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.
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.
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.
Last night at Mayor Pugh’s direction, Baltimore’s three public Confederate monuments and the monument of Justice Roger B. Taney were taken down and placed in storage. The city’s action comes after a series of meetings, public discussions, and protests that began in June 2015 when people in Baltimore and across the country called for the removal of Confederate monuments and former Mayor Rawlings-Blake created a special commission to study Baltimore’s four statues. More recently, this past Sunday, over a thousand people gathered at the Lee-Jackson Monument for a rally to show solidarity with Charlottesville and to call on the city to take down the monuments. And on Monday, the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously to support a resolution by Councilman Brandon Scott to remove all four of the statues. The Mayor’s decision to remove the monuments last night also came after Baltimore BLOC announced a plan to take down the Lee-Jackson Statue through direct action, following the example set by protesters in Durham, North Carolina.
In 2015, Baltimore Heritage supported the public review of these monuments by presenting testimony and publishing a report on the history of Confederate memory. In our research, we reported how “Lost Cause” monuments to the Confederacy were built as a part of a national movement to support white supremacy beginning after the Civil War. The report also chronicled how the monuments sparked opposition and controversy at the time they were erected. For example, in 1888, a Confederate veteran opposing the erection of a Confederate monument on Eutaw Place wrote: “I am unwilling to see erected in the public streets of this city a monument to a dead idea.” In 1948, the Afro-American newspaper criticized the mayor and governor for participating in the dedication of the Lee-Jackson Monument calling the men it depicted rebels “who walked roughshod over humble people in an attempt to build a State on the foundation of slave labor.”
Today, the four monuments are gone from their pedestals. We join many other Baltimoreans in looking forward to and participating in what comes next. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has called on communities to act in a transparent, deliberative, and inclusive way in dealing with their Confederate monuments. We agree. Just as the removal of the monuments came after years of public participation, we hope the city will invite an open discussion on what happens next at these sites.
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!
We’re enjoying a hot start to summer but before it gets really hot we’re squeezing in a few tours that combine Baltimore’s great heritage with a little outdoor activity. Tomorrow, June 24, we’re taking a walk through Baltimore’s LGBT heritage with our Charles Village Pride tour. On Sunday, June 25, we’re pedaling and talking our way from Cylburn Arboretum to Druid Hill Park and back again on The Enduring Value of Baltimore’s Parks: A Tour by Bike. And on Thursday, June 29 you can check out moving images with a screening of the 1981 16mm film “Memories” organized by the Greater Hampden Heritage Alliance.
If you haven’t already bought your tickets, you still have time to join us on the evening of Thursday, June 15 for our 2017 Awards Celebration. Lexington Market is kindly hosting us for an evening that includes tours of the “catacombs” under the west market, delicious food from Faidley’s, Mary Mervis and more market favorites, and a celebration of the best historic preservation work of the year. We are especially excited to congratulate this year’s award winners. The array of diverse and exceptional award-winning projects includes the rehabilitation of alley houses in East Baltimore, the Herring Run Archaeology project, and the meticulous restoration of grand rowhouses in Bolton Hill. We’ll have parking available in the surface lot next to the market, and with Light Rail and Metro Subway stops close by, there is every reason to get yourself to Lexington Market on June 15!