Today’s Five Minute Histories video is a bit different! The historic block we are featuring on West Preston Street in Mount Vernon showcases one of the city’s grandest Victorian buildings, the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, as well as Baltimore’s very earliest switch away from Victorian architecture to a new NeoColonial style. This block was also the home of three pioneering women of science in the early 20th Century, as well as Baltimore’s mayor during the great 1904 Fire. The Greek Cathedral has begun seeking authorization to demolish five of the historic rowhouses on the block and we are sharing this video in hopes that it will help convey why we think this block and these particular rowhouses are important and should be reused rather than demolished. Watch the video here:
This is our series called “Five Minute Histories.” We record short videos about different historic places all over Baltimore and post them on our Facebook page, YouTube channel, and website.
The Mitchell Law Office in Upton is set to receive $1.75 million from Congressman Kweisi Mfume. This money will be used to transform the building, which was once the office of Maryland’s first Black woman lawyer, Juanita Jackson Mitchell, into a legal hub in West Baltimore. Rev. Al Hathaway of Beloved Community Services Corporation is spearheading this alongside his other project, the PS 103/Thurgood Marshall School restoration. Here is a link to a Baltimore Banner article that ran yesterday.
About 7 years ago, Baltimore Heritage secured $10,000 from the National Trust of Historic Preservation to stabilize the roof of the Mitchell Law Office. This was the project’s first funding and helped get the restoration going. We’ve been involved in several ways since then and will continue to help wherever we can.
The Mitchell Law Office restoration joins several other ongoing West Baltimore restoration projects including PS 103 and Upton Mansion (for the Afro American offices), along with the already-completed Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. We are very near to having a critical mass of nationally important Civil Rights sites that have been restored, all within a few blocks of each other. For several years Baltimore Heritage, Rev. Hathaway and others have been talking about how to put Baltimore on the national map as a Civil Rights heritage destination. We’re making progress!
On April 3, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott signed the legislation to create the Sarah Ann Street Local Historic District. This action will protect a critical core block of alley houses on Sarah Ann Street that have been owned by Black Baltimore families since they were built in the 1870s. Now Black Women Build will redevelop these historic homes. A big thank you and congratulations to the Eaddy family and Organize Poppleton for their sustained campaign to save these historic homes!
Today the nearly 20-year-old effort to recognize the important history and heritage in the Poppleton neighborhood took a big step forward. The Land Use Committee of Baltimore’s City Council endorsed a bill to designate Sarah Ann Street and parts of adjoining North Carrollton Street as a local historic district. The bill still has a few steps to go within City Council, and the mayor must sign off on it as well, but the recent actions are a clear victory for the residents and friends who have worked so long for this designation.
Back in 2004, Baltimore Heritage got involved in the work to prevent the Poppleton houses from being demolished. Our board member, Tom Ward, got Baltimore Heritage connected with neighbors, including activist Sonia Eaddy, who were fighting a proposed demolition project backed by the City and a developer based in New York. There have been a number of historic houses demolished over the last 18 years, including the home of one-time West Baltimore political kingmaker Boss Kelly. The recent action by the City Council will protect a critical core block of alley houses on Sarah Ann Street that have been owned by Black Baltimore families since they were built in the 1870s. Baltimore Heritage stays committed to helping the Poppleton community and will periodically share significant developments.
Yesterday, CHAP formally found that the 5 buildings on W. Preston Street that the Greek Church has proposed to demolish are intact enough to still be considered historic. This is a positive step towards finding a preservation solution.
Baltimore’s Greek community has a rich heritage that is worthy of respect and what we’re asking the church to do is do the same for the Mount Vernon community that it has been part of for 90 years.
After word spread that the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation wanted to tear down a set of 1890s rowhouses in Mount Vernon, the response from the public was forceful.
By mid-morning, 156 people had sent in letters or emails to oppose the demolition, the city’s preservation chief, Eric Holcomb, said at a hearing today.
Soon afterwards, following impassioned pleas to spare the five buildings from the wrecking ball, the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) handed opponents a key victory.
By a unanimous voice vote, they decided that the houses at 35-43 West Preston Street “contribute to the character” of the historic Mount Vernon District, an important determination the commissioners will take into account when they consider the church’s request to demolish the buildings.