Garrett-Jacobs Mansion, Lanny Miyamoto, October 1958. Courtesy Library of Congress.

Mount Vernon, Antietam and Patterson Park Cannons Upcoming heritage tours in September

With August almost over, we’ve turned our attention to the fall and have lined up some great new heritage tours. On September 12, Civil War historian and Preservation Maryland director Nicholas Redding is kindly leading a car caravan tour of Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg. That same morning, we are also taking a walk around Mount Vernon Place and the collections of the Maryland Historical Society to explore “the cradle of American philanthropy.” On September 26, we are getting our bikes tuned up for the Baltimore Meets Florence bike tour to eat gelato and explore Italian architecture.

Finally, we are pleased to celebrate the continued stewardship of Patterson Park’s War of 1812 history with the Friends of Patterson Park. As we searched for buried fortifications during our archaeological dig in the park last spring, the Friends led an effort to restore Pagoda Hill’s row of memorial cannons. It is a year later, the restoration is complete and the cannons are back in park! Join us on September 13 to celebrate Defender’s Day and the the rededication of this iconic memorial including a Battle of Baltimore tour up the Pagoda led by Eli Pousson.

We hope you can join us on a tour next month!

Poppleton Plan, 1822. Library of Congress, g3844b ct001133>/a>.

Digitized directories speed search for forgotten landmarks of 1814-era Baltimore Identifying sites and scouring primary sources

For our new Battle of Baltimore project, Auni Gelles is digging into the digital archives to trace the history of early 1800s Baltimore. You can start with Auni’s first post on the history of Defender’s Day, her interview with the director of the Flag House or read on for the latest in our behind-the-scenes look at historical research and commemoration in the 21st century.

A few weeks into my work with the Battle of Baltimore project, I’ve selected around fifteen sites that I plan to research and write short stories about. I started with a list of over 200 sites compiled from early 19th century accounts of Baltimore such as Poppleton’s Plan of the City of Baltimore and Kearney’s Map of Baltimore’s Defenses. While some of these places are still familiar to 21st century Baltimoreans (Lexington Market, the Battle Monument), others are mostly forgotten (Harrison’s Marsh, Sugar House, Tobacco Inspection Warehouse).

Poppleton Plan, 1822. Library of Congress, g3844b ct001133>/a>.
Poppleton Plan, 1822. Library of Congress, g3844b ct001133

To gauge which sites would be most fruitful for this project, I tried to get a general sense of the story behind each site before diving too deep into research. For example, I wanted to include a school to discuss the state of education in the early 19th century. The master list included seven such institutions: Male Public School No. 1, Public School No. 3, McKim’s Free School, the Baltimore Free School, the Female Free School, the Methodist Free School, and the Oliver Hibernian Free School. I spent a few minutes on Google to determine which might have the most compelling 1814 story to tell.

Illustration of McKim's Free School from J.H.B. Latrobe's Picture of Baltimore. JScholarship.
Illustration of McKim’s Free School from J.H.B. Latrobe’s Picture of Baltimore. JScholarship.

While the Oliver Hibernian Free School sounded fascinating, I found out it wasn’t established until 1824—and thus, may not be the best fit for this project. This preliminary search is not always straightforward, as there are variations on many place names. In the education example, there is a contemporary organization called the “Baltimore Free School,” which further complicates matters.

Once I focused in on a site, I turned to the wealth of primary resources now available online to understand how a building or institution was described around the Battle of Baltimore. I’ve found that it’s easiest to scour these sources for information about multiple sites rather than to focus only on one site at a time. City registers, including the 1814-1815 and 1816 City Registers, were invaluable in this step. The main function of the register was to provide a directory of Baltimore’s residents and businesses. A simple list of names, professions, and addresses offers many insights into early 19th century Baltimore.

For example, when researching Mary Pickersgill’s Jonestown house (now known as the Flag House), city registers provided information about the flagmaker’s neighbors and therefore, clues about her social and economic status. The 1814 directory showed that her Albemarle Street neighbors included the first clerk of the Bank of Maryland, a sea captain, a lumber merchant, an attorney, a merchant, and a physician—as well as craftsmen such as a cooper, a sailmaker, a weaver, a carver, and a distiller.

An advertisement in the 1814 directory offers services no longer rendered by dentists: cupping and bleeding with leeches.
An advertisement in the 1814 directory offers services no longer rendered by dentists: cupping and bleeding with leeches. Courtesy Maryland State Archives.

