By Eli

Eli Pousson started as a Field Officer at Baltimore Heritage in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in October 2009. Prior to moving to Baltimore, Eli worked for the DC Office of Historic Preservation and completed graduate work in anthropology and historic preservation at the University of Maryland College Park. Eli continues to work with the Lakeland Community Heritage Project and other heritage organizations in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Arlene Fisher, Lafayette Square. Photograph by Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun.

News: Lafayette Square shares its history

“Next Saturday’s tour of “Lafayette Square By Foot” carries an accurate secondary description: “Baltimore Thru the Ages!” This neighborhood, constructed around a public park, has ties to the Civil War, slavery, and the monied Victorians who gave way to Baltimore’s African-American upper middle class. Did I mention that jazz legend Billie Holiday once lived around the corner too?

The square itself is a fascinating, if overlooked, urban destination. On a chilly April afternoon, I observed its detached beauty. It was quiet and occupies high ground. You could observe its history in the facades of all the grand mansions. You visualize Baltimore’s 19th-century wealth one minute and the next imagine how those fortunes moved on.”

Jacques Kelly, “Lafayette Square shares its history,” The Baltimore Sun, April 11, 2015.

Join us for our Lafayette Square walking tour this weekend and check out the full list of Billie Holliday Centennial Programs this month. You can also learn more about the history of Lafayette Square with the story of the Civil War Lafayette Barracks and our neighborhood history of Harlem Park.

Photograph courtesy Alex Fox, 2015 April 12.

Photos: Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance tour of Stone Hill

This past weekend was a lovely day for the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance walking tour of Stone Hill. Thanks to Nathan Dennies for leading the tour, Baltimore Heritage board member Mark Thistle for opening up his home (the summer home of Elisha Tyson) and to everyone who attended!

Explore Stone Hill and more Hampden area landmarks with the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance self-guided walking tour brochure available at shops on the Avenue including Trohv, Sprout, Sixteen Tons, Hampden Junque, Choux Cafe, Zensations, and Bazaar.

From the Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (2014), B&P Tunnel Project.

B&P Tunnel proposal threatens demolition in historic West Baltimore. Learn more at public meetings this month.

Have you heard about the Baltimore & Potomac Tunnel project? One replacement proposed for this aging tunnel threatens to demolish several blocks of historic West Baltimore. Four public meetings in April offer opportunities to learn more about the project and share your views.

What is the B&P Tunnel Project?

The Baltimore and Potomac (B&P) Tunnel is a railroad tunnel on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor (NEC) line in use between Penn Station and the West Baltimore MARC Station for over 140 years. Today, the tunnel is used by Amtrak, MARC Commuter Rail and Norfolk Southern Railway. It is also a bottleneck affecting the reliability of rail service up and down the northeast. One proposed replacement to the B&P Tunnel (known as Alternative 11: Robert Street South) provokes serious concerns about the demolition of historic buildings in West Baltimore. Please come out to a public meeting this month to learn more about the B&P Tunnel project and voice your concerns about the long-term consequences of Alternative 11 on historic West Baltimore neighborhoods.

Last year, the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), and Amtrak started work on a study to evaluate the condition of the existing tunnel and propose alternatives for rail service through Baltimore. After public meetings in June and October 2014, the project published a Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (pdf) that identified and evaluated 16 possible options (illustrated in the map below).

From the Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (2014), B&P Tunnel Project.
Map of Preliminary Alternatives, including 3 and 11. From the Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (2014), B&P Tunnel Project.

This preliminary review selected four alternatives to advance to a second round of review. Building nothing (Alternative 1) or rehabilitating the existing tunnel (Alternative 2) are two options that are unlikely to meet the long-term need for improved rail service. The two remaining options (Alternative 3: Great Circle Passenger Tunnel and Alternative 11: Robert Street South) both require expensive new tunnels. Unfortunately, Robert Street South also appears to require the demolition of several blocks of historic rowhouses within the proposed Midtown Edmondson National Register Historic District and demolition of the 1911 American Ice Company.

From the Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (2014), B&P Tunnel Project.
Map illustration the southern portal for Alternative 11. From the Preliminary Alternatives Screening Report (2014), B&P Tunnel Project.

Learn more or share concerns at a public meeting in April

Starting next week, MDOT, FRA, Amtrak and the Baltimore City Department of Transportation are hosting a series of meetings to offer members of the public an opportunity to learn more about the project, ask questions and offer input on the process.

