Red Line, Rendering

Support the Red Line: Transportation is key for historic neighborhoods

For over five years, Baltimore Heritage has advocated for Baltimore’s Red Line light rail project and the positive impacts it offers for many of the city’s historic neighborhoods. Today, we are joining a broad coalition of nonprofits, businesses and community groups to ask for your help in supporting for this transformative project.

We believe that expanding public transportation is important for Baltimore’s revitalization and that the Red Line can be a powerful force in addressing vacant and underutilized historic buildings from Highlandtown to Harlem Park. In 2008, Baltimore Heritage committed to support the Red Line by signing the project’s “Community Compact” with dozens of other community organizations (PDF). In 2010, we expanded our commitment with the creation of our West Baltimore fieldwork program. Over the past four years, we have led tours, organized partnerships, and fought for strategic investments along the Red Line corridor, including at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, American Ice Company, and Lafayette Square.

American Ice Company on Franklin Street, 1938. Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Industry, BGE 11708.
American Ice Company on Franklin Street, 1938. Courtesy Baltimore Museum of Industry, BGE 11708.

The Red Line has enormous potential to spur the reuse and rehabilitation of historic buildings, create new jobs and shape a brighter future for the residents of Baltimore’s historic neighborhoods. Learn more about the potential benefits of this project from Red Line Now.

We need your help to support the Red Line and Baltimore’s historic neighborhoods.

As new and returning elected officials begin to prepare for the General Assembly session in Annapolis this winter, please take a moment to reach out and share your support for the Red Line and historic preservation:

  • Send an email to Governor-elect Larry Hogan at and share your thoughts on what the Red Line means for the future Baltimore’s historic communities.
  • Send an email to your state senators and delegates and ask them to support or continue their support for the Red Line in the Maryland Legislature. You can look up your state senator and state delegates at

To underscore the rich heritage and importance of the historic neighborhoods along the Red Line that we are working hard to save, we are excited to share our brand-new collection of digital and print publications: Landmarks on the Red Line. With printed brochures and digital tours, we are showcasing the history and architecture of this part of West Baltimore and hope to illustrate the importance of preserving historic buildings along  the Red Line corridor. Please explore our digital histories and pick up a neighborhood brochure at an upcoming Baltimore Heritage event.

Courtesy Union Memorial UMC.
Union Memorial United Methodist Church in Evergreen. Courtesy Union Memorial UMC.
34th Street Lights, 5 December 2008. Courtesy mkriedel/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND)

Holiday house tours, Hampden heritage and the Mayor’s Christmas Parade

The holiday season has arrived and historic places are at the heart of how our city celebrates! This Saturday, you can explore the grand mansions of Reservoir Hill and Bolton Hill on the Mount Royal District Poinsetta Tour. Next weekend, you can discover the handsome rowhouses around Union Square for the 29th Annual Christmas Cookie Tour. Not to be outdone, Charles Village offers their 6th Annual Snowflake Tour of historic houses on December 21.

So among all these contenders which neighborhood can boast the most seasonal cheer? No one can top Hampden with the lights on 34th Street and the Mayor’s Christmas Parade coming up this Sunday, December 7. Last winter, volunteer and Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance organizer Nathan Dennies talked to long-time parade organizer Tom Kerr about the history of the event and came back with this story.

Photo of Tom Kerr, c. 1980. Courtesy the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance.
Photo of Tom Kerr, c. late 1970s. Courtesy the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance.

William Donald Schaefer approached Tom Kerr, head of the old Hampden Business Association, in 1972 to organize the Mayor’s Christmas Parade. The parade would be Schaeffer’s answer to the Hochschild-Kohn Toytown Parade which drew thousands of spectators for thirty years on Thanksgiving Day, but stopped running in 1966. Schaeffer wanted the parade to be held downtown but Kerr insisted on having it in Hampden.

