The wreckage of downtown following the Great Baltimore Fire

Warm up this winter with talks & tours on the Great Baltimore Fire and Lexington Market

After being briefly buried under snow on Sunday, we’ve all been thinking warm thoughts—but at Baltimore Heritage we’re thinking hot—like the 2500-degree fire that burned through downtown Baltimore 114 years ago next month. We hope you can join local historian Wayne Schaumburg at the cozy Garrett-Jacobs Mansion on Mount Vernon Place on Sunday, February 3 to learn more about the Great Baltimore Fire. In his talk, A Hot Time in the Old Town, Wayne will share how hot the fire burned (yes, up to 2500 degrees) and how the event fundamentally shaped the Baltimore we know today.

Mosaic sign reading Lexington MarketOn Saturday, February 9, we are excited to bring back our monthly tours of Lexington Market showcasing historic vendors and exploring the catacombs below the west building. Lexington Market boasts three legacy businesses that have been around for a hundred years or more: Faidley’s Seafood, Konstant’s Candies and Peanuts, and Mary Mervis Delicatessen. Throughout the year, you can expect more tours of legacy business as part of our effort to document and highlight the city’s long-lasting and well-loved business institutions.

Finally, I want to say a very sincere thank you to everybody who joined or renewed their membership in 2018. Nearly two hundred people joined or renewed their membership in the last two weeks of December, bringing our total to nearly seven hundred supporters for the year. We’ve said it before, but we never get tired of repeating it—we are a small organization and your gifts make all of our work possible. Thank you!

Preservation commission hears demolition plan for former Martick’s Restaurant

Martick’s Restaurant Francais on Mulberry Street is a place of fond memories where Baltimore enjoyed fine food, lively music, and art for nearly a century. After a decade of vacancy, the former restaurant is now threatened by a new development project.

While the developer, the Vituvius Development Company, has proposed reusing some buildings on the block, they are seeking to tear down Martick’s citing the difficulty of reusing the deteriorated structure. Yesterday afternoon, Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) voted unanimously to recognize the buildings importance to the local historic district—but the building may still be at risk.

The once-famous restaurant started in 1917 as a small grocery store established by Harry and Florence Martick, both Jewish Polish immigrants. The Federal style corner building is even older—dating back to at least 1852—and the Martick family continued to live above the shop raising a family of five children. Following the end of Prohibition, the store (which may have already been operating as an illegal speakeasy) turned into a bar later known as Martick’s Tyson Street Tavern. After Harry’s death in the  the 1940s, Florence’s five children pitched in to keep the business going. Morris Martick turned the family bar into a unique institution reportedly attracting what journalist Alan Feiler called “a mix of artists, musicians, journalists, working Joes and assorted self-styled bohemians, beats and hipsters” in the 1940s and 1950s.

Dining room at Martick’s, 2000 November. Photo by James W. Rosenthal (Library of Congress/HABS).

But, by the 1960s, Morris Martrick was ready for a change. After a failed run for state legislature, Morris traveled to France where he studied French cooking and attracted a chef. Returning to Baltimore, he renovated and re-opened the bar as Martick’s Restaurant Francais in 1970. The restaurant’s reputation grew, eventually attracting celebrity guests that include Baltimore-born filmmaker John Waters, actor Nicolas Cage and actress Barbara Hershey. The restaurant closed in 2008 and Morris Martrick passed away in 2011 at eighty-eight years old.

Regrettably, the building has sat vacant ever since the restaurant closed. After a proposal for redeveloping the building fell through last year, the property sold to Vituvius Development Company that has submitted a plan for the development of the entire block for a six-story apartment building with storefronts on the first floor and about one hundred apartments on the upper stories. While the proposal preserves and incorporates the historic buildings along Park Avenue, as well as a BG&E substation on the site, the developer is seeking the demolition of Martick’s as part of their plan. The adjoining parking lot was already torn down late last year in anticipation of the project.

Demolition of parking garage next to Martick’s. Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2018 December 5.

CHAP’s vote yesterday afternoon is the first step of a two-step process for property owners seeking to tear down buildings inside local historic districts. The developer could reconsider their plan and find a way to incorporate Martick’s into their proposal—or return to CHAP in the next few months to ask the commission to allow demolition under a “financial hardship” provision. As Ed Gunts reported in the Baltimore Fishbowl, the developer has cited concerns about the feasibility of redevelopment due to the “immense deterioration of the structure” over the past decade.

Baltimore Heritage is urging the developer to recognize Martick’s Restaurant Francais as a unique local landmark and reconsider their plans for demolition. We welcome new investment in long vacant buildings around Market Center but we also believe redevelopment can benefit from reusing historic buildings wherever possible.

You can join us in supporting the preservation of the former Martick’s Restaurant by emailing Stacy Montgomery, CHAP planner, at stacy.montgomery@baltimorecity.gov to share your support for the building’s preservation.

Courtroom with rich mahogany wood and finely painted walls and ceiling.

