local ownership” after the six years of domination by the Pennsylvania Railroad and its trustees.
  • 1906: It is surely not coincidental that the building’s grand opening was timed with the 1906 “Baltimore Jubilee”—a week-long festival of parades, expositions and entertainments intended to publicize the city’s rebirth after the Fire but, especially, to emphasize the city’s “progressive spirit.”

The importance of the B & O Railroad to all aspects of the development of Baltimore can scarcely be overstated:

  • Throughout the nineteenth century, industry grew in the city, as raw materials were easily transported by ship or by train from distant suppliers.
  • Finance houses were founded to support the trade ventures and the development of a manufacturing sector that sprang up once the railroad created a viable infrastructure for distribution of goods produced.
  • Manufactured goods were distributed from Baltimore to the south and the west on routes the B & O had built to open new or previously inaccessible markets. Manufacture of iron, steel and materials used by the railroad for its own infrastructure and durable goods also grew in the Baltimore region to support the B & O.
  • As these materials found uses in other industries, such as construction, the market for these goods grew beyond supplying the railroad, but Baltimore industry still relied on the B & O to transport materials to consumers.

Until World War II, the B & O was the city’s single largest employer, meaning that the company—through its employees and their families—indirectly supported myriad other local industries and services, such as housing, production of domestic consumable goods such as food and clothing and even schools (through both demand via population growth and a stable tax base from which to pay for construction and salaries):

  • Local philanthropists such as George Peabody and Johns Hopkins owed large parts of their wealth to the railroad, and through their charitable activities and cultural initiatives the B & O’s good fortune was transformed into the city’s most treasured institutions.
  • Hopkins literally funded and endowed the university, hospital and medical schools that bear his name with B & O Railroad stock.

Charles Street

_From Monumental City tour notes. _

  • before Europeans arrived: Susquehannock Indian trail ran where Charles Street is now (more from HSoBC)
  • 1729: Charles Street (then called Forest) is one of three streets listed in the original request to legislature to found Baltimore as a city. In fact, the act of Legislature authorizing the founding of the city stated that it should lie “around and about the house occupied by John Fleming” – the first house in Baltimore Town stood at what is now the northeast corner of Charles and Lombard Street.
  • 1761: Referred to as Charles Street
  • Corner of Charles and Baltimore Streets is the place from which all Baltimore street numbers are calculated

Baltimore Convention Center

  • 1979: Built at 425,000 sq. ft. by Whiting Turner
  • 1997: Expanded to 1.25 million sq. ft. total
  • About the meaning of the design:
    • “modernist” approach with design outside mirrors inside
    • reacts to “box” style of earlier convention centers; known as light and airy
    • Low-rise to avoid competition with surrounding buildings
  • About the structure of the design:
    • To support having four main meeting halls (140 x 180 ft.; 35 ft. tall), designers had to use “super” 90-ft. steel trusses and post tension concrete that is visible outside and inside the building
    • It’s like having four suspension bridges at the four corners of the building coming together in the middle
    • All held with steel cables that are a quarter the size of the Brooklyn Bridge – the cables pull the load to the corners of the building and transfer it to concrete caissons that in turn transfer the load to bedrock 70-ft. under the building

Note: Add comments about conflict over subsidy for Baltimore Convention Center and downtown developments over neighborhoods.

Hollins Market

  • 1836: Hollins Market established
  • 1864: large, two story, brick head house constructed
  • 1977 (?): Enclosed shed rebuilt

The 1990 movie Avalon showcases the market.

Dan Van Allen moved into the Southwest Baltimore neighborhood in 1980 from the D.C. area. He was drawn to the neighborhood’s historic feel and its proximity to downtown and Hollins Market, one of the city’s oldest markets.

According to Lance Gifford, a local minister who began restoring rowhouses near the market beginning in the 1970’s, there “was this belief that this particular block could be reclaimed as a neighborhood. In 1973, there were a lot of us who felt that way.”

“In 1991, Hollins Market LP and Market Mews LP, started by neighborhood residents and investors Howard and Steve Loewentheil, rehabilitated fifty-four rowhouses in the neighborhood using Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credits. Through an agreement with the city, and the state’s Community Development Administration, reduced down payments and affordable mortgages were offered for qualifying low income buyers.”

