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.

Entrance sign at Druid Hill Park with the Conservatory in the background.

Druid Hill Park in Focus: Join us for our bike and Rawlings Conservatory tours this June

We have more fun tours to share today but also some unfortunate news. Earlier this week, a surprise demolition took down two 1840s stone houses in the Woodberry neighborhood near Clipper Mill. The loss is particularly upsetting because it follows repeated assurances that the houses would be retained and incorporated into a new apartment building. Read our post on this issue to learn more about what we can do to ensure Baltimore’s historic places are valued and retained.

Now, if you’ve been in Baltimore for any amount of time, we hoped you’ve visited Druid Hill Park at least once or twice. This spring, we’re hoping you’ll spend a little time getting to know the park even better. On Saturday, June 8, we want you to take a ride on Druid Hill Park’s quiet back streets and paths to explore all the hidden nooks and crannies with Ralph Brown and Graham Coreil-Allen as your guides. Then, on the evening of Wednesday, June 12, we’re back at Druid Hill Park for a tour of the Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory. Modeled after London’s famed Kew Gardens, we’ll learn about the past and present operation of this botanical oasis.

A group of volunteers searching for artifacts.
May 2019. Courtesy the The Herring Run Archaeology Project.

We’re also excited to share an invitation from local archaeologists Lisa Kraus and Jason Shellenhamer. Instead of the usual spring field season in Herring Run Park, you can find them in Fell’s Point next weekend, Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2, for a free public archaeology open house at the Caulker’s Houses on South Wolfe Street. We expect this archaeological investigation to turn up all kinds of stories and artifacts including connections to the 1840s and 1850s when the two wooden houses were home to a number of African American ship caulkers. Check out an update on what the dig has found so far over on the Herring Run Archaeology project website. It is a bit of an understatement to say that the houses are not universally accessible (no floors and barely-there stairs!) but, if you can’t go in, you can still see artifacts displayed on a table set up on the sidewalk.

Finally, you definitely don’t want to miss our 2019 Historic Preservation Awards Celebration on Thursday June 13! We’ll be celebrating the best work of the year at the former Hoen & Co. Lithograph Company building. In addition to helping us congratulate the award winners, you’ll get up close and inside and this former industrial building and see its transformation into new offices and training spaces.

An excavator sitting on top of the wreckage of a stone house.

Surprise demolition of stone houses in Woodberry is a breach of public trust

A breach of public trust. This is at the heart of yesterday’s demolition of two 1840s stone houses in Woodberry. We are shocked and angry to see the loss of these two buildings—and anxious to protect Woodberry’s historic buildings from more demolition.

Over the past year, Woodberry residents, City Councilman Leon Pinkett, and preservation organizations, including Baltimore Heritage and Preservation Maryland, rallied to protest initial plans for demolition, attended meetings, offered comments, and worked with the development team on a proposal to incorporate elements of the existing Clipper Road buildings into a proposed new apartment building. The developers presented this revised plan at a community meeting last fall and again in January 2019 at a public hearing before the city planning department’s Urban Design and Architectural Advisory Panel. Baltimore Heritage along with the community association, Councilman Pinkett, and others supported this compromise.

Two stone houses with boarded windows facing a narrow road
The stone houses at 3511 and 3523 Clipper Road before demolition, 2018 July 11. Baltimore Heritage

Then, yesterday morning, both stone houses were demolished without warning. After hearing the news, the architectural firm for the project, PI.KL Studio, resigned. The development partner, Mr. Christopher Mfume at CLD Partners, at first defended the demolitions then late yesterday announced that he had also left the project. The Baltimore Sun reported that the owner of the site, Woodberry Station LLC, and its resident agent Katherine Jennings could not be reached for comment.

We don’t want to see another loss like this one in Woodberry. We hope the neighborhood will seriously consider renewing efforts to work with the city Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) and become a designated local historic district. Proposals to demolish or alter historic buildings within CHAP districts require review by CHAP staff and, often, the full CHAP commission. Most importantly, city law requires that these reviews take place before a demolition permit can be issued. Woodberry has considered becoming a CHAP district in the past, and Baltimore Heritage stands ready to assist if the neighborhood’s residents want to consider doing so again.

Keeping the Long View: The Preservation Journey for Baltimore’s Hebrew Orphan Asylum

This morning, my colleague Eli and I stopped by the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and took in a welcome sight: construction workers everywhere building a new structure inside the brick walls of the nation’s oldest surviving Jewish orphanage. Work is well underway to turn this once neglected building into a much needed healthcare facility in West Baltimore.

