Baltimore Heritage is thrilled that Juneteenth is receiving more attention this year. This day commemorates when the last enslaved people received news of emancipation. In recognition of this profound holiday, we would like to share some information on Baltimore’s role in the slave-trade in the 19th century. One of our dedicated volunteers, Richard Messick, has spearheaded this research and in his guest blog below, he gives us some insight into what he has found. Thank you Richard!
I once took a tour at Hampton National Historic Site by Park Ranger Anokwale Anansesemfo called “Forced Servitude at Hampton.” The tour described the variety of labor used by the Ridgely family to operate their estate: indentured servants, prisoners of war, and the enslaved community. It was a profound and moving experience that sent me off on a research project to learn more about slavery in Baltimore.
After its incorporation in the late 18th century, the population of Baltimore grew very quickly. One of the many “trades” that grew along with the city was the sale of enslaved people. Two things contributed to this phenomenon. First, local farmers had shifted from a labor-intensive tobacco crop to the growing of cereal grains, which required less work. This caused a surplus of slave labor. Secondly, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793. This new machine could quickly and easily separate cotton fibers from their seeds. From this, the cotton industry became incredibly profitable, which caused an increase in the need for cheap and enslaved labor in the South.
The market for the sale of people that grew up in and around Maryland was extensive. From here, I began locating and mapping the places in early 19th century Baltimore where enslaved people were sold. One resource in particular, Ralph Clayton’s book, Cash for Blood: The Baltimore to New Orleans Domestic Slave Trade, was very helpful. Although many of the associated buildings no longer exist, the overall map shows the deeply interwoven relationship between the trade of human beings and our streets of Baltimore.
On behalf of all of us at Baltimore Heritage, we would like to congratulate the winners of our 2020 Historic Preservation Awards. These people and their work are saving some of Baltimore’s most important historic places and transforming our city’s neighborhoods. Thank you!
We had been planning an in-person celebration for June to recognize the winners, but are canceling it because of the coronavirus. We are still thinking through how to celebrate this year’s awardees virtually and please stay tuned for that. In the meantime, take a look at the list below and if you know any of them, please reach out and say congratulations. They deserve it.
*If you were part of an award-winning project, and you were not listed below, please let us know.
Restoration and Rehabilitation Awards:
113 West Ostend Street
Mr. Joshua Parker
Labyrinth Properties LLC
Cole Builders LLC
421 George Street
Matthew and Megan Strott
500 South Ann Street Store Front
David H. Gleason Associates
Contraction Administration Services
2318 Mount Royal Terrace
3840 Bank Street
Urban Design Group LLC
Beth Am Synagogue
Beth Am Synagogue
Alexander Design Studio
Red Sketch Landscape Architecture
Colbert, Matz Rosenfelt, Inc
Acoustical Design Collaborative, LTD
Henry Adams, LLC
CapEx Advisory Group
Clifton Mansion Dining Room
Thomas Moore Studio
Vincent Green Architects
Friends of Clifton Mansion
H.L. Mencken House and Museum
Society to Preserve H.L. Mencken’s Legacy, Inc.
Azola Building Rehab, Inc.
Baltimore National Heritage Area
Baltimore City Department of General Services
Baltimore Office of the Mayor
Washington Place Equities
Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation
P & E Engineering & Consulting, LLC
JLR Design Consultants, Inc.
Johns Hopkins University Maryland Hall Cupola
Johns Hopkins University
Adaptive Reuse and Compatible Design Awards:
Hoen & Co Lithograph
2101 East Biddle LLC
Cross Street Partners
City Life Historic Properties
1200 Architectural Engineers Pllc
Kovacs Whitney & Associates
James Posey Associates STV, Inc
Michael S. Walkley, P.A.
Froehling & Robertson, Inc
Urban Green Environmental
Betty Bird & Associates LLC
EHT Traceries Historic Preservation
Cohn Reznick LLP
Reinvestment Fund (TRF)
City First Bank
Department of Commerce
U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation
City First New Markets Fund II, LLC
National Trust Community Investment Corp
Ace Environmental Services, Inc
SHE Excavating, Inc
English Concrete, Inc
Fleet Electric Inc
Kevson Services Group
Ministry of Brewing
D.A. Drenner Concrete Construction, Inc
Quiet Floors Systems LLC
Elite Restoration of Maryland
Neuner Masonry Company Inc
Wilson Point Steel, Inc.