Kerr hoped the parade would bring positive attention to Hampden. The Mount Vernon Mill Company closed its last remaining mill in Hampden-Woodberry that year, marking the end of the textile industry in the area. The first parade was far more modest than the department store extravagance of the Toytown parade. Kerr was only able to secure a single Santa Claus float and six marching bands. Nonetheless, the parade drew a large crowd and was considered a success. As of 2013, Kerr has been organizing the event for forty-one years.

Every year the parade elects a Grand Marshall. Past prominent figures to hold the title include baseball legend Brooks Robinson in 1978, and more recently, John Astin, famous for his role as Gomez in The Addams Family. Schaeffer made a number of appearances as mayor and came back as Grand Marshall after becoming governor. In 1980, spectators were baffled to see his yellow Cadillac moving toward Thirty-sixth Street without him. The convertible left while he was giving a speech and he quickly darted across the street, ran through an alley, and ducked under a police barrier to cut off the ride for his own parade.

Find the end of the story on Explore Baltimore Heritage. You can enjoy Hampden history and a special holiday celebration next Friday with the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance Christmas party and fundraiser! Tickets will help support the adaptation of the new self-guided walking tour brochure into a tour for Explore Baltimore Heritage along with a traveling exhibit on Hampden history. Learn more details and register today. Please share your own ideas on how to celebrate the holidays with history in the comments.

Poly and Western Marching Bands, 4 December 2011. Photo courtesy Spinstah/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Poly and Western Marching Bands, 4 December 2011. Photo courtesy Spinstah/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).
Photograph by Eli Pousson, November 2014.

Looking for Archeology in Herring Run Park? Ask big questions to find tiny artifacts

We’re glad to share this post from local archeologist Lisa Kraus about a new project we’ve been working on this fall: archeology in Herring Run Park! Lisa and her husband, Jason Shellenhamer, along with volunteers from the Northeast Baltimore History Roundtable have made some exciting finds in just the past few weeks. Read on for Lisa’s reflections on our progress and learn more about archeology in Baltimore.

My husband Jason and I moved to Northeast Baltimore in 2012, and were immediately intrigued by the tantalizing little glimpses of history we saw all over our neighborhood. We spotted a few 19th-century farmhouses sitting a little askew on the predominantly 20th-century landscape. We heard stories about an old pickle factory that once sold pickles for a nickel, right down the street from our house. We spotted a one-room schoolhouse that had been expanded into a social club, and an old stone mill building built into a hillside. We walked through the 19th-century German Lutheran cemetery nestled in the center of Montebello Park. While walking our dogs, we found Hall’s Spring and the shell of the old Eutaw Methodist Church in Herring Run Park, and wondered about the vanished communities those facilities once served.

Photograph by Bryson Dudley, 10 October 2011. Courtesy Monument City Blog.
Photograph by Bryson Dudley, 10 October 2011. Courtesy Monument City Blog.

Since we’re both archeologists and share a persistent curiosity about the past, we started looking at historical maps of Baltimore and trying to reconcile them with the modern landscape. We spent weekends at the archives doing research. It became clear that our neighborhood had a deep history, with European- and African-American settlements dating back to the 1600s and 1700s, and the possibility of prehistoric occupation stretching back thousands of years. To our surprise, we found that very little archaeology has been done in our neighborhood and we started thinking about how we could change that.

Photo by Lisa Kraus, November 2014.
Jason head-deep in a shovel test-pit. Photo by Lisa Kraus, November 2014.

Through some sort of cosmic serendipity, right about the time Jason and I started talking about starting an archaeology program in our neighborhood, the Northeast Baltimore History Roundtable approached Baltimore Heritage about starting a public archaeology project in Herring Run Park. After meeting with both groups and coordinating with the Friends of Herring Run Parks and the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, we set out for the park to see what we could find.

We were searching for sites that could tell us something new, something we couldn’t learn from books, maps or other records. After all, written history often reflects the interests and concerns of a limited group of people. Many wealthy and influential people called Baltimore home over the years, but most of the city’s former residents left few written records behind. Archeology is one of the best ways to learn more about the lives of the poor, the working classes, immigrants, women, children, free and enslaved African Americans, and Native Americans.

