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).

Do you have a good idea for a small local preservation project? Share your plan and you might win a "micro-grant" at our 2017 Pitch Party.

Do you have a good idea for how you can help preserve Baltimore’s historic places? Would a $250 or $500 help you to make it happen? Consider applying for our 2017 Preservation Pitch Party or read on to learn more about how we are giving away four micro-grants this fall.

For the next two weeks, we’ll be taking your suggestions for small preservation projects. We’ll pick the top six ideas on Friday, September 22 and help the people who proposed these promising ideas prepare to make their case. On the evening of October 3, they’ll have just three minutes to make a pitch for why they deserve one of four “micro-grants”. Then, the crowd at Whitehall Mill will have the chance to vote and award two $500 grants and two $250 grants.

We are happy to consider any application related Baltimore’s history and historic places. Eligible projects could include doing repairs at a historic neighborhood park; planning a tour of a historic neighborhood; hosting an event to celebrate Baltimore’s history; or engaging neighborhood youth around preservation and architecture.

We know the amount of the award ($250 or $500) may not be enough to complete your entire project. But we believe a little help can sometimes make a big difference. You do not need to be a designated nonprofit or other incorporated organization to apply. Individuals and informal groups are welcome.

If you have any questions, pease email me at hopkins@baltimoreheritage.org or call our office at 410-332-9992. Whether you submit a proposal or not, you are welcome to join us at Whitehall Mill on October 3; sign up online today!

Two men standing in the street; one is pointing and the other is holding a tape measure.

Upcoming heritage tours, an archaeology volunteer open house, and more fall events Join us at Whitehall Mill on October 3 for a celebratory evening

With summer in the rear view mirror, it’s time to turn to the fall when we hope you can join us on the heritage tours and events we’ve lined up in September and October.

Beginning on Saturday, September 9, we are continuing our monthly tours of Lexington Market “catacombs” and historic vendors. If you missed our Lexington Market tours in the spring, now’s your chance! That afternoon, you are welcome to get involved with the Herring Run Archaeology Project at a volunteer open house where project archaeologists will share updates on the dig and upcoming opportunities.

Thursday, September 12 marks the 137th birthday of H.L. Mencken, and we’re celebrating with a tour: “My Own Two Hands”: A Birthday Tour of the H.L. Mencken House. Our partners, the Friends of the H.L. Mencken House and the Baltimore National Heritage Area, will share the history of the building and its curmudgeonly resident, as well as plans for restoration and reopening. At the end of the month, on Saturday, September 30, we’re taking a one-hour walking tour of Ellicott City, with Preservation Maryland’s executive director Nick Redding. Nick will share a close look at the challenges and progress of the recovery one year after a devastating flood.

On Tuesday, October 3, we are saying thank you to everyone who volunteers with us, joins our heritage tours, and supports Baltimore Heritage as members, donors, and sponsors. We’re hosting an evening of thanks at Whitehall Mill with a reception, a tour of this historic former textile mill, and a chance to help us give away four micro-grants for preservation work in Baltimore. We hope you can join us for this free event and give us the chance to say thank you for all you do.

Large brick building with a sign reading "Whitehall Mill" painted on the side.
Photograph by Brian P. Miller, 2016. Courtesy Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

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.