As we head into the fall, we hope you can join us on some of the bike tours, bus tours and walking tours that we’ve line up to explore Baltimore from Edgar Allan Poe to Babe Ruth, from German sticky buns to Baltimore beer, with loads of new and historic inventors and artisans in between.
Our bike tours start on September 17 with our ride-and-sample East Baltimore Bakeries by Bike Tour. It is perhaps the only bike tour where you must be careful to watch your calories. On October 29, we are pedaling again on our “3 B’s Tour”: Baltimore, Bikes, and Beer. We’ll learn about malt and hops from the Barnitz Brewery (Baltimore’s first in 1748) to Union Craft Brewery (a relative new-comer) where we’ll end, of course, with a beer.
If you prefer four wheels over two, our Babe Ruth in Baltimore Bus Tour on September 24 offers two hours of insight into one of Baseball’s greatest stars, from the hardscrabble streets of Baltimore’s longshoreman district, through the formative years of his life and development as professional baseball player. As a treat, we’ll get a peek inside the former Cardinal Gibbons High School to see the mural honoring Ruth at the place where he got his start in the National Pastime.
And if plain old walking shoes are your go-to mode of transportation, join us on October 8 for Poe and Beyond at Westminster Hall to learn about Poe’s death and to tour the church, graveyard and more than a little eerie catacombs. The following day on October 9, we are exploring 150 years of Industry and Artistry in Station North and Open Works on a walking tour of Station North and a look inside Open Works, a just opened maker-space for Baltimore’s newest artisans working in metal, wood, fabric and more. Come on our morning tour and then head back out into Station North to visit dozens of artists who will have their studios open as part of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts 28th Annual Open Studio Tour.
In July, we joined our nonprofit partners the Neighborhood Design Center and AIA Baltimore to kick off a new program through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development to rehab and improve commercial storefronts that were damaged during the civil unrest in Baltimore last April. The program, called the Storefront Improvement Grant Program, is providing $650,000 to fix storefronts along main streets from Pennsylvania Avenue in Sandtown Winchester to Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown.
From a pool of 145 applications, 26 projects were selected to receive funds. Each business will get up to $10,000 for improvements, as well as an architect volunteering through the American Institute of Architects Baltimore Chapter. After working out a design with the owner and architect, youth training teams from Civic Works and Living Classrooms will do the actual construction. We at Baltimore Heritage are helping by providing assistance on meeting historic preservation standards to ensure the redesigned storefront helps the owner and the surrounding neighborhood.
In addition to Sandtown Winchester and Highlandtown, the following other neighborhoods are slated to have storefront improvement projects: Pigtown, Waverly, Park Heights, Hollins Market/Union Square, and Market Center/Downtown. With project design work beginning this month, construction for the first set of storefronts is expected in the early fall.
In its recent August issue, Baltimore Magazine released its annual Best of Baltimore Awards, and we are proud and happy that Baltimore Heritage was included as “Best Preservationists.” Beyond the excitement of the recognition of our work, we are thrilled that the magazine’s editors agree that the preservation of “Baltimore’s rich architectural heritage” is an integral part of what makes our city thrive.
Accomplishing all of the work mentioned in the article would not be possible without our dedicated team of volunteers and supporters. We are indebted to our Board of Directors for their guidance and support on issues ranging from our advocacy to education to public outreach. Our heritage tours, mentioned in the article as “musts for anyone interested in learning about Charm City,” rely on a host of volunteers who set-up and lead these explorations of our city’s past. And, of course, we could not do any of this without our members and supporters, who contribute over half of our core operating budget each year. We are thankful for the recognition from Baltimore Magazine and ever thankful for all of you who make it possible!
So when you go looking for Baltimore’s best new cocktail or best podcast, check us out under in the News and Media section!
Join us next week for some wine, cheese, and a tour through the Housewerks Architectural Salvage showroom. Housewerks occupies a former valve house with a long history tracing back to 1885 when it was built for an immense gas production facility on the site. Another building, still standing on the site, manufactured Oriole Stoves, the anchor of many Baltimore kitchens. The valve house retains much of its architectural glory and industrial past, making it a perfect setting for a showroom of salvaged items from historic Baltimore.
While the beaches beckon on these hot summer weekends, we are offering our Sunday Monumental City tours for anyone staying in the city. Each tour gives you the chance to look up from the city pavement and see Baltimore’s landmarks from a new perspective.
Summer may be in full swing, but we are already lining up tours for the fall. Mark your calendars for two Baltimore bike tours sure to satisfy your taste buds. On September 17, we will bring back our Baltimore Bakeries by Bike tour and on October 15, we will introduce our new Baltimore Beer by Bike tour. In addition, you can get yourself in the Halloween mood on October 8, with a tour of Westminster Hall and Burial Grounds, the burial site of Edgar Allan Poe and many other Baltimore notables.
In mid June, Baltimore City posted a emergency condemnation and demolition notice on the front of the Mayfair Theater at 506 North Howard Street. The city, which owns the ornately-detailed 1903 building, is considering a plan to tear down the back portion of the theater where the auditorium was located and retain the front facade and front house. In 1998, the auditorium roof collapsed into the basement and the back portion of the building has remained unsecured and exposed to the elements for nearly two decades since. In contrast, the Mayfair’s front house is about thirty-five feet deep and city engineers have concluded that its roof is tight and it is structurally solid.
The city’s planning follows the 2014 fire at the building and the demolition of the adjoining Franklin Delphy Hotel in May. The hotel, which stood immediately to the south of the Mayfair, shared a party wall with the theater. Although city planners hoped to stabilize the theater as part of the hotel demolition, inspectors deemed the Franklin Delphy so deteriorated that the building had to come down immediately before any additional work took place.
After the demolition of the Franklin Delphy, the city’s engineers re-assessed the Mayfair. With no beams or joists supporting the side and back walls (these elements were lost along with the roof in the 1990s), they determined that the back portion is structurally unsound and poses a safety hazard.
When the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), which oversees this project along with many others in the Howard Street corridor, informed Baltimore Heritage about the status of the Mayfair Theatre we raised the concern that taking down the back of the building could jeopardize the possibility of using historic tax credits to rehabilitate any part of the building in the future. According to federal and state regulations, buildings must retain a significant portion of their historic material to be eligible for historic tax credits. Unfortunately, the theater has already lost so much material with the collapse of the auditorium roof and subsequent exposure that the tax credit team at the Maryland Historical Trust indicated that it the building is likely ineligible for tax credits even with the side and back walls still in place.
The Mayfair is listed as a city landmark, and thus any demolition work must be coordinated with the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. As for redevelopment, BDC has suggested that they will begin the process to find an interested developer. The parcel for the Mayfair will include the front house, which must be retained, and, if demolition moves forward, the cleared lot behind it where the auditorium once was. Right now it is not clear whether the Mayfair lot will be coupled with the now empty Franklin Delphy parcel or offered separately. While this is disappointing news, if not surprising given its decades of neglect, we hope that the redevelopment of the site can save the facade and front house.