Between 2000 and 2010, the number of abandoned properties in the Poppleton/The Terraces/Hollins Market statistical area has almost doubled, and the number has consistently been twice the city average.

Source: Baltimore Sun (?)

  • 1980: Black Cherry Puppet Theater established; a non-profit artists and performers association that stages children’s plays in a rehabilitated space across from the market.
  • 2007: Zella’s opened directly across from Hollins Market at the corner of Hollins Street and S. Carrollton Avenue.

Union Square Hollins Roundhouse Historic District

  • 1967: Designated as historic district roughly bounded by Schroeder to the east, Fulton to the west, Baltimore to the north and Pratt to the south.
  • Neighborhood traditions for over 25 years include Union Square Cookie Tour (a historic house tour); Sowebohemian Arts Festival

Franklin Square

  • The park was originally part of Fayetteville, Dr. James McHenry’s country estate. McHenry had served as the nation’s first Secretary of War to George Washington and John Adams before retiring in 1800.
  • 1835: James and Samuel Canby, speculators from Wilmington, Delaware, purchased 32 acres of land from Dr. McHenry’s heirs. Four years later, on April 23, 1839, the pair sold 2.5 acres to the city (for just $1) to establish Franklin Square; the city agreed to build a fence around the park after neighbors built three-story brick houses, valued at $10,000 each, around the square
  • 1850: City installed a marble fountain; lit the park with gas on the evening of June 23, 1853. On a single Sunday in the spring of 1850, over 3,300 locals came to stroll around Franklin Square, one of Baltimore’s oldest parks.

Sunflower Village Garden

  • Five vacant lots on Carey Street, formerly the site of rowhouses, collapsed then cleared
  • With funding from Parks & People Foundation and the Baltimore Community Foundation, design and construction support from Civic Works, local volunteers planted seventeen trees, placed granite stones as edging and steps, and planted “Sunflower Mountain.”
  • Received a $28,000 grant from PNC Bank to expand the garden as “Sunflower Village” with addition of murals, new plantings and gateway arch.

Eager to further enhance their new garden at Franklin Square, Scott Kashnow of Franklin Square Community Association approached Ed Miller of the Civic Works Community Lot Team, the FSCA’s partner organization in the garden project, with the idea of incorporating art into the garden. Miller immediately asked the Can Collective (artists Emily C-D, Jessie Unterhalter, and Katey Truhn) if they would like to create a proposal for an art installation.

Can Collective created the designs for the sunflower murals with input from community members of the Franklin Square neighborhood. The first phase of the project, creating the murals, took place over three months in the summer of 2012. At three stories high, Can Collective and community volunteers had to construct scaffolding in order for the work to even begin. For safety reasons, local children could not help paint except on the ground level, so in order to engage them in the art making process, Can Collective taught screenprinting workshops to create the fabric flags. The second phase of the project took place in the spring of 2013, and consisted of the installation and decoration of three twenty-foot totem poles that could now hold up the strings of flags connecting the two murals.

Source: Sunflower Village at Franklin Square – Community of Gardens

St. Luke’s Church

  • Unlike many historic congregations that left the neighborhood, St. Luke’s opened its doors on July 10, 1853 and has kept them open for over 150 years.
  • A true gem of Baltimore religious architecture, the handsome Gothic Revival tower of St. Luke’s Church is matched by its richly detailed sanctuary. While architect J.W. Priest oversaw the completion of the building in 1857, five other architects also played some part.
  • Historically, the construction of St. Luke’s is of interest because so many architects were involved in it: Robert Cary Long, Jr., John Notman, Frank Wills, the firm of Niernsee and Nielson, and finally, J.W. Priest.

Highway to Nowhere/U.S. 40

  • Since the late nineteenth century: Baltimore’s extensive streetcar network tied West Baltimore to neighborhoods across the city with regular service along Baltimore Street, Edmondson Avenue, and more.
  • In the 1940s, fast growing suburbs and an increasing number of drivers inspired city planners to push for the construction of an “East-West Expressway” through Harlem Park and neighborhoods all along Franklin Street.
  • West Baltimore residents responded by organizing the Relocation Action Movement, and joined with anti-highway activists from East Baltimore to form the Movement Against Destruction.
  • In the late 1960s, despite growing opposition, the city demolished over a dozen blocks of homes and businesses between downtown to the present day site of the West Baltimore MARC Station.
  • In the early 1970s, highway officials built a nearly two-mile long segment of the planned highway but mounting protests finally forced the city to abandon efforts to continue construction through Greater Rosemont and Leakin Park. The one-mile stretch of expressway that was completed with such controversy and such cost (economic as well as social) was being called “The Road to Nowhere.”