Two men wearing neon yellow vests and hard hats in with a brick wall and construction site in the background.
Johns Hopkins and Sean Scott, the project foreman. 2019 May 16.

The road to this morning’s busy scene was a long one. Baltimore Heritage first became involved with the Asylum in 2005, nearly fifteen years ago. Today, we wanted to share the story behind the building’s transition. Over the past decade, the building has gone from vacant and slated for demolition to a site of rebuilding and renewal. We hope that a brief recap of the milestones on this journey can provide a little insight into the world of historic preservation and hope for Baltimoreans and others working on their own uphill preservation projects!

Exterior view of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum with boarded windows
2009 November 1

Slated for Demolition

In 2005, the Hebrew Orphan Asylum’s owner, Coppin State University, announced plans to tear down the building. The university sought to avoid the continued expense of maintaining the vacant structure and envisioned creating a “south campus” on the site at some undetermined later date. For years, Baltimore Heritage and the Maryland Historical Trust urged CSU officials to preserve and reuse the building rather than demolish it.

A group of people standing in front of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum holding a sign reading "This Place Matters"
September 8, 2010


In 2010, we nominated the Hebrew Orphan Asylum to the National Register of Historic Places and called for people across the city to support the building’s entry in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters” competition. We didn’t win, but still came in sixth place and made a lot of new friends who cared about this historic landmark. With a change in leadership at CSU and wider public recognition of the building’s significance, the university eventually agreed to hold off on demolition even without a clear plan for what to do next.

Community-Centered Planning and Health

Over the next seven years, we worked with the Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation and residents in the Greater Rosemont community to develop a plan for reusing the building. We secured funding from Preservation Maryland to prepare a new strategic vision for the building’s redevelopment. Armed with a state study showing that the area around the Asylum has the greatest level of health care disparity in Maryland, the community and CDC determined that bringing a medical facility back into the building was an ideal opportunity.

Rendering of proposed reuse of Hebrew Orphan Asylum, 2011 August.

After years of effort, the CDC convinced Coppin State University to sell the building and worked out an agreement for its purchase. This was the first time in recent memory that the University of Maryland system had sold a building, and the transaction required years of significant legal work—with special credit to pro-bono counsel Ballard Spahr. With a Maryland Historical Trust preservation easement protecting the exterior of the building, the CDC became the owners of the Asylum in 2017.

That same year, the CDC took another significant step forward when Behavioral Health System Baltimore and the Baltimore City Health Department committed to lease the entire building for health care use. The first program to go into the building is the new Crisis Stabilization Center—an innovative drug treatment program being introduced to Baltimore. Additional healthcare-related offices and programs are expected to follow.

Financing and the Future

At the same time, Baltimore Heritage worked to apply for state and federal historic tax credits to stabilize and eventually rehab the building. First with Kann Partners Architects and now with Waldon Studio Architects and Southway Builders as partners, we secured several million dollars in historic tax credits that jump started the fundraising process. With historic tax credits in hand, the CDC secured additional contributions from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development and the Weinberg Foundation. With help from a local development consultant, Cross Street Partners, the CDC finally secured a bank loan in December 2018 to finance the overall $16 million construction cost.

A group of four people standing in front of a sign reading Center for Health Care and Healthy Living
L to R: Former State Senator Verna L. Jones-Rodwell, architect Donald Kann, architect Katherine Good, and Coppin Heights CDC director Gary Rodwell. 2019 March 8. Flickr

Construction at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum is now scheduled to finish in 2020 when doors open for the new stabilization center and health care offices. It has taken many partners to go from the brink of demolition to the promising future of today, including everybody who has supported Baltimore Heritage over the last many years. Your membership gifts, ticket purchases for walking tours, and end-of-year giving have allowed us to stick with the Asylum as advocates, community organizers, fundraisers, and partners.

Selfie of Johns Hopkins and Eli Pousson in front of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum
Johns Hopkins and Eli Pousson. May 16, 2019

Thank you to all of you who have carried us during our fourteen years of work and helped get us this far. Keep the faith that we will make it to the finish line with the Asylum, and we’ll keep you updated on the first opportunity we can get inside for a Behind the Scenes hard hat tour!

Two stories of wood framing with a brick walls and windows in the background.
Historic framing stabilized on the interior. New floors and columns will be added during construction. 2019 May 16.

Celebrate the 2019 Preservation Award Winners and the transformation of the A. Hoen & Co. Building!

