After a year of input from Baltimore residents and our continued work through the Section 106 preservation review process, we are seeing real changes to the B&P Tunnel Project. Two public meetings this month are an opportunity for you to get an update on the project including new alternatives for the ventilation plant sited for Reservoir Hill.
Last month, the Maryland Department of Corrections (MDC) released their preliminary plan for the demolition of the Baltimore City Detention Center. Governor Larry Hogan announced the immediate closure Baltimore jail last July following years of concerns and controversy over conditions for inmates and corrections officers. MDC is now seeking to tear down several significant historic buildings including the 157-year-old Warden’s House and the west wing of the iconic Maryland Penitentiary whose turrets have stood out in the Baltimore skyline since the early 1890s. If the Maryland General Assembly funds the project, estimated to cost $482 million, MDC hopes to start design work in July 2016 and start demolition in March 2017.
We recognize the urgent need to fix the long-standing issues at the facility but we believe both the Warden’s House and Maryland Penitentiary building can be reused by the Maryland Department of Corrections or partner organizations. Baltimore Heritage is opposed to the current plan to tear down these significant buildings and we are committed to seeking alternatives to demolition.
The Baltimore Jail is a complex of buildings occupying the block between Madison and Eager Streets just east of the Jones Falls Expressway. In addition to the Warden’s House on East Madison Street and the west wing of the Maryland Penitentiary on East Eager Street, the demolition proposal also includes tearing down the Men and Women’s Detention Center Buildings completed in 1967, and a historic laundry, school, and power plant all dating back to the 19th century.
Warden’s House (1855-1859)
Known to many simply as the “Castle”, the Warden’s House won recognition for its unique Gothic design when it was designated a Baltimore City landmark in 1986. Despite the designation, state agencies like the Maryland Department of Corrections are not bound by local protections for landmark structures. Noted as the work of local architects James and Thomas Dixon, the Warden’s House is perhaps even more important as a reminder of Baltimore’s antebellum history of slavery.
From 1859 to 1864, the Baltimore Jail was used to hold hundreds of “runaways” along with Marylanders, both white and black, who assisted enslaved people as they fled to freedom. At the time, a number of private slave jails operated around the Baltimore Harbor but none of those buildings have survived through the present. Today, the Warden’s House is a rare physical reminder of how the slave trade and resistance to slavery dominated Baltimore’s civic life.
Maryland Penitentiary (1897)
The Maryland Penitentiary on Eager Street is remarkable in other ways. Completed in 1897, as part of a prison reform building boom, the building was designed by architect Jackson C. Gott. Gott served as one of eight founding members of Baltimore’s chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1870. He designed the Masonic Temple and Eastern Pumping Station in Baltimore, as well as Western Maryland College (now McDaniel College) in Westminster. For the Penitentiary, Gott’s Romanesque Revival design and his choice of heavy Port Deposit granite created a landmark whose appearance truly reflects its somber purpose.
MDC cited structural concerns in their proposal to demolish the west wing of this structure but, based on our recent site tour, the issues only affect the interior metal structure that makes up the cells. State officials acknowledged that they have not seen any structural issues with the exterior stone walls.
What happens next?
State law requires the Maryland Department of Corrections to participate in a preservation review process administered by the Maryland Historical Trust. Baltimore Heritage, along with Preservation Maryland, is working through the review process to seek a revised proposal that preserves these important landmarks. We want to hear your comments, questions and concerns. Please get in touch or sign up below for updates as we continue work on this issue throughout the year.
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The Herring Run Park archaeology project is back for a second year of field work at site of Eutaw Manor from Saturday, April 23 to Sunday, April 30. If you want to join the dig as a volunteer, you do not need any previous experience with archaeology. Please go sign up online today to pick the dates that work best for you. You can expect to hear back from the project team within the next two weeks with more details on the spring schedule.
Local archaeologists (and northeast Baltimore residents) Jason Shellenhamer and Lisa Kraus started the search for remains of the former country estate in Herring Run Park back in 2014. Last spring, Jason and Lisa worked in partnership with Baltimore Heritage and the Northeast Baltimore History Roundtable on a week-long dig that brought dozens of volunteers and over a hundred visitors to Herring Run Park to learn about the history of the site and join in the hands-on search for Baltimore history. You can read their Field Notes from Herring Run chronicling the exciting finds on our blog.
This year, you can follow the dig on the dedicated Herring Run Park Archaeology project website and Facebook page. You can also buy a 2016 field season t-shirt to show off your support for the dig and help raise funds for equipment, supplies and outreach materials.