Source: Harlem Park

Western District Police Station

In 1876, the Western District Station moved from its prior location on Greene Street between Baltimore Street and Belvidere Street to a new building on Pine Street. The police continued to use that location from 1876 up until August 31, 1959 when they opened a new station at Riggs Avenue and Mount Street (1034 N. Mount Street).

Source: Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage – Criminal Injustice

On August 14, 1957, the Baltimore Sun published an editorial inspired by the proposal to locate a new Civic Center in Druid Hill Park despite strong objections by the Baltimore Park Board. More broadly, the piece highlights some of the consequential choices that Baltimore made in the 1940s and 1950s when they traded parkland for police stations and highways. This is, in part, the story of how the Western District Police Station replaced a playground at Mount Street and Riggs Avenue.

“Under the city charter the Park Board has “charge and control” of all park property. A guardian for the park system, with the power to say “no,” is needed because proposals to encroach on park property are being made all the time. Sometimes public interest justifies the proposals. Sometimes it does not. The Park Board is there to make such determinations, always with the welfare of the parks in mind.

We offer a few examples, just to show the kind of pressure the park system is under: …

The city concluded that a playground at Fulton and Riggs avenues, for which the Park Board planned further development, would be the ideal site for a new police station. The Park Board was finally convinced, and co-operated.

The city also wanted an acre of land, near Hurley and Fonthill avenues, for another police station. This was park of Gwynns Falls Park, but the Park Board, finding it not particularly desirable for park purposes ,went along. …

These are merely a few of the more conspicuous episodes in what might be called a continuous war of attrition against the parks. They point up the necessity for a semi-autonomous body with power to pass judgment on all schemes for reducing out precious park acreage.

But now the authority of this body, the Park Board, has been defied. When the Mayor and City Council seized 30 acres of Druid Hill Park land for a civic center site, they did so against the will of the Park Board. If this seizure stands unchallenged, a shadow lies across the board’s supposed powers. The guardian of our park system will have been disarmed.

How the Park Board “went along” as Baltimore turned playgrounds into police stations

  • Mar 4, 1966: “NEGROES OPEN WAR ON CRIME: Group Of 36 Holds First Meeting At Church: Thirty-six Negro citizens met a church two blocks from Western District Police Station last night as the first step in neighborhood “war on crime” clared by their ministers.” @_negroes_1966
  • August 2, 1966: “POLICE, JUDGE DRAW PICKETS: Negroes Walk At Station When Refused Warrants: About 20 Negroes picketed for more than two hours last night outside the Western district police station after a Municipal Court judge declined to issue warrants charging two patrolmen with assault.”@_police_1966
  • Jul 4, 1969: “POLICE ARREST 12 IN NEGRO PROTEST: Marchers’ Issue Was K-9 Dog’s Attack On Woman: Twelve persons, nine of them members of the Soul School were arrested in front of the Western district police station last night after they marched for two hours through West Baltimore protesting a police dog’s attack on an Edmondson avenue…” [@_police_1969-1]
  • Jul 18, 1969: “15 ACCUSED IN ‘RIOT’ CASE: Jury Takes Action Against Accused Protesters: Fifteen persons were accused by the grand jury yesterday of conspiring to incite riots at the Western District Police Station earlier this month during demonstrations over the biting of several persons by a police dog.@_15_1969
  • Aug 27, 1969: “250 Hold Rally At Western District Station: Protest K-9’s, Mace; Urge Civilian Police Review Board: About 250 Negro officials, community leaders and West Baltimore residents gathered outside the Western district police station last night to protest the Police Department’s use of dogs and chemical sprays and to demand a civilian police…” @lynton_250_1969
  • Jun 3, 1972: “Man’s arrest protested by 15 persons outside Western district station: About 15 persons protested outside the Western district police station last night the arrest of a 28-year-old man in the 1800 block Moreland avenue, claiming the arrest was improper and that the man was beaten by police.” @_mans_1972
  • Nov 13, 1976: “Area is dangerous: Police get busy signal from C. & P. after dark: The telephone company wouldn’t send a repairman to fix the telephones at Western district police station last night. The company told the police the neighborhood was too dangerous after dark.” @twigg_area_1976
  • Jul 16, 1980: “Pickets protest police action: About demonstrators, led by local officials of the NAACP, marched and carried picket signs outside the Western District police station yesterday to protest an incident of alleged police brutality over the weekend.”@_pickets_1980