Photograph by Lisa Kraus, November 2014.
Photograph by Lisa Kraus, November 2014.

Very little is known about early residents of Northeast Baltimore. Who worked at the mills, the hotels and taverns, the farms that existed here in the 1800s? Who were the earliest immigrant settlers in the area, and where did they live? Were there Native American settlements and camps here? What were the lives of all these early residents like, and how did they influence the area that eventually became Greater Lauraville? How has the neighborhood changed over time, and what has stayed the same?

Over the last few months, we’ve discovered sites in Herring Run Park that could answer many of these questions, and raise many more. We’re looking forward to working with our partners, neighbors, students and volunteers as we make more discoveries, and we hope you’ll join us!

Thank you to Lisa for her commitment to the Herring Run Park Archeology project. Don’t forget to check out Jason’s research on the early history of Eutaw Farm in Herring Run Park with historic maps and images. Stay tuned for more updates (including volunteer opportunities) in the next few months!
This Place Matters, Hebrew Orphan Asylum

News: New Life for Old Jewish Landmark

Special thanks to historian Deb Weiner for her efforts to help us keep spreading the word about Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum!

New Life for Old Jewish Landmark, Simone Ellin, Baltimore Jewish Times,‍‍ November 18, 2014.

“I think it’s an incredibly important building,” said local historian Deb Weiner of the Romanesque-style building designed by architects Edward Lupus and Henry A. Roby. “After B’nai Israel and the Lloyd Street Synagogue, it’s probably the most important building to the Baltimore Jewish community. “It represents the era, in the 19th century, when Jews started to build charities,” Weiner continued. “It shows how the community was becoming more affluent and could afford it.” …

“We got involved when there was a proposal to demolish the building,” said Johns Hopkins, executive director of Baltimore Heritage, Inc. and a board member of the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation. “Then Coppin State got a new president who thought the building was an asset.” Hopkins and his colleagues worked with Coppin State to get the building on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010. “It was a slam-dunk,” said Hopkins, “since the building was so significant both architecturally and historically.”

With support from Coppin State, in 2012, the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation, Baltimore Heritage, Inc. and architectural firm Kann Partners were granted a $2.5 million tax credit from the Maryland Sustainable Communities Tax Credit program. A state study later concluded that the neighborhood around the building was one of the five least healthy in the state, leading Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown to announce that the neighborhood would encompass one of five new Health Enterprise zones. The Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation will now restore the building and create a full-service medical facility called the Center for Health Care and Healthy Living.

Images courtesy Internet Archive, Ziger/Snead Architects.

Celebrating the Karen Lewand Preservation Education Fund at the Ivy Hotel

It has been two years since our colleague, friend and inspiration Karen Lewand passed away. The historic preservation education fund that she created is almost two years old as well, and it is our privilege to celebrate Karen’s legacy and the ongoing good work that she made possible at Baltimore Heritage. As a way to say thank you for the over two hundred individuals and businesses who contributed to the education fund in 2012 and 2013, we are throwing a party and inviting you to join us for a reception and tour of the Ivy Hotel in Mount Vernon on the evening of Wednesday, December 3.

Karen and Bob Lewand, June 2010
Karen and Bob Lewand, June 2010

The Ivy is in the middle of a comprehensive restoration to turn the neighborhood landmark into a first-class boutique inn. The 1889 mansion started its life on Calvert Street as a home for John Gilman. William Painter, inventor of the bottle cap and founder of the Crown Cork and Seal Company, and Robert Garrett, double gold medalist at the first modern Olympics in 1896, also took turns owning and enjoying the mansion. The Ivy is a fantastic place and with the help of the Azola Companies, our host and the building’s owner, and Ziger/Snead Architects are returning to its full Gilded Age glory.

Image courtesy Azola Companies
Image courtesy Azola Companies

Special thanks to everyone who has supported the Karen Lewand Historic Preservation Education Fund and for making our work in Baltimore possible.