Sign up for updates on Herring Run Archaeology
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If you are interested in bringing a school group to the site for an hour-long field educational field trip, please contact Jason and Lisa by email herringrunarchaeology@ We are also planning a community open house on April 30 where anyone interested in the project is welcome to come out and learn more about the dig. .
For the past two years, Baltimore Housing has worked to find developers for unique vacant properties through their Vacants to Value Surplus Sale. In 2015, Baltimore Housing listed 18 properties for development including historic school buildings, firehouses, and rowhouses located in neighborhoods across the city.
Earlier this week, we learned that the city has issued awards for seven properties including the former Druid Health Center/Home of the Friendless in Marble Hill and the Upton Mansion. In a press release, Deputy Commissioner of Land Resources Julia Day praised the variety and care the city saw from the selected developers: “From rental and market rate housing projects to a music & arts complex for youth and studio space aimed at Baltimore’s budding music scene – the applications were well thought out and sure to enhance our City assets.”
There is plenty of work ahead for the developers putting these vacant historic buildings back into use but the announcement is still encouraging news. The properties and developers include:
- 2200 block of E. Biddle Street awarded to Cross Street Partners, City Life Builders, and Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity (seven row houses in the Middle East neighborhood)
- 1401 E. Biddle Street awarded to Redbrick LMD (a former charter school connected to the Madison Square Recreation Center in the Gay Street neighborhood)
- 1313 Druid Hill Avenue awarded to The Aziz Group (the former Home of the Friendless/Druid Health Center in Upton)
- 24 N. High Street awarded to Leon & Dorothy Wigglesworth (a commercial storefront in the Jonestown neighborhood)
- 811 W. Lanvale Street awarded to C & A, Inc. (the former Upton Mansion in the Upton neighborhood)
Baltimore Housing is encouraging developers interested in any of the remaining 2015 surplus properties to send in an unsolicited bid by March 31, 2016. These remaining properties include:
- 800 block of Edmondson Avenue
- 800 block of Harlem Avenue
- 3101 Presbury Street
- 4701 Yellowwood Road
- 4800 block of Pimlico Road
- 5002 Frederick Avenue
- 5837 Belair Road
- 707-713 E. 34th Street
- 1315–1327 Division Street (Former Public School 103)
- 1500-1600 blocks of Edmondson Avenue
- 1749-1757 Gorsuch Avenue (Former Engine Company No. 33)
- 2950-2966 Mosher Street
You can find more information about any of these properties from Vacants to Value or contact Baltimore Housing at 410-396-4111. To help encourage the development of these buildings, we created a new map highlighting auctions, real estate listings, and development opportunities in Baltimore City. Please take a look at the opportunity map and get in touch with your thoughts on how we can keep improving this new resource.
On January 12, the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) voted unanimously to add the George W. King/Abraham Briscoe House at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue to the city’s historic potential landmark list. Baltimore Heritage worked closely with the Marble Hill Community Association to prepare the landmark nomination. CHAP clearly saw how important it is to save places tied to Baltimore’s African American and Civil Rights heritage—especially after tragic loss of the Freedom House at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue this past fall. The experiences of Abraham Briscoe and the generations of Baltimoreans who lived at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue reflects the history of the Great Migration, racial segregation and the Civil Rights movement in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Fortunately, potential landmark designation protects 1232 Druid Hill Avenue from demolition for the next six months. But because this is only a potential landmark nomination, these protections run out in July unless the Baltimore City Council takes action first. If a member of the City Council introduces an ordinance to list the property as a full city landmark before July, the protections are immediately extended for another eighteen months. If the City Council votes to approve the ordinance and the Mayor signs it into law before the end of that period, the city gives 1232 Druid Hill Avenue landmark status forever.
Last week, we reached out to Councilman Eric Costello (who represents the Upton neighborhood as part of the 11th District) to ask him to join us in protecting this landmark and introduce a landmark designation ordinance. If you are resident of the 11th District, we urge you to reach out to Councilman Costello and share your own support for preserving 1232 Druid Hill Avenue by emailing email@example.com.
Saving 1232 Druid Hill Avenue from demolition is an important step forward in our efforts to preserve Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage. We are interested in working with Bethel AME Church to see 1232 Druid Hill Avenue redeveloped for use as a home or community space. We are working residents to expand the Marble Hill Historic District and protect other properties at the edges of the district. We are supporting neighborhood activists fighting for the stabilization of the Harry S. Cummings House at 1318 Druid Hill Avenue. Please subscribe for updates on Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage for ongoing updates on these efforts and share your own thoughts in the comments.
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