Arch Social Club

Pennsylvania Avenue Branch – Enoch Pratt Free Library

  • Jun 20, 1901: “PROTEST TO BOARD: Citizens Object To Colored School On Pennsylvania Avenue… Vigorous protests against locating the colored high school in the building at the corner of Pennsylvania avenue and Dolphin street were made to the School Board at a special meeting yesterday afternoon.”@_protest_1901
  • Jul 11, 1927: LIBRARY IS GRANTED SPACE IN CAR HOUSE: United To Let Enoch Pratt Open Subbranch At North Avenue Barn In Fall QUARTERS TO BE FREE Circulation Of 50,000 Books Yearly Expected From Unit, Joseph L. Wheeler Says: “The United Railways has granted, for an indefinite period, the use of a large space in the North avenue streetcar house, at the corner of Pennsylvania avenue, to the Enoch Pratt Free Library for a sub-branch library. Joseph L. Wheeler, librarian, announced yesterday.”@_library_1927
  • Dec 31, 1952: Baltimore’s biggest and most modern branch library, the Pennsylvania Avenue Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, is now completed and will be opened to the public on January 15.@_pennsylvania_1952
  • Mar 18, 1973: “U.S. cutbacks will stunt renewal along city’s Pennsylvania avenue: The reductions in federal programs announced by the Nixon administration fall especially hard on Upton, the city’s largest urban renewal area.” @chaplin_u.s._1973
  • Nov 6, 1983: Pratt Library’s new Computer Center to hold open house on Wednesday: “Ribbon-cutting ceremonies will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday for Enoch Pratt Free Library’s new Computer Center at the Pennsylvania avenue branch, Pennsylvania and North avenues. The center will give low-income, job-seeking adults the opportunity to acquire basic computer skills by providing free instruction…” @_pratt_1983
  • Mar 10, 1986: Over 40 years ago, the Enoch Pratt Free Library tried to slam the door on the hopes of Louise Kerr Hines. Source

Melanie Townsend Diggs, “an East Baltimore native, was managing the Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt’s Free Library, West Baltimore neighborhood’s Pennsylvania Ave Branch” during the Baltimore Uprising:

Recognizing the vital role that the library plays in the community as a resource and with the Baltimore city schools closed, the police on high alert, and the neighborhood paralyzed, she and Enoch Pratt Free library CEO Carla Hayden boldly declared that the library would be open the next day.

Source: The Lemony Snicket Prize for Noble Librarians Faced With Adversity (2016)

The library would make the decision to remain open in the coming days, amid the unrest, and to serve the community, recalled director Carla Hayden. “The people of Baltimore in that area came into that branch, and they said thank you for being here,” Hayden said. “Believe me, you could look out the window and see all of the things happening. And this was a refuge for the people in that neighborhood. Whole Foods provided sandwiches and we started feeding children. Melanie then asked if we could provide diapers and basics because stores were not open. Next thing you know, all the kids were on their Wii machines in the meeting rooms, having fun, and really being nonchalant about all the national press right outside the door.”

The actions of Baltimore’s librarians was nothing unusual, Hayden told the audience, noting that the library was simply doing what libraries do. “But it renewed my faith, and my purpose about what libraries are about,” Hayden said. “When they talk about the age of virtual libraries, the library as place…as place…matters.”

