Home » Archives for Eli

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.

Courtesy MRIS.

404 George Street in Seton Hill up for auction next Thursday – Update: House under contract, auction cancelled Learn more about this opportunity to turn a vacant house back into a home

Update –January 6, 2015: We just confirmed with Ashland Auction that 404 George Street is now under contract and the auction is cancelled. We plan to share additional information about the new owner and their plans for the building when we learn more. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word!

Tucked away on a narrow street, 404 George Street has had our attention since concerned neighbors first contacted us in 2012 about this three-story rowhouse in Seton Hill. Next Thursday, January 7, the building is up for auction—offering a unique opportunity to buy a historic house just steps away from the famed Mother Seton House.

In July 2012, local residents pushed Baltimore Housing to file a receivership case against the owner who held the building since 1986. Receivership is a process where a municipality or a qualified non-profit applies for a court to appoint them as the receiver of the property and move to restore the property to use.

Courtesy MRIS, 2014.
Courtesy MRIS, 2014.

Unfortunately, years of neglect took a toll on the structure. At the first auction in October 2014, the 404 George Street received no bids from interested buyers. Thankfully, Baltimore Housing quickly responded and stabilized the building to make the property more attractive to prospective developers. Stabilizing distressed vacant houses is a key strategy for encouraging private reinvestment and is often more cost-effective than demolition.

On Thursday, January 7 at 1:00 pm, 404 George Street is up for auction again. If you are a local builder, developer or an enthusiastic home rehabber, we invite you to come out next Thursday and invest in this beautiful community. If you are a neighbor, we need you to help spread the word!

Built in the 19th century, 404 George Street is less than a block away from the Mother Seton House and St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel—an 1808 landmark designed by architect Maximilian Godefroy. St. Mary’s Park boasts a recently restored fountain and won recognition from Baltimore City Paper as the city’s best park in 2014. The 2012 master plan for Seton Hill has much more information on the neighborhood. Of course, the property is eligible for city and state historic tax credits—review our historic tax credit guide for more details.

Please help make 2016 the year that the vacant house at 404 George Street turns back into a home.

St. Mary's Park. Courtesy Live Baltimore.
St. Mary’s Park. Courtesy Live Baltimore.

Learn more about 404 George Street and the auction process from the Ashland Auction Group. For questions or more information, contact auctioneer Adam Shpritz by phone at 410-365-3595 (cell) or 410-488-3124 (office) or by email at adam@ashlandauction.com. Bids start at $30,000. Pre-bid offers are accepted by phone at 410-488-3124 or by email to adam@ashlandauction.com.

Explore Baltimore Heritage 101

Explore Baltimore Heritage 101 teaches you how to discover and share stories of historic places Sign up to learn more about our free 2016 course

In January 2016, Baltimore Heritage is offering a free course—Explore Baltimore Heritage 101—designed to teach local residents how to research, write and share the stories of historic places in their communities. The course is going to cover four main themes:

  1. Research: How to use digital sources to learn about local history and architecture
  2. Writing: How to write about historic places for local audiences
  3. Visuals: How to combine writing with maps, photos, and graphics
  4. Outreach: How to reach local audiences with online engagement and public programs

Our goal is not to make you an “expert” on Baltimore history. Instead, we want to help you become a better researcher, writer, historian and teacher. Explore Baltimore Heritage 101 is an opportunity to connect with friends and neighbors who share an interest in the stories of Baltimore’s historic buildings and neighborhoods.

Please sign up to hear more about Explore Baltimore Heritage 101—we expect to publish the course schedule and open registration soon!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Over the course of five class sessions, we plan to guide a group of students through the process of sharing a story about a historic place including the opportunity to publish a story on our Explore Baltimore Heritage website and app.

