Author: Eli

Eli Pousson started as a Field Officer at Baltimore Heritage in partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation in October 2009. Prior to moving to Baltimore, Eli worked for the DC Office of Historic Preservation and completed graduate work in anthropology and historic preservation at the University of Maryland College Park. Eli continues to work with the Lakeland Community Heritage Project and other heritage organizations in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Francis Scott Key Monument splashed with red paint and spray painted with the words “Racist Anthem” Graffiti on Eutaw Place sculpture highlights Key's history as a slaveholder

This morning, we learned that the Francis Scott Key Monument at Eutaw Place was splashed with red paint over night and the stone pedestal at the center of the monument was spray painted with the words “Racist Anthem.” The monument by French sculptor Marius Jean Antonin Mercié shows Key standing in a marble rowboat next to a seated bronze sailor. The statue was dedicated on May 15, 1911, and restored in 1999 after a major fundraising campaign by local residents. You can see more photographs of the Key Monument and the graffiti in our Flickr album.

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2017 September 13.

The spray painted graffiti on the east side of the stone curb surrounding the monument fountain included “Blood on his hands,” “Racist Anthem,” “Fuck FSK,” and “Hater U Just Mad.” On the pavement in front of the monument was written “Slave Owner” and one of the lesser-known stanzas that make up Key’s Star-Spangled Banner:

“No refuge could save, Hireling or slave,
From terror of flight, Or gloom of grave”

The words are a reference to the black men who escaped from slavery in Maryland and Virginia to join the British in their fight against the United States government during the War of 1812. Francis Scott Key’s legacy as a slave holder was the subject of a 2016 post from Smithsonian Magazine and a 2014 biography. As a member of the Maryland State Colonization Society, Key also promoted the removal of free black people from Maryland to a colony in present-day Liberia.

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2017 September 13.

The Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks was notified about the condition of the monument early this morning and reached out to the Baltimore City Police Department, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation, and other city agencies to file a police report and consider next steps. We have also reached out to the Bolton Hill Architectural Review Committee to alert neighbors to the situation and to help monitor the monument. CHAP and city agencies are working to have the paint and graffiti removed by an art conservator as quickly as possible.

Read more about the Key Monument

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2017 September 13.
A gothic stone church seen from the roof of a building across the street.

Explore the stories of the people (and landmarks) from Baltimore’s Civil Rights movement Please share your comments on the first draft of our local Civil Rights heritage study

Earlier this summer, we completed the first draft of our context study on Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage. We’ve been working on this project for two years, together with the Maryland Historical Trust and Baltimore National Heritage Area, with funding from the National Park Service, Preservation Maryland, and PNC Foundation. The completed draft covers nearly 150 years of history, politics, activism, and change from 1831 to 1976. This fall, we’re asking you to take a look and share your reactions, comments, and suggestions!

At the beginning of the project in 2015, we created a website where we could share all of our research materials and writing online. By making our research accessible online to students, educators, historians, and activists, we hope to encourage more people to learn about the history of the Civil Rights movement in Baltimore and to preserve the historic places that help tell stories from the movement. We’re using a Creative Commons license for all of our writing and using GitHub (a popular platform for open source projects) to publish the website. Our goal is to make it easier to people to reuse or help improve the resources we’re making for this project.

A black man in uniform and a black woman wearing a dress and bonnet sitting for a portrait with their two daughters on each side.
Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters, c. 1863-1865. Library of Congress.

Where can you find the context study? You can read all six sections of the context study on our website beginning with the overview or you can download a PDF that compiles all six sections into a single document. But you can also browse a map and database of over 350 related sites, buildings, and landscapes we’ve identified during our research. We put together a new tour on Explore Baltimore Heritage, that you can use to find and see a few of these places for yourself. Finally, our timeline of events is an easy way to learn how local events responded to events affecting the Civil Rights movement in Maryland and the United States.

We welcome your comments on anything big or small. Did our study miss an important place or person? Do you think we have part of the history wrong? Did we cover the most relevant themes for each period? You can send us your comments by email to info@baltimoreheritage.org or by using our project feedback form. We also have a separate form if you want to suggest adding a place to our inventory.

A crowd of African American people looking towards a stage set up in front of a large modern office building.
Charles Plaza during the first Afro-American (AFRAM) Exposition, August 7-8, 1976. Special Collections, Langsdale Library, University of Baltimore, rbcae76n0705 (CC BY-NC-ND).

Five and Dime Historic District moves forward after Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation approval Two new districts protect historic buildings in the Market Center area

Baltimore Heritage has advocated for preserving buildings in the Market Center historic district on the west side of downtown for almost twenty years. Six years ago, our campaign for the preservation of Read’s Drug Store (and the threatened five-and-dime stores along the 200 block of W. Lexington Street) helped to bring the history of the proposed Five and Dime historic district to broader public attention and won the stores a temporary reprieve from demolition.

Last week, we testified to support a proposal by the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation to designate a new local historic district granting the stores, banks, and offices along Lexington, Howard, Liberty and Fayette Streets the lasting protection they deserve. Fortunately, the commission voted to approve the designation and the proposal will continue for a hearing before the City Council before it can be officially designated later this year. The Five and Dime district is one of two new historic districts coming to the area after CHAP approved the new Howard Street district at their hearing on July 11.