Source: ALA 2015: Pelosi Honors Baltimore Librarians for ‘Heroic’ Work During Unrest

Saint Peter Claver Church

  • 1888: Church founded; Second African-American Roman Catholic Church in Baltimore, sister church to St. Francis Xavier in East Baltimore; school founded in the basement that year; Nuns, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia came to teach at School, worked in school and parish for over 100 years
  • 1968: Parish charters buses to take members and community residents to the March on Washington

Activism by church leadership in the 1960s:

  • Father Henry Offer (pastor from 1960 to 1971; member of NAACP and the Urban League)
  • Father Barrigan started a program to repair dilapidated housing (1966); poured blood on draft board records (1967)
  • Father Harfmann worked with Operation Champ along with Black Activist Dickey Burke (1967); also participated in integration activities with church members
  • Providing food aid and other charity to the community during Civil Rights Era

Source: Efa Ahmed-Williams, December 2009.

No Boundaries Coalition

The No Boundaries Coalition is a resident-led initiative dedicated to deconstructing boundaries and reconstructing community. The No Boundaries Coalition brings Bolton Hill, Druid Heights, Madison Park, Reservoir Hill, Upton, and Sandtown together across race, class, and neighborhood lines to build a more unified and empowered Central West Baltimore.

Since 2008, the Coalition has brought residents together from Sandtown, Druid Heights, Upton, Madison Park, Penn North, Reservoir Hill, and Bolton Hill to address the issues that have maintained racial and economic segregation for decades. In 2010, after organizing the third annual “Boundary Block Party”, 25 neighborhood leaders met and decided the effort to bring residents together should expand and become more organized; that meeting founded the No Boundaries Coalition. Since then, our work has included organizing peace rallies, a produce market, advocating for school construction, leadership development, public art projects, block parties, walking tours, listening campaigns, and more. The No Boundaries Coalition is currently advocating for safer streets, increased police accountability, and healthier foods in the neighborhood. Joining the No Boundaries Coalition is as simple as attending a meeting. Our meetings are open to anyone who works or lives in Central West Baltimore. We meet on the second Tuesday of the month at 6pm at our office at St Peter Claver Church at 1526 N Fremont. At meetings, coalition work together to plan advocacy campaigns, receive training on community organizing, participate in group discussions, and work together to advocate for Central West Baltimore!

Source: No Boundaries Coalition

Trinity Baptist Church

Rev. O. Herbert Edwards, Trinity Baptist Church

  • 1888: Trinity Baptist Church established in a brick chapel on Aisquith street near Hoggman; building first occupied by the High Street Church
  • 1892: Moved to the “Annex” at Oak Street and 5th Street
  • 1896: Purchased building on 20th Street between Maryland and Charles, displaced after site purchased by state for 4th
  • 1920: Church moves into the former St. Paul Lutheran Church building.

James Robert Lincoln Diggs, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, president of the Baltimore division of the Universal Negro Improvement Association

  • 1915: Diggs became pastor at Trinity Baptist; officiated the marriage of Marcus Garvey and Amy Jacques; Diggs becomes founder of the Niagara Movement, provided monetary support for the Niagara Movement newspaper Horizon
  • 1866: Born in Upper Marlboro; later served as the president or dean of several black college in the South between 1906 and 1914
  • 1914: Diggs moves to Baltimore as president of Clayton-Williams University

National Equal Rights League

By September 1921 he was serving as president of Baltimore Division No. 72 of the United Negro Improvement Association, a pan-African and black nationalist organization founded by Marcus Garvey that advocated a back-to-Africa movement, black pride, and cultural separation. Garvey spoke at Diggs’s church on three consecutive nights in February 1922, drawing attention from the U.S. Bureau of Investigation. On 27 July 1922, suffering from terminal cancer, Diggs was the UNIA’s acting chaplain general and presided at Garvey’s second marriage ceremony. A few days later at the group’s national convention he issued a defense of Garvey’s leadership of the UNIA, which was under criticism for mounting debts. Diggs cited biblical backing for the movement, issued a call for racial unity, and discussed his disenchantment with the NAACP. He told the convention’s members: “I was born here, but I am not afraid to die in Africa.” Late in August, Diggs became the official chaplain general of the UNIA, but his health was so poor that he soon entered a hospital. James Robert Lincoln Diggs died of cancer at his Baltimore home on 14 April 1923 and was buried in Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Sources: Missing!

Thurgood Marshall Residence

Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993) attended school nearby at PS 103 from 1914-1920, his first six years of public school education.

