In a great new post on Baltimore Brew, Joan Jacobson and Elizabeth Suman lay out the story of the continuing threats to Baltimore’s historic West Side, an area that has been listed on the Baltimore Heritage Preservation Watch List for nearly 10 years. Among the dozens of irreplaceable buildings still threatened with demolition is the Art Deco styled 1934 Read’s Drug Store, designed by renowned Baltimore architecture firm Smith & May, the same firm that created the iconic Bank of America Building. In January 1955, following a year of negotiations with Read’s, a sit-in demonstration organized by the Baltimore Congress of Racial Equality led to the desegregation of 37 Read’s lunch counters citywide, establishing a enduring association between this downtown corner and the struggle for civil rights in Baltimore and the state of Maryland.
For many, the story of fighting for preservation on Baltimore’s West Side is a familiar one. In 1999, the National Trust for Historic Preservation identified the West Side as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. In the early 2000s, Baltimore Heritage, Preservation Maryland, and West Side Renaissance created Baltimore’s West Side Story, produced by West Side Renaissance director Ronald Kreitner. This documentary screened daily at the historic Senator Theater, introducing audiences to the vital issues at stake in the preservation of historic buildings and small businesses on Baltimore’s West Side. Enjoy the whole 9 minute video to learn more or jump to 1:04 for a special cameo by former Mayor and Governor William Donald Schaefer as a born-again preservationist.