Dr. James Deetz (1977)

We know you and your community have stories to share. Important stories are found everywhere around us—in parks, public art, rowhouses and schools. And good stories about places are really about people. Historian Eric Sandweiss explained it neatly:

“[the history of a city street] means little if it’s not tied to the story of the farmer who sold the land, the developer who bought it from him, the families who campaigned to have it paved, the men who laid the asphalt, or the children who rode their bikes on it.”

By empowering you to connect stories from the past with places found in your neighborhood today, we know we are helping you to build a stronger future for Baltimore. Supporting local residents like you is our central goal for the Local Preservation School—our new experiment in online education funded by the National Park Service. This winter class is our first step in creating free open online educational resources that people across the United States can use to get more involved with saving historic places in their own communities.

Even if you can’t join is for our class this winter, we invite you to subscribe to the Local Preservation School newsletter, follow @localpast on Twitter, share links or comments with the #localpast hashtag, or get in touch with your questions or suggestions.

"The past is not the property of historians; it is a public possession. It belongs to anyone who is aware of it, and it grows by being shared."

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has already completed our course planning survey. The survey is still open for responses so please share your comments and help us put together a great class this winter!

Photograph by Auni Gelles, 2015 December 5.

Join the conversation about Baltimore’s Confederate Monuments Learn more about the history of the monuments and how you can submit comments

Courtesy Baltimore Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments.
Lee-Jackson Monument, 2015. Baltimore Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments.

Thank you to everyone who came out and joined our tour of Baltimore’s Confederate Monuments at Wyman Park Dell this past weekend. As I explained in my testimony before the Special Commission reviewing the city’s Confederate monuments on October 29, Baltimore Heritage supports the review process and is working educate the public about the history of the monuments. Our organization has not made any formal recommendation for what we think the commission should do about the monument. We think it is important for everyone with an interest in this issue to learn more and to add their voice to the ongoing discussion. To support this goal, we have put together a set of educational resources to help you prepare your comments or testimony.

What is the history of the monuments?

Confederate Monument, Mount Royal Terrace (c. 1906). Library of Congress
Confederate Monument, Mount Royal Terrace (c. 1906). Library of Congress

In September, Baltimore Heritage has published a detailed study on the history of the monuments with a particular focus on how race and politics shaped their meaning in the past and present. We also published our testimony from October 29 and our full tour notes from the December 5 walking tour. If you have any questions or suggestions, please let us know—we plan on continuing to revise and expand these materials in the months ahead. Additional profiles on the four monuments under review are available from the Special Commission.

Where are the monuments located?

We have also put together a map showing the four monuments selected for review and the broader collection of monuments, statues and historic sites related to the theme of Civil War memory and the Lost Cause.

What do the monuments look like?

Detail, Confederate Soldiers and Sailors MonumentThe staff of the Commission has shared their extensive photo documentation of all four monuments and we have uploaded these photographs to an album on Flickr so anyone can get a close look at the monuments from the general surroundings to the smallest details.

How do I send comments?

There are three ways to share your comments: send a letter by mail, send an email, or attend the public hearing on December 15. Please note that your comments become part of the public record and may be shared by the Commission as part of the process.

  1. To submit comments by email contact monuments.review@baltimorecity.gov or use the online contact form.
  2. To submit comments by mail, send a letter to the Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments c/o Eric Holcomb, 417 E. Fayette St. 8th floor, Baltimore, MD 21202.
  3. To testify at the public hearing on December 15, you should prepare your testimony in advance, sign-up before the meeting, and bring a printed copy of your testimony for the Commission. Find additional details about the public hearing on our calendar.

How do I prepare effective testimony?

For anyone interested in testifying at the meeting on December 15, we have six quick tips for making the most of your testimony:

  1. Introduce yourself
  2. Lead with your key message
  3. Make it personal
  4. Stick to the facts
  5. Keep it short
  6. Say thank you

Check out our expanded version of this guide including links to more related resources. The Special Commission has details about the process of signing up to testify and what to expect in their guide (PDF).

For questions about this issue, please feel free to contact me at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org or contact our director Johns Hopkins at 410-332-9992.

