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Category: Preservation

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.

Baltimore took down four Confederate monuments: what comes next?

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.”

Base of the Taney Monument at Mount Vernon Place after the statue’s removal. Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2017 August 16.

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.

Project CORE shares plan for the demolition of 149 vacant buildings in 2017 Share your comments on proposed demolitions in West and East Baltimore

The Maryland Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) recently shared their plans to demolish a second round of vacant buildings under the Project CORE program. Since Project CORE (short for Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise) began last January, the program has supported the demolition around three hundred and seventy-five properties and granted around sixteen million in funding for community development projects. We may not find a new use for every vacant building in Baltimore but we want you to know what buildings Project CORE is tearing down and how can you share your comments.

In the second year of Project CORE (known as Phase II), the state and Baltimore City are seeking to demolish one hundred and forty-nine buildings (grouped into thirty-eight “demolition clusters”). You can browse the list of demolition clusters in our open Google Sheet or with our interactive map. You can also see photographs of each demolition cluster on Flickr. You can compare this year’s properties to the list we shared last April before the first round of demolition.

If you look at our sheet, you can see demolition clusters in fifteen different neighborhoods. The largest number of clusters are in West Baltimore neighborhoods including Sandtown-Winchester, Upton, and Harlem Park (all part of the Old West Baltimore Historic District). In East Baltimore, affected neighborhoods include Broadway East, East Baltimore Midway, and Johnston Square. The vacant buildings are a mix of different ages, styles, and sizes. They include the one remaining building from the Alma Manufacturing Company; small, two-story alley houses on Mosher Street; early worker cottages on Lanvale Street; a distressed shingle-sided home in Arlington; and an unusual brick house on Franklintown Road.

Although DHCD administers Project CORE, Baltimore Housing selected these demolition clusters for the state. Last year, Baltimore Housing staff met with community groups and shared possible demolition clusters with residents. They also worked with the Baltimore City Department of Planning to collect feedback from residents on their priorities for demolition and community greening as part of the city’s new Green Network Plan.

The state’s preservation review process (commonly known as “Section 106”) gives Baltimore residents, preservation advocates, and community groups another opportunity to share comments or concerns on the proposed demolitions before the state can award funding to demolition contractors.

If you lead community organization affected by this program, we hope you can share any comments with DHCD by contacting Melissa Archer, Project Manager at melissa.archer2@maryland.gov.

We also want to hear your thoughts on Project CORE and these buildings. If we can find a new use for a vacant building, we might be able to avoid a demolition. Your feedback helps us continue to push for reinvestment in historic communities. You can share comments online or contact our director Johns Hopkins at hopkins@baltimoreheritage.org or 410-332-9992.

Finally, we want you to take a look at our new online resource for residents dealing with vacant buildings: Vacant Buildings 101. We are working with the Community Law Center to host workshops and publish an online guide to taking action on vacant buildings in your neighborhood. This program is supported by funding from Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust through the Heritage Fund. Please take a look, share your comments, or sign up to join us at our next Vacant Buildings 101 workshop on March 25.

Baltimore Immigration Museum completes work on preservation mini-grant project Door repointing and repair stops leak at museum

Last October, Baltimore Heritage held our first preservation mini-grant “Pitch Party.” We put out a call for good ideas to help preserve Baltimore’s historic places and revitalize our historic neighborhoods and then threw a party to select nominations to receive small grants. Two projects received grants of $500 and another two received grants of $250.

One of our $500 grant award winners was the Baltimore Immigration Museum, located at the Immigrant House in the Locust Point neighborhood. The museum proposed repointing and repairing masonry above the main entry door to stop a leak that was slowly rotting away the woodwork on the door. This job was important in the short term to stop the leak and an important part of the museum’s long-term goal of restoring the building.

The Museum completed the work in early January and its directors are happy to report that the repairs worked: with the masonry shored up, the leak has stopped.

Special thanks to long-time member Ms. Brigid Goody for making the preservation mini-grant program possible, as well as everybody who participated in our first pitch party last fall. In addition to the Baltimore Immigration Museum, three other projects received mini-grant funding.

  • The Herring Run Archaeology Project received $500 to purchase supplies for a spring archaeology project.
  • Taylor’s Chapel in Mount Pleasant Park received $250 as part of a fundraising campaign to stabilize frescoes in this 1850s church that likely were painted by Constantino Brumidi, the fresco artist in the U.S. Capitol building.
  • Lastly, the Market Center Merchant’s Association received $250 to bring Baltimore City public school kids who participate in the Maryland History Day competition to the Market Center Area for a tour of Civil Rights heritage sites.

Stay tuned as we provide updates on these other mini-grant awardees!

Baltimore Heritage Awards Four Micro Grants for Four Great Ideas Winners Selected at Preservation Pitch Party

A gathering of people at the newly opened Baltimore Immigration Museum awarded four micro-grants for four great preservation ideas at Baltimore Heritage’s 2016 Preservation Pitch Party.  Supporters of the projects got three minutes each to pitch their project and then the crowd determined the recipients of the awards.

Making tough choices from the eight ideas that were presented, the following ideas received funding. As an indication of how compelling the projects were and how narrow the vote was, only four votes separated the winning projects.

  • $500 for the Baltimore Immigration Museum to repair the brickwork around the front door and prevent water from coming in.
  • $500 for the Herring Run Archaeology Project to continue their archaeology efforts in 2017. The group works in Northeast Baltimore identifying and excavating previously unknown archaeological sites in Baltimore’s Herring Run Park with neighbors and community schools.
  • $250 for the Market Center Merchant’s Association to bring Baltimore City public school kids who participate in the Maryland History Day competition to the Market Center Area for a tour of Civil Rights heritage sites. This year’s History Day topic is “Taking a Stand in History.”
  • $250 for Taylor’s Chapel for a project to stabilize frescoes in this 1850s church that likely were painted by Constantino Brumidi, the fresco artist in the U.S. Capitol building.

We’ll be following these projects with updates, event announcements, and calls for volunteers as they unfold this winter and spring. Stay tuned!