Majer Metal Works
L McCoy Framing Co, Inc.
North American Roofing
CNC Roofing LLC
Fullview Aluminum & Glass
Revolution Windows Systems
Tegeler Construction & Supply
Unified Door & Hardward Group, LLC
CEV Building Systems LTD
Eastwood Painting & Contracting, Inc
Polished Concrete Systems, Inc.
Livingston Fire Protection Inc.
Scaffold Resources LLC
Fidelity Mechanical Services
Benchmark Automation & Controls
J. Poist Gas Co
Special Recognition for Once-in-a-Lifetime Restoration and Rehabilitation Work:
Center for Health Care and Healthy Living at the Baltimore Hebrew Orphan Asylum
Ballard Spahr LLC
Baltimore City Health Department
Behavioral Health System of Baltimore
C.L. McCoy Framing Co.
Coppin Heights Community Development Corporation
Cross Street Partners
Waldon Studios Architects
Enoch Pratt Free Library
Enoch Pratt Free Library
Beyer Blinder Belle
Ayers Saint Gross
Sustainable Building Partners
Cerami & Associates
Baltimore Department of General Services
Heritage Preservation Awards:
Henry Holt Hopkins, for leadership in restoring the Washington Monument, Clifton Mansion, and the Clifton Gardener’s Cottage
Charlie Duff, for helping us understand Baltimore’s historic and contemporary development through his book North Atlantic Cities
Doors Open Baltimore, for helping thousands of people appreciate Baltimore’s historic places through its annual Doors Open Baltimore event
Dr. Gary Rodwell, for dedication to completing the renovation of the Baltimore Hebrew Orphan Asylum and commitment to revitalizing historic communities in West Baltimore
Douglas Gordon Lifetime Achievement Award:
David H. Gleason, FAI
David Gleason has been a preservation leader in Baltimore for over 50 years, including serving on the board of directors of Baltimore Heritage, as president of the Fell’s Point Preservation Society, as a commissioner at CHAP, as a volunteer in efforts to preserve neighborhoods like Lafayette Square and Market Center, and in countless historic restoration projects he undertook as a professional architect.
We are launching a new series called Five Minute Histories. Each day, we’ll record a short video about a different historic place in Baltimore. My on-site production crew consists of my 14 year old daughter and 15 year old son, and we are honoring Governor Hogan’s request and are doing this from home.
In the days ahead, we’ll explore Civil Rights history, mercantile history, immigration history, religious history, and a whole lot more. Although we sorely wish we could be out and about with you in person, please stay safe and check us out online each day as we try to bring a new historic site to you.
All of our core programs at Baltimore Heritage rely on volunteers to plan them, organize them, and run them. We’d like you to meet some of these great people, and so we’ve started a series called Volunteer Spotlight to share a little about those who are helping us make a difference.
Our second Volunteer Spotlight features Willy Sydnor, one of Baltimore Heritage’s longest serving volunteers. We are so grateful for her continued support and friendship!
Read the below Q&A session to get to know a little more about Willy.
Q: How did you get involved with Baltimore Heritage and how long have you volunteered with the organization?
A: I had known Johns through a friend of mine. If memory serves me correctly, I went on a 2008 tour of Silo Point, which is down in Locust Point. It was the tour that let Johns know that he needed help. Johns always says there will be about 40 people showing up, and there are usually about 80. In this case there were hundreds, literally hundreds of people. So anybody who knew Johns was helping corral people and organize things. And [after that] I got in touch with him and offered to help. And I believe I was the first volunteer. I might be wrong.
I don’t even remember what I was doing for Baltimore Heritage. Basically, at the time, we were just coming up with ideas like, “Gee, this would be fun to go see,” which is what I still do. I like to snoop and so it’s, “Where do I want to go?”
Q: How long have you lived in Baltimore?