Photograph by Marti Pitrelli, October 31, 2015.

Freedom House demolition is a wake-up call for preservation in West Baltimore Join tomorrow's rally to save Civil Rights heritage at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue

Last week, Bethel AME Church demolished 1234 Druid Hill Avenue, a rowhouse located just outside Upton’s Marble Hill historic district with strong connections to Baltimore’s Civil Rights movement. The demolition came as a shock to neighborhood activists who had urged city officials to investigate and protect the property when Bethel AME began work on the building in late September.

Demoltion contractor at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue, September 2015. Photo courtesy Dr. Steva A. Komeh, The Historic Marble Hill Community Association.
Demoltion contractor at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue, September 2015. Photo courtesy Dr. Steva A. Komeh, The Historic Marble Hill Community Association.
Harry S. Cummings. Courtesy University of Maryland.
Harry S. Cummings. Courtesy University of Maryland.

1234 Druid Hill Avenue is known to a generation of local Civil Rights activists as “Freedom House”—serving as an office to the local chapter of the NAACP, hosting meetings with Clarence Mitchell, Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, luncheons with Eleanor Roosevelt and even Martin Luther King, Jr. Known as a “mighty little organization,” Freedom House was established by the Baltimore NAACP in 1970 under the leadership of Dr. Lillie M. Jackson. By December 1977, the organization had “received many citations including the AFRO’s highest honor for its successful crusades in reducing unemployment, crime and delinquency.”

Just as importantly, 1234 Druid Hill Avenue had been the home of Harry Sythe Cummings and his family from 1899 to 1911. In 1889, Cummings graduated from the University of Maryland Law School (one of the first two black men to do so) and, in 1890, became the first African American elected to a Baltimore City Council seat.

How did Baltimore lose the Freedom House?

Carol Ott, July 2015. Baltimore Slumlord Watch.
Carol Ott, July 2015. Baltimore Slumlord Watch.

1234 Druid Hill Avenue and its neighbor at 1232 have been owned or controlled by Bethel AME Church for decades. In recent years, the buildings deteriorated significantly and, in July 2015, Baltimore Slumlord Watch highlighted their poor condition. Bethel AME Church responded to these issues by securing a city building permit for both buildings in late September that allowed non-structural alterations and limited demolition (e.g. removing debris, interior drywall, nonbearing walls). Unfortunately, in October the church changed their plans and received approval from the Baltimore Housing Department to demolish 1234 Druid Hill Avenue—without notifying preservation advocates or the local chapter of the NAACP.

It is currently unclear whether the demolition permit for 1234 also applies to 1232. Continuing confusion around the status of the permit for this planned demolition has been a source of frustration for concerned residents. If reports by residents are accurate, Bethel AME Church is planning to continue to demolish 1232 Druid Hill Avenue within the next few days.

What can be done to preserve Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage?

The destruction of the Freedom House on Druid Hill Avenue is a shocking wake-up call for anyone concerned about the preservation of Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage. Persistent vacancy and demolition by neglect are destroying historic buildings that tell the important story of the Civil Rights movement in Baltimore and around the country. Please join Baltimore Heritage as we support tomorrow’s rally urging Bethel AME Church to preserve 1232 Druid Hill Avenue and fight for the protection of West Baltimore’s Civil Rights landmarks. Baltimore Heritage is asking neighborhood leaders and elected officials to support a comprehensive effort to address the deteriorating condition of the landmarks of Baltimore Civil Rights history and ensure their preservation for future generations to discover.

Rally to Save Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage

Thursday, November 12, 2015, 1:00pm
1234 Druid Hill Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217
RSVP and share this event on Facebook!

Learn more about our work to document and protect Civil Rights landmarks. For questions or additional information about tomorrow’s rally, please contact Louis Fields, President, African American Tourism Council of Maryland, Inc. at 443-983-7974.

