Baltimore’s West Side Story Revisited

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.

Baltimore’s West Side Story from Baltimore Heritage on Vimeo.

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.

One comment

  1. Gayle says:

    Just stumbled onto this..
    I am quite familiar with this documentary as I was working at The Senator Theatre at the time of the screenings of this incredible film. I was also there the night that the Senaotr’s (now former owner) was instructed to pull the film from the screen ASAP! He was threatened by the powers that be for screening Baltimore’s West Side Story and as a result, the 10 or so years following have been a real life horror for Mr. Kiefaber and all of us to tried to preserve The Senator. The threats he recieved have now come to fruition…

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