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2017 May 9.

We believe that these local district designations will offer a clear, consistent, and predictable design review framework for existing property owners and potential investors. In a welcome change from their position six years ago, the Baltimore Development Corporation is actively supporting the preservation of the city-owned buildings in the Market Center area through stabilization work and new preservation requirements for developers responding to requests for proposals. The districts will also be a tool to protect privately owned buildings from demolition or inappropriate changes.

Courtesy Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

The buildings within the new districts are important not just for their architecture but also for the stories of the everyday people who worked and shopped in these buildings: from humble retail clerks to bank executives to student protestors. Preserving the stories of these people is important to the civic identity and memory of Baltimore’s residents, the success of heritage tourism in Baltimore City, and the continued development of the Market Center area.

A four-story tall red brick building with arched windows.
Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2017 June 28.

For more information on the history and architecture of the two proposed districts, you can download the CHAP staff report for the Five and Dime Historic District or the report for the Howard Street Historic District. You may also enjoy this look at the history of Lexington Street as the “city’s busiest shopping area” column by Jacques Kelly in the Baltimore Sun.

A green-tinted photograph of a large stone house with overlaid white text reading: "Orianda House at the Crimea Estate"

New tours of the Orianda House, H.L. Mencken House, and more Check out our Jonestown and the Shot Tower tour this Sunday, August 6

After a quiet July, we are back with new tours of historic places all across the city! On August 24, we’re returning to the grand Orianda House at the former Crimea Estate in Gwynns Falls Park. Then, on September 12, we’re celebrating the birthday of Baltimore’s own H.L. Mencken with a tour of his beloved Hollins Street rowhouse.

If you have any visitors in town this summer (or you feel like being a tourist in your own backyard), be sure to check out one of our upcoming Monumental City tours of Jonestown and the Shot Tower this Sunday, August 6, downtown landmarks on August 13, the Washington Monument on August 20, and the Patterson Park Pagoda on August 27. Of course, Lexington Market is open for visitors and local shoppers all year round but you can enjoy a special treat by exploring the market “catacombs” with our latest market tour on September 9.

Finally, you can get outside the city on September 30 as our friends at Preservation Maryland share how historic Ellicott City is recovering from last year’s devastating flood. We hope you are having a wonderful summer and we look forward to seeing you on a tour soon!

Project CORE shares plan for the demolition of 149 vacant buildings in 2017 Share your comments on proposed demolitions in West and East Baltimore

The Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) recently shared their plans to demolish a second round of vacant buildings under the Project CORE program. Since Project CORE (short for Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise) began last January, the program has supported the demolition around three hundred and seventy-five properties and granted around sixteen million in funding for community development projects. We may not find a new use for every vacant building in Baltimore but we want you to know what buildings Project CORE is tearing down and how can you share your comments.

613 S. Monroe Street, Baltimore

In the second year of Project CORE (known as Phase II), the state and Baltimore City are seeking to demolish one hundred and forty-nine buildings (grouped into thirty-eight “demolition clusters”). You can browse the list of demolition clusters in our open Google Sheet or with our interactive map. You can also see photographs of each demolition cluster on Flickr. You can compare this year’s properties to the list we shared last April before the first round of demolition.

1138 Mosher Street, Baltimore

If you look at our sheet, you can see demolition clusters in fifteen different neighborhoods. The largest number of clusters are in West Baltimore neighborhoods including Sandtown-Winchester, Upton, and Harlem Park (all part of the Old West Baltimore Historic District). In East Baltimore, affected neighborhoods include Broadway East, East Baltimore Midway, and Johnston Square. The vacant buildings are a mix of different ages, styles, and sizes. They include the one remaining building from the Alma Manufacturing Company; small, two-story alley houses on Mosher Street; early worker cottages on Lanvale Street; a distressed shingle-sided home in Arlington; and an unusual brick house on Franklintown Road.

78-84 S. Franklintown Road, Baltimore

Although DHCD administers Project CORE, Baltimore Housing selected these demolition clusters for the state. Last year, Baltimore Housing staff met with community groups and shared possible demolition clusters with residents. They also worked with the Baltimore City Department of Planning to collect feedback from residents on their priorities for demolition and community greening as part of the city’s new Green Network Plan.

The state’s preservation review process (commonly known as “Section 106”) gives Baltimore residents, preservation advocates, and community groups another opportunity to share comments or concerns on the proposed demolitions before the state can award funding to demolition contractors.

If you lead community organization affected by this program, we hope you can share any comments with DHCD by contacting Melissa Archer, Project Manager at melissa.archer2@maryland.gov.

We also want to hear your thoughts on Project CORE and these buildings. If we can find a new use for a vacant building, we might be able to avoid a demolition. Your feedback helps us continue to push for reinvestment in historic communities. You can share comments online or contact our director Johns Hopkins at hopkins@baltimoreheritage.org or 410-332-9992.

Finally, we want you to take a look at our new online resource for residents dealing with vacant buildings: Vacant Buildings 101. We are working with the Community Law Center to host workshops and publish an online guide to taking action on vacant buildings in your neighborhood. This program is supported by funding from Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust through the Heritage Fund. Please take a look, share your comments, or sign up to join us at our next Vacant Buildings 101 workshop on March 25.

2858–2860 W. Lanvale Street, Baltimore, 21216