Please join us on Thursday, June 13 for our 2019 Preservation Awards Celebration at the Hoen & Co. Lithograph Building!

From this 1885 motor factory turned printing plant, Hoen designed and published everything from survey maps in the late 1800s to psychedelic album covers in the 1960s. Today, it is being converted into a hub of offices, job training facilities, and community space in East Baltimore—and we’ll get to see it right in the middle of the transformation. With this enormous former manufacturing building as our backdrop, we’re pleased to be honoring this year’s best work in historic preservation, from the restoration of an antique streetcar at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum to the tremendous efforts by the Chinatown Collective to bring new life into Baltimore’s historic Chinatown.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. with food and drink then the awards presentation begins at 6:30 p.m. This year, we’re going green! Plates, cups, and everything else we use will be either compostable or recyclable, and with food from Blue Pit that includes their signature vegetarian BBQ, we’re trying to do our part to minimize our impact. Get your tickets today and join us to celebrate our city’s efforts to revitalize our historic building and communities.

Thanks to the sponsors of this year’s event, whose generous contributions keep Baltimore Heritage going throughout the year.

Lead Sponsors

  • Agora, Inc.
  • Eastend Design Group
  • Freedom Car
  • GLB Concrete
  • Lewis Contractors
  • PNC
  • Southway Builders
  • Whiting Turner Contracting Company
  • Zeskind’s Hardware & Millwork


  • AGM Financial Services
  • Brennan and Company Architects
  • Discern Health
  • Gant Brunnett Architects
  • GWWO Architects
  • Roland Park Place
  • SM+P Architects
  • Southway Builders
  • Terra Nova Ventures
  • Ziger/Snead

2019 Award Recipients

Project Awards

Restoration and Rehabilitation

  • 2229 Callow Avenue
  • Marburg House, 6 E. Eager Street
  • 3522 Elm Avenue
  • 2431 Eutaw Place
  • First German United Evangelical Church Conversion, 1728 Eastern Avenue
  • 218 E. Lafayette Avenue
  • 2131 E. Lombard Street
  • 1 West Mount Vernon Place (Hackerman House)
  • Preston Street Lofts, 2-4 E. Preston Street
  • Chez Hugo Bistro, 206 E. Redwood Street
  • Station Arts Homes, 325, 327, 329, 312, 316, and 318 E. Lanvale Street
  • The George Peabody Skylight Restoration, 17 E. Mount Vernon Place

Adaptive Reuse and Compatible Design

  • Carriage House Renovation & Addition (The Brown / Thaddeus Residence), 2214 W. Pratt Street
  • St. Brigid’s School & Convent Conversion, 900 S. East Avenue
  • Fleet Street Lofts, 3801 Fleet Street
  • The Fox Building, 3100 Falls Cliff Road
  • Recreation Bowling Alley Conversion, 602 N. Howard Street

Achievement Awards

Heritage Preservation

  • Car 554 Restoration at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum
  • CHAP Historic Tax Credit Program
  • Chinatown Collective
  • Enslaved at Homewood
  • Preservation in Practice Program at Morgan State University
  • Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Banners
  • Eutaw Manor and Furley Hall Signs at Herring Run Park
  • Historic Sites of Industry in the Jones Falls Valley

Looking for a good excuse to enjoy the beautiful spring weather? Get outside on our upcoming tours!

If you’re looking to get outside and enjoy springtime in the city, we have plenty of opportunities to get some fresh air on our upcoming walking tours, a bike tour through Druid Hill Park, and the latest chance to get inside the Shot Tower.

On Saturday, May 11, our Baltimore by Foot series continues in Union Square where we’re asking what H.L. Mencken might think of summer concerts and window boxes. That same day, we’re also offering our final Lexington Market tour for the spring—and it even has a few spots still open! The following Saturday, May 18, our last Baltimore by Foot tour for the season explores the history (and future) of arts and entertainment on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Early next month, on Saturday, June 8, we hope you can put a little air in your tires and ride along for The Nooks and Crannies of Druid Hill Park by Bike with our two veteran tour leaders Dr. Ralph Brown and artist Graham Coreil-Allen. We keep to a modest pace and a mostly flat grade so people of all biking abilities are welcome.

Finally, whether it rains or shines, our Monumental City Tours continue on Sunday mornings with Historic Jonestown and the Shot Tower on May 12 and Mount Vernon and the Washington Monument on May 19. These affordable tours are a great way to show off the city to visiting family and friends.

With wishes for a happy spring, I hope to see you on one (or two or more!) of our upcoming tours.