In 1913, Baltimore school commissioner Richard Biggs remarked:

“Stop at once the so-called high education that unfits Negroes for the lives that they are to lead and which makes them desire things they will never be able to reach.”

  • Academic year for black children 1 month shorter than the year for whites, with the expectation that children would find work, with many leaving school every spring to pick strawberries

Source: Baltimore Book

Originally named Thoroughgood

Thurgood sat in the first row, as his classmate Agnes Peterson later recalled:

“he was always playing, and so they had to keep right on top of him.”

When he began attending PS 103 at age 6, his family lived with his Uncle Fearless Mentor or Uncle Fee, Fearless at 1632 Division Street, worked as the personal attendant to the president of the B&O Railroad, wearing a suit and a bowtie to work daily, and home every afternoon to talk with Thurgood and his brother Aubrey, working next door at a Jewish-owned grocery

Marshall later attend the Colored High School opened in January 1901 at the northeast corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Dolphin Street occupying a building erected in 1891 for the English-German School No. 1 previously located on Druid Hill Avenue.

Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument

On May 2, 1903, a group of veterans and residents gathered on on Mount Royal Terrace (now Mount Royal Avenue) to dedicate the Maryland Confederate Monument (known as the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument or the “Spirit of the Confederacy”). The Sun reported:

Countless little banner, the battle flag of the old days predominating, were carried by the assemblage on the streets and here and there one fluttered from one of the open windows along the way. […] Cheers and applause, with something here and there that sounded like a sob, marked the passing of the scarred old battle flags as they were born aloft by the old color-bearers. The lines came to rest along either side of the avenue, and the color-bearers took their stand, as a guard of honor, beside the monument. […] “Maryland, My Maryland,” was taken up by the band as the monument was revealed, and during the applause that followed great bunches and wreaths of flowers, which had been sent by the officers and chapters of the Maryland organization and by friends of the society, were placed at the base of the pedestal.”

Democratic Mayor Thomas G. Hayes, himself a Confederate veteran, praised Lee and Jackson:

Mayor Hayes, in making the address of acceptance, quoted Lord Wolseley’s saying that “No Cause could be considered lost which had around it the halo of the names, lives and deeds of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.”

The political significance of these memorial efforts is illustrated not only through controversy but through the broader agenda of the Democratic Party in this period. For African American observers in Baltimore and elsewhere, the “spirit of the Confederacy” remained one of political disenfranchisement and threatened violence. This observation stood in stark contrast to the glowing vision of history and reunion promoted by the Baltimore Sun and others.

Writing on April 15, 1899, the Afro quotes Mr. Alexander H. Robinson, a “citizen of Baltimore, in seconding the democratic congressional nomination of Col. J. W. Denny, appealed thus to Democrats,” at a September 1898 convention:

”It is our duty to subordinate every factional issue, every personal ambition, every distracting issue in party affairs to the one supreme issue of erasing from the fair brow of our city and state the ignominious brand of negro supremacy, and placing the affairs of the city in the hands of the WHITE MAN, where the brutal and swaggering negro shall no longer be a factor in our political affairs.”

Continuing, the Afro observed:

”And now, at the first grand opening of the Democratic municipal campaign at Music Hall last week, the battle cry was echoed, “This is a white man’s city.” Thus, the Southern confederacy having been overturned and suppressed, the principle upon which it was founded, is vigorously and energetically set forth by the Democratic party, who would by an indirect method accomplish that which the demise of the Confederacy rendered impossible. The Confederacy is dead but its spirit still lives, and the negro is to attain his “natural and normal condition” by means of the democratic party.”

Fifth Regiment Armory (1901/1933) - 210-247 W. Hoffman Street

  • 1901: Fifth Regiment Armory built; a historic National Guard armory with a 200 foot by 300 foot drill hall, a mezzanine or "balcony" level, and a newer second level (reconstructed in 1933 after a fire) housing the trussed steel drill hall roof.
  • Designed by Wyatt & Nolting, a partnership of James Bosley Noel Wyatt and William G. Nolting, (also designed the Baltimore City Courthouse and the Garrett Building on Redwood Street)

The movement of black families into northwest Baltimore began in the late 19th century and by the 1910s black households began to move into the 1200 block of Bolton Street and the 1200-1300 blocks of Park Avenue, just north of the Fifth Regiment Armory. Just a few years before, at 1834 McCulloh Street in 1910, local black lawyer W. Ashbie Hawkins bought a rowhouse and the Baltimore City Council responded with the nation's first municipal law to enforce racial segregation. (Note: Double-check that it is Hawkins and not someone else whose home purchase is at stake here. This is often misattributed and I can’t recall which is correct.)