Wrapping Up the Holidays with Tours and Talks

As we head into December, all of us at Baltimore Heritage want to wish you a happy holiday season. We also hope you can join us on our final tours and talks of 2018. What better December treat than to take a loved on a heritage tour?

In what has now become a December tradition for us, we’ve lined up a great tour for everyone who stays in town between Christmas and the beginning of the new year. On Thursday, December 27, we’re heading to the Museum of Baltimore Legal History in what has been called the most beautiful courtroom in Maryland, the former Orphan Court of Baltimore City in the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse. Take advantage the the light traffic downtown and join us for a walk through this hidden gem!

If you haven’t come along already, don’t miss the year’s final Lexington Market Catacombs tour this Saturday, December 8, 2018. And this Sunday afternoon the voice of WYPR’s Your Maryland, Ric Cottom, will share stories from his book: Little-Known Histories from the Shores of the Chesapeake to the Foothills of the Allegheny Mountains.

Finally, if you haven’t yet renewed your membership with Baltimore Heritage, we are still looking for your support. With discounts on tours and talks for the coming year, becoming a member is a great way to explore Baltimore throughout the year. Membership gifts make fabulous holiday presents as well!

Renew your support for Baltimore Heritage in 2018

It’s the time of year when we both give thanks and look forward to the year ahead. It is also the time of year when we ask you to renew your membership support for Baltimore Heritage.

We at Baltimore Heritage have a lot to be thankful for—starting with the kind volunteers who lead our tours, research and write about historic places for Explore Baltimore Heritage, join us in fighting for threatened historic landmarks, and so much more. You make our work possible.

Archaeological investigation at the Sellers Mansion, July 28, 2018.

We also are thankful that the future is looking brighter for the Sellers Mansion in West Baltimore’s Lafayette Square neighborhood. This past summer, we helped organize a group of volunteer archaeologists and excavated the yard of this 1868 house. Our team identified the remains of a historic nursery building and found artifacts from the Sellers’ family occupation. Most importantly, the dig fulfilled one of the city’s requirements before stabilization work on the building could begin. After more than twenty years advocating for the preservation of this grand structure, we are excited to see the project being moving forward. The rehabilitation cannot come soon enough!

Sam Smith Monument
Sam Smith Monument, 2013. Courtesy CHAP.

We’d also like to say thanks to our new partners: the Adopt-a-Monument Partnership Fund. This program, now twenty-five years old, matches donors with public sculptures in Baltimore to raise funds for their maintenance and preservation. With thousands of dollars raised every year, the program has helped dozens of sculptures including the Peace Monument in Mount Vernon, On the Trail in Clifton Park, and the Sam Smith statue in Federal Hill. We look forward to both being the fiscal sponsor for this great project and helping it expand to help even more public art in Baltimore.

Behind the Scenes tour at Fashions Unlimited, June 26, 2018.

As we look forward to year ahead, we know that it will be full of new tours in our Heritage Tour Series (two hundred different sites and counting!), as well as work to help threatened historic squares and neighborhoods as they revitalize. Thank you again for your past support and for renewing your Baltimore Heritage membership. We can’t do it without you!

All people are welcome in our community

We at Baltimore Heritage are deeply saddened by the recent racist and anti-Semitic attacks in Kentucky and Pittsburgh, and we stand in solidarity with those most impacted by last week’s horrific attacks. As we work to build community around historic places here in Baltimore, we want to affirm that people of all backgrounds and identities are welcome at Baltimore Heritage events and continue to ensure that our programs celebrate the diversity of people and cultures that make our city’s heritage so rich.

We also hope that you can continue to come out for this fall’s tours and talks to spend time with neighbors learning about our shared past—and helping us all grow together.

Join us for tours exploring immigration, horseradish, and Mount Vernon pride

Our next tour is this Saturday November 3, and we are exploring hundreds of years of immigration into Baltimore by biking (and sampling!) at a number of East Baltimore bakeries and delis. The next day, we hope to see you at the talk by historian Jack Burkert on the city’s early industry: Iron, Oysters and Railroads: Baltimore Enters the Industrial Age.

Leon’s of Baltimore. Baltimore Heritage (CC0)

The following week, we’ve got more great events celebrating the city’s history and diversity. If you’ve ever wondered how Baltimore’s Tulkoffs horseradish factory makes its divinely spicy sauces, join us for a tour on Friday November 9: Tulkoff Factory Tour: Making Horseradish in Baltimore for Three Generations. And on Saturday, November 10, we will explore LGBT heritage with Mount Vernon Pride: LGBTQ Heritage Walking Tour. Did you know that some of Baltimore’s LGBTQ pioneers helped launch the Johns Hopkins Medical School, helped make Mt. Vernon Place the gem that it is today, and helped create one of the greatest collections of Impressionist artwork in the country at the Baltimore Museum of Art?

We wish you a healthy and happy fall and we hope you can join us soon.