Confederate Monument, Mount Royal Terrace (c. 1906). Library of Congress

What do we do about Baltimore’s Confederate monuments? City commission begins review of public Confederate monuments this week

Yesterday, Baltimore Heritage attended the first of four meetings for the Mayor’s Special Commission to Review Baltimore’s Public Confederate Monuments. Over the next six months, this commission plans to consider four public monuments:

  • Roger B. Taney Monument (1887)
  • Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1903)
  • Confederate Women’s Monument (1919)
  • Lee-Jackson Monument (1948)

Today’s meeting helped to define scope of the commission’s work and a process for moving forward. The commission is closely focused on these four public monuments—works that are owned by the city and located on public land. They have no plans to address the name of Lake Roland Park (an issue already being addressed by the Baltimore City Council).

Baltimore’s public art collection includes hundreds of statues, memorials and works of art found in neighborhoods across the city. Different works have been donated by individuals or groups, commissioned directly by Baltimore City, or supported by the 1% for art program. The city’s public art collection is managed by the Baltimore Public Art Commission (PAC) and the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP). Appropriately, the new special commission is made up of four representatives from CHAP, three from PAC, and a representative of the Mayor’s Office. For more on the membership of the commission read the Mayor’s announcement of the membership from September 3.

By January 2016, the commission expects to make a set of recommendations, informed by research, public comments, and deliberation, and laid out in a final report. For each monument, there are a range of possibilities:

  1. Keep the sculpture as it stands at present.
  2. Keep the sculpture with specific conditions. Conditions could include a recommendation to install new signage or some other intervention.
  3. Keep the sculpture in the city’s collection at a new location.
  4. Remove the sculpture and de-accession from the city’s collection.

Some may recall that this current discussion began in the wake of the tragic shooting in Charleston, South Carolina and the renewed efforts to reject symbols of the Confederacy for their links to white supremacy past and present. In Baltimore, the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Avenue was tagged on July 22 with the words “Black Lives Matter”—matching the well-publicized tagging of monuments in Charleston and beyond. A group of activists, including Marvin “Doc” Cheatham and others who had advocated against the Lee-Jackson Monument for years, staged a protest and press conference to draw attention to the troubling meaning of these statues. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and city staff quickly responded with the announcement of the special commission on June 30.

Other cities around the country are exploring many of the same challenges. After convening a task force in June, the University of Texas at Austin decided to deal with a set of troubling statues along the Main Mall with the full range of options: moving their statue of Jefferson Davis to UT’s Briscoe Center for American History, relocating their statue of Woodrow Wilson, and leaving four others in place. In Frederick, Maryland officials are considering removing a statue of Roger B. Taney and in Rockville, Montgomery County officials are already considering alternate locations for a monument to the Confederacy located in front of the county courthouse.

Baltimore Heritage supports the Mayor’s leadership in organizing this special commission to consider this issue carefully. We hope the commission meetings provide an opportunity for an open discussion about the legacies of the Civil War and the decades of racial discrimination that followed in Baltimore and across the state. The testimony from city residents today pointed to the importance of this issue to Baltimoreans. One person reminded the commission that the “Spirit of the Confederacy” on Mount Royal Avenue stands just outside the doors of the Midtown Academy and asked: what are we teaching our children? Another speaker, expressed a call for unity urging the commission to seek a more inclusive vision of Baltimore’s history that includes abolition as well as slavery.

Taney Monument, March 28, 2011. Monument City
Taney Monument, March 28, 2011. Monument City

We have put together a historic context on Baltimore’s Confederate memory and monuments that we have provided to the special commission and through our new Civil Rights heritage project. We encourage you to read the historic context and get informed about this issue. You can submit your testimony to the commission through their online contact form. The public is also welcome to attend upcoming commission meetings:

  • Thursday, October 29, 9:00 am
  • Tuesday, December 15, 5:00pm
  • Thursday, January 14, 10:00 am

For questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us and share your views on Baltimore’s Confederate monuments and their future.