In the Mt. Royal area, a group of 300 northwest Baltimore residents (led by the president of the Baltimore Bar Library and the neighborhood's City Council representative, among others) responded to the changes on Bolton Street by signing racial covenants barring the sale or lease of their properties to African Americans.

In the 1920s, the Mount Royal Protective Association boasted of their Efforts to secure and enforce racial covenants from local property owners, noting the group's "greatest achievement… has been the subjecting of the property in its area to a restriction for white occupancy only."

Not limiting their efforts to racial covenants, the Mount Royal Association joined with local political leaders in "slum clearance" efforts that demolished over 70 properties on the 1100 block of Bolton Street in the late 1920s for the development of Armory Plaza and the demolition of more homes nearby in the late 1930s.

Source: Urban Renewal by Bike Tour

State Center

  • Plans for the State Center office complex began as early as February 1951 with a recommendation by the State Office Building Commission to construct a group of office buildings at a single site in Baltimore city. The Commission deferred any recommendations on a site, noting (with Cold War era concern) that “a war might change the physical appearance of the city and make a "suburban" office building location a possibility.”
  • After State officials initially favored a site at Gwynns Falls Parkway and Resiterstown Road, where Mondawmin Mall is located today, the Baltimore City Council, the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, leaders of the Mount Royal Protective Association and other resident groups all pushed for a location by the Fifth Regiment Armory.
  • Proponents for this location - covering a 25-acre area known since the mid-1940s as Redevelopment Area 12 - saw the proposed demolition as "slum clearance" and new offices, as The Baltimore Sun noted, a "barrier to northward creeping blight."
  • Dr. Robert L. Jackson, only black member of the City Planning Commission, opposed the Armory site, noting that it would force 950 black families to move
  • Richard L. Steiner, Director of BURHA figured room for 370 families, would not state how many available for black renters, "That's in the hands of the redeveloper."
  • In 1953, Mt. Royal Improvement Association rallied over 200 people to support the location, calling it "best means of salvaging a run down area."
  • The NAACP, represented by W.A.C. Hughes opposed the development, Hughes office was located there and his mother owned property in the area. Hughes volunteered with the NAACP as a lawyer from the 1930s through his death in 1966

Source: Urban Renewal by Bike Tour

Howard Street Bridge

In 1909, Colonel C. Baker Clotworthy, commander of the Fifth Regiment, wrote to the Sun advocating for the extension of Howard Street north of the Richmond Market as a way of demolishing black households:

I would be deeply interested in this improvement because it means so much more than simply tearing down some houses and opening a street. Everyone in the city is familiar with the steady decrease which has taken place in the value of property in this neighborhood for the last 20 years. All about Richmond Market, and extending north, there are hundreds of undesirable houses and, in many cases, huts. This sore is spreading rapidly. A great many negroes, not of the best class, gradually tenant the houses on the edge of this district and immediately the white people move from the block invaded. If this continues no one knows where it will stop. (Baltimore Sun)

  • 1938: Howard Street Bridge built across the Jones Falls; designed by architecture firm J.E. Greiner Company (firm established John Edwin Greiner, one of the nation’s foremost bridge builders; including bridges for the B&O Railroad)
  • A proposal to extend Howard Street using a bridge was discussed as early as 1923, but the bridge was not completed until 1938 due to funding. A $32 million New Deal investment allowed for the bridge to be completed
  • 1974 Mayor William Donald Schaefer was struck by how rusty and run-down the bridge looked, leading to a controversy over paint color selection and finally, a new red paint job in the early 1980s
  • late 1980s: Stan Edmister, a MICA graduate, begin the Painted Bridges project to create a gateway of color from the suburbs to downtown Edmister chose colors to blend in with the urban, post-industrial surroundings, and the bridge continues to reflect his color selection

Source: Howard Street Bridge – Explore Baltimore Heritage; Station North by Foot Tour Notes