Author: Johns

Johns Hopkins has been the executive director of Baltimore Heritage since 2003. Before that, Johns worked for the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development developing and implementing smart growth and neighborhood revitalization programs. Johns holds degrees from Yale University, George Washington University Law School, and the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Environment.

A red brick church overlaid with blue text reading "Thank you!"

Tours, food, micro-grants, and a big thank-you at the historic Orchard Street Church

We’re throwing a party on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 and you are the reason for the celebration. This is our third year hosting a heartfelt thank you event for the many people who volunteer, participate in our heritage tours, and support Baltimore Heritage as members and sponsors. Our friends at the Greater Baltimore Urban League are opening up their historic Orchard Street Church for this free event that will include tours of the church (among the oldest structures built by a local Black congregation), food, drinks, and a chance for you to help us give away four preservation micro-grants.

This event is also our annual meeting where members elect new board members and officers. Please join us!

Also check out our jam-packed schedule of tours and talks over the next few weeks. On the afternoon of Sunday, September 23, local historian Jack Burkert will kick off our history lecture series at the Garrett Jacobs Mansion with a talk entitled: The Port of Baltimore: Shaping the City Over the Ages. On Wednesday, September 26, we are touring the Sheppard Pratt Hospital complex. And on the morning of Tuesday, October 2, we are repeating our tour of Fashions Unlimited garment factory.

Finally, we are teaming up with Doors Open Baltimore again for a unique bus tour: Masons, Jazzmen, Doctors and More. Join us and CHAP director Eric Holcomb on this narrated trip that includes five fantastic sites: the Prince Hall Masonic lodge, Eubie Blake National Jazz Center, Davidge Hall, Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast, and the Ambassador Marburg Mansion on Mount Vernon Place.

Thank you again to everybody who volunteers with us and supports our work as members and contributors. Without you, we could not do what we do. I hope you can join us on October 2 and on some of our upcoming events.

The front of a red-brick church with a large rose window.

Our micro-grant give-away is back! Submit your project idea by September 13 (deadline extended!)

Our micro-grant give-away is back for a third year and we’re looking for your ideas. Are you helping restore a community park? Planning a neighborhood tour? Or getting ready to tackle a hands-on preservation project? Share your project idea by Thursday, September 13 and you’ll have a chance at being one of the six projects competing for micro-grants during our preservation pitch party at the historic Orchard Street Church on Tuesday, October 2.

The pitch party gives each of the six finalists just three minutes to make a pitch for why they deserve one of four micro-grants. The crowd votes and the four projects with the most support win one of two $500 grants or two $250 grants.

We know the modest award may not be enough to complete an entire project. But we also know even a little help can go a long way to starting something new or sustaining an existing preservation program.

You do not need to be an incorporated nonprofit or formal community organization to apply. Individuals and informal groups are welcome to submit ideas! If you have any questions, please get in touch with me at hopkins@baltimoreheritage.org or 410-332-9992.

Print showing a parade of Black men in uniform past Mount Vernon Place. The central image is surrounded by portraits and vignettes of Black life, illustrating rights granted by the 15th Amendment.

Enjoy the fall weather with our September talks & tours

Fall is just around the corner, and we’re looking forward to walking tour weather! We hope you can join us on Saturday, September 8 with a tour by our own Eli Pousson sharing stories of slavery and emancipation in Mount Vernon together with a guided tour of the recently updated Civil War exhibit at the Maryland Historical Society.

The following weekend on Saturday, September 15, historian and radio personality Lisa Simeone will walk us around Charles Village showing off the neighborhood’s fascinating history and eclectic architecture. And, on Wednesday, September 26, our hosts at Sheppard Pratt are leading a tour of their historic campus that has been the home of pioneering health care for over a century.

A gouache and pen and ink painting of a large stone Gothic building with a complex roof set in a pastoral landscape.
Sheppard Asylum. Illustration by Calvert Vaux, c. 1860. National Library of Medicine.