A: I moved to Baltimore in 1968 right after the riots. I worked in Richmond (Virginia) for an advertising agency and I got offered a job in Baltimore that paid me more than I was making in Richmond. I thought I was in Fat City! I did not know anything about Baltimore, but I fell in love with it. Obviously, I have lived here longer than I lived in Richmond. I have lived in Bolton Hill, Mt. Vernon, Roland Park and Hampden.
I got a job as a temp at the company I ended up retiring from 35 years later–Samuel Shapiro and Company, Custom house broker and freight forwarder. We were the liaison between Customs, steamship companies, longshoremen, and internal freight forwarders. This was in the days just when container ships were beginning and so we were dealing with longshoremen, who were a rowdy group. It was great fun. I would go down on occasion and have lunch on ships.
One of my favorite stories: Once I was on the phone with one of the longshoremen. There were some noisy people in the background. He said, “Hang on Willy. [to the men] Shut the bleep up, I’ve got a lady on the phone!”
I fell in with wonderful people, as one does. I have yet to run into anybody who lives in Baltimore who doesn’t love it. And they love it because it is scruffy. I was so delighted to move to Baltimore and be myself. And live to talk about it.
Q: Where would you recommend new Baltimoreans go to learn about the city?
A: I have lived here for so long, I am probably a bad person to ask about that. R House [where our interview was held] is such a wonderful mix of people. I just ran into a neighbor of mine who is having a meeting a couple of booths down.
Baltimore has so much going for it. Culturally, it is amazing. I just heard that the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is going to be playing for free at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Here is an institution that is nearly going out of business trying to figure out ways of getting new audiences.
Q: Favorite Baltimore Heritage tour?
A: I loved when we went to the Pratt Central Library before the renovations because we got to go into the stacks and into the room with the rare books. That was terrific. I think two of my favorites were First & Franklin Church while it was under reconstruction and we were able climb up the scaffolding and see the work done by the original artists – and their graffiti. And of course Wayne Schaumburg’s tours of Greenmount Cemetery – he could probably do this every day and be sold out.
One of my favorite tours is the one that I am going to be lining up for us again — the Ashburton Water Treatment plant. That was fabulous. [Save the date! Baltimore Heritage will be doing a tour here on June 17 at 2 pm]
A: It has been here since 2013. It is on the Hopkins campus. It is in a new building next to the Eisenhower Library. It is called “Archaeology of Knowledge.” It is a permanent exhibit. It’s part of a large student study area, so everyone is quiet. An installation artist was given free-range of Hopkins Campus. They could go through closets, shelves, labs, attics, basements. And they collected stuff. There are three large glass display cases and then pull out shelves at the bottom. They have got things like a ladies fan made out of a parrot. Gorgeous colors from this dead bird. I cannot describe to you how bizarre. There is a collection of microscopes. There are baseball hats from Hopkins. You don’t know what’s next.
One of my favorite things is Stoop Stories. [The Stoop Storytelling Series is a Baltimore-based live show and podcast that features “ordinary” people sharing the extraordinary, true tales of their lives]. They have a series, they choose a theme — parents, relationships, workplace, whatever. They have 7 people talk for 7 minutes. They are wonderful. I’ve heard Elijah Cummings talking about desegregating the Riverside Park pool when he was a kid and white people throwing rocks. Another one, a woman went to a dirty bookstore to buy a Valentine and happened to look over to see her son! You never know what you are going to get.
Q: In one word, describe Baltimore:
A: Fabulous. Home. I am shocked that soon I will be moving to Baltimore County, but my heart is in Baltimore City.
We at Baltimore Heritage are pleased to be helping neighbors in the Woodberry community protect this wonderful 19th century mill town and we are asking for your help. The neighborhood is on the cusp of being designated an official local historic district and one of its signature historic buildings, the Tractor Building of the former Pool and Hunt Foundry and Machine Works, is in line to become a designated city landmark.
Both efforts need public support to get the green light from the Mayor and City Council. Please help us by sending an email to the local councilman, Leon Pinkett, thanking him for his past support for Woodberry and urging him to do all he can in the weeks ahead. The historic mills, workers houses, general store, and other buildings are a treasure for all of Baltimore (we believe for all of Maryland and beyond), and even if you are not in Councilman Pinkett’s district (Council District 7), contacting him will help.