Registers also include information about street names, elected officials, and, of course, advertisements. I’ve particularly enjoyed reading some of the positions appointed by the Mayor and City Council. These appointments include the inspector of butter, lard, and flaxseed; inspectors and gaugers of liquors, molasses, and oil; weigher of hay for the Lexington Hay Scale; keepers of the city springs; superintendent of the powder magazine—clearly an important task in September of 1814! I’ve also rediscovered the joy of reading historic advertisements. An ad for J.C. Petherbridge, “Dentist and Bleeder,” reminds me just how far medicine has come in the past two centuries: Mr. Petherbridge offered his services in Old Town “where cupping or bleeding with leeches is required.” While Mr. Petherbridge likely won’t be making an appearance in the Battle of Baltimore site, his advertisement has helped me get a better sense of everyday life in Baltimore at this time.

As the project progresses I hope to round out the online research with archival research at the Maryland Department at the Enoch Pratt Free Library as well as the Baltimore City Archives and other local institutions.

Join Auni in the search by checking out our collection of Digital Sources for Local History Research that includes a link to a list of digitized Baltimore City directories from 1816 to 1923.

Exterior view, Eastern Female High School. Photograph by Johns Hopkins, 2015 July 11.

Recent fire, financial challenges place the Eastern Female High School at risk

On July 11, the Eastern Female High School on Aisquith Street caught fire—just the latest challenge for this 1869 school-house turned apartment building that has stood empty and since it closed in 2001. We visited the building the day after the fire and found the structure largely intact but completely unsecured after the fire department had to break through the boarded up windows to put out the fire. We contacted Michael Braverman, Deputy Commissioner of Code Enforcement for the Baltimore City Housing Department and he quickly arranged to secure the building.  Unfortunately, the fire also left a hole in the roof that could make the damage to the interior even worse if it is not soon replaced or repaired.

Adding to the uncertainty is the situation of Sojourner-Douglass College, which purchased the building from Baltimore City in 2004. The college developed plans to convert the building into a science and allied health educational facility and presented their proposal to the Baltimore City Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation in February of last year. But progress was slow, and stopped in the face of the school’s financial troubles. Recently, the college lost accreditation, and although Sojourner-Douglass is contesting the decision in court, it seems unlikely that the school will have the resources to pursue redevelopment of the Eastern Female High School in the near future.

We urge the leadership of the college to preserve the Eastern Female High School—stabilize the structure or find new ownership with the resources to turn this unique historic building back into an asset for East Baltimore.

Exterior view, Eastern Female High School. Photograph by Johns Hopkins, 2015 July 11.
Exterior view, Eastern Female High School. Photograph by Johns Hopkins, 2015 July 11.
Eli Pousson and Louis Hughes, Mount Vernon Pride Walking Tour. Photograph by Nicole Stanovsky, 2015 May 31.

News: Recording the Rainbow Revolution As gay bars in Baltimore shut their doors, activists work to document LGBTQ history

City Paper writer (and Baltimore Heritage volunteer) Kate Drabinski responded to the news that the 43-year-old gay bar the Hippo is closing this year with a thoughtful article on the work being done by archivists, scholars and community members to preserve LGBTQ history in Baltimore:

“Louis Hughes, now 71, moved to Baltimore in 1970 and came out in 1974. In 1975 he helped found the Baltimore Gay Alliance, which is now the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore (GLCCB). He served on the community advisory board of Johns Hopkins Hospital and worked tirelessly with others to pass the Baltimore City and Maryland lesbian and gay rights bills, work that took years. After those bills were passed, he helped with trainings for police, social workers, teachers, and the general public to help what he calls “the slow but sure process of change.” He now serves on the Baltimore Heritage LGBTQ history committee and helps lead tours of Baltimore’s “gayborhoods” of Mount Vernon and Charles Village.”

Read the full article – Recording the Rainbow Revolution – or connect with others interested in LGBTQ heritage on the Rainbow Heritage Network website and Facebook group.

Four generations of the Smith family pose on their porch in Waverly. Photograph by David Colwell/Baltimore Magazine, 2015.

News: These Walls Could Talk – For these five families, the homing instinct remains strong

Thanks to Amy Mulvihill and Baltimore Magazine for highlighting our recent celebration of Baltimore’s Centennial Homes:

“According to U.S. Census data, the average American moves about 11 times in his or her life, a statistic that confirms what many of us know from experience: Thanks to moves necessitated by jobs, schools, and relationships, “home,” is more of an ephemeral concept than a physical place these days. But that’s not true for everyone, including the Baltimoreans on the following pages, each of whom is part of a family that has kept its homestead for 100 years or more. In Baltimore City, such domestic dynasties are recognized via the Baltimore Heritage Centennial Homes Program, which will celebrate 10 families this month with a reception at City Hall.”

Be sure to read the full piece for profiles on families from Overlea, Hollins Market, Canton and Catonsville accompanied by some great photographs from David Colwell.