All four meetings are scheduled from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., with a formal presentation starting at 6:30 p.m. The same information will be shared at each meeting in the series:

  • Monday, April 13 at Gilmor Elementary, 1311 North Gilmor Street
  • Tuesday, April 14 at Mt. Royal Elementary, 121 McMechen Street
  • Monday, April 20 at Westside Elementary, 2235 North Fulton Avenue
  • Tuesday, April 21 at Lockerman Bundy Elementary, 301 N. Pulaski Street

To be added to the project mailing list, or to submit your comments, please email info@bptunnel.com. For other questions or for special accommodations at any of these upcoming public meetings, contact Ms. Odessa Phillip, PE, Environmental Project Manager at the Baltimore City Department of Transportation at (410) 396-6856 or Odessa.phillip@baltimorecity.gov.

More open house meetings are planned for this spring and summer. Additional background on this issue can be found on the project website, our own issue profile on the B&P Tunnel Project or The Baltimore Sun coverage from November 2014.

American Ice Company, 2012
American Ice Company, 2012
Image courtesy Civic Works.

This Saturday! Meet Baltimore’s historic homeowners and learn new ways to help your house

This Saturday, we are partnering with Retrofit Baltimore and Live Baltimore to host our very first historic homeowner social. Stop by Second Chance anytime from 10:00 am to 11:30 am to enjoy coffee, donuts, and answers to all your questions about weatherization, historic tax credits, and home buying in Baltimore City.

This event is also your first chance to sign up for the 2015 Baltimore Historic House Co-op. The co-op is a way for homeowners to save money on weatherization services through Retrofit Baltimore. For each home-owner who signs up before April 25 and pledges to complete their project by the fall, Retrofit’s contractors are offering a 1% discount – up to a 15% discount for everyone who participates. Learn more about the benefits of weatherization for historic properties or sign up for the Historic House Co-op today.

This new partnership is just one of many new resources that we’ve put together for historic home-owners over the past few months. Check out new or recently updated resources including:

We even have a new resource guide just for homeowners – a growing online toolkit  for the thousands of home-owners who preserve historic neighborhoods. If you have questions or suggestions for how we can help historic homeowners in Baltimore, please get in touch. And don’t forget to join us at Second Chance on Saturday morning!

Helena Hicks, at Morgan, in front of a sit-in photo from Arundel Ice Cream. Photograph Christopher Myers, courtesy Baltimore Magazine.

News: And Service For All highlights history of Read’s Drug Store

Thank you to Ron Cassie for a detailed and thoughtful take on the legacy of the successful student sit-ins at Read’s Drug Store that took place 60 years ago this month. Check out the full story for more details on the long history of civil-rights student activism by Morgan State students or learn more about our exciting new partnership to document historic places connected with Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage.

A few days later, the front page of the January 22, 1955, national edition of The Afro-American newspaper ran a short story, datelined Baltimore, with the headline “Now serve all.” Read’s, which had 39 area stores, had suddenly decided to desegregate, with the article citing a “sit-down strike” at its “largest store in the heart of the city, the day before the change of policy was announced.” …Baltimore Heritage director Johns Hopkins (distant descendant of the Johns Hopkins) says it was during the late 2000s, when demolition of the Read’s building was formally proposed, that the story of Read’s began to come to life again. He believes the location of the building and its historic sit-ins are central to understanding the city’s complicated record regarding racial prejudice—nowhere more obvious than at Howard and Lexington. The city’s beloved department stores—Hochchild’s, Stewart’s, Hecht’s, and Hutzler’s (“where Baltimore shops!”)—all maintained some form of segregation until 1960 or later.

“When it really hit home for me, what this building and block represent, was when a class of eighth graders and a class of ninth graders came out on separate field trips during demonstrations a few years ago,” Hopkins says. “Their reaction was very powerful. You could see what it meant to them to know that story and to be there, where it happened. It’s one of the few physical places like that in existence in Baltimore. It’s not the Taj Mahal, but landmarks like this draw kids in, and they get interested in learning about that history.”

Continue reading And Service For All: Sixty years ago, Morgan State College students staged the first successful lunch-counter sit-ins by Ron Cassie, Baltimore Magazine (January 2015).