Next month, we are kicking off our Baltimore history lecture series in partnership with the Garrett Jacobs Mansion Endowment Fund. On Sunday, September 23, local historian Jack Burkert is delivering an afternoon talk entitled: The Port of Baltimore: Shaping the City Over the Ages. Monthly through the fall and winter, we’ll offer talks by Wayne Schaumburg, Ric Cottam, and Antero Pietila. Find the full list of upcoming talks on our calendar.

Enjoy the start of fall as you learn a little more about Baltimore on a tour or talk next month!

Members of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Philadelphia District and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Marine Design Center assist the crew of the commercial cargo vessel Merwedegracht offload the Philadelphia District’s new hydrographic survey vessel HR Spies at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore.
Port of Baltimore, April 20, 2017. Photo by Alfred Barraza. ACE-IT NAB.
Volunteers explore a test unit at the Sellers Mansion

Archaeology at Sellers Mansion Keeps Stabilization Moving Forward A step towards revitalization for this 1868 Lafayette Square anchor

Over the weekend of July 28, Dr. Adam Fracchia and a group of trained archaeologists volunteered with Baltimore Heritage in an archaeology exploration on the grounds around the Sellers Mansion in West Baltimore’s Lafayette Square neighborhood. The work was done to help the mansion’s owner, Sellers Mansion Partners LLC, meet a city requirement to conduct an archaeology investigation before moving forward in stabilizing the building.

Vacant and derelict free standing Victorian mansion
Sellers Mansion in West Baltimore’s Lafayette Square neighborhood

The Sellers Mansion was built in 1868 as the first residence on Lafayette Square by Matthew Bacon Sellers, Sr., the head of the Northern Central Railroad. Sellers’ son, Mathew Bacon Sellers, Jr., grew up in the house and went on to become a leader in creating what is today the space agency NASA. In addition to the Sellers home, the mansion served as offices for a variety of community organizations before becoming vacant in the 1990s. It has been  a preservation priority for Baltimore Heritage since then.

curved brick walkway uncovered.
Archaeologists exploring a curved brick walkway

The two-day investigation documented several aspects of the Sellers’ estate, including a curved brick walkway on the north side of the building and the foundation of a small free-standing building at the northeast corner that was likely a nursery.

 

blue and white ceramic fragment the size of a dime
Ceramic fragment

The volunteers also unearthed a number of ceramic fragments dating to before the Civil War. These include pieces of dinnerware and the stem of a clay pipe, the types of things that you would expect to find around a house that dates to the mid-nineteenth century.

fragment of slate pencil
Slate pencil

Late on the second and final day, the team also uncovered a section of a slate pencil: akin to today’s graphite pencil but without the wood and used to write on slate.

The exploration is now complete and the next step is for Dr. Fracchia and Baltimore Heritage to prepare and submit a report to the City’s historic preservation commission (CHAP) documenting the work and what was found. With CHAP’s approval, Sellers Mansion Partners will then have the green light to continue with stabilizing and eventually rehabbing the building.

 

An old mechanical artifacts with a complicated set of gears and wheels.

Join us for a tour of the System Source Computer Museum on July 25 And check out our ongoing Monumental City tours this summer

Do you ever wonder about the history of the computer or smartphone you’re using to read our tour announcements? Please join us on Wednesday, July 25 for a tour exploring the long history of computing from ancient adding machines to mid-century punch cards and mainframes and more.

The System Source Computer Museum in Hunt Valley features a remarkable collection of artifacts including the Altair 8800, on which a young Bill Gates learned to code; an accurate replica of an Enigma cypher machine used by the German navy in 1942; and even an original iPhone which turned eleven years old last month. You can check out the museum’s collection on their website but, even in our digital age, the screen is no substitute for exploring history in person.

You can also find us leading a walking tour around Federal Hill on Sunday, July 22 for our ongoing Monumental City tours. We hope you are staying cool this summer and can stay tuned as we line up our fall tours, talks, and events.