Today, July 14, long-time Baltimore Heritage board member Julian “Jack” Lapides passed away. His death has saddened us in too many ways to count. And his legacy and impact on Baltimore, Maryland, and indeed the country, is also too expansive to properly capture. Nonetheless, we would humbly like to offer a tribute to Jack for his dedication to making our lives, our neighborhoods, and the world a better place by sharing a few highlights of his life’s work in his own words. Below are audio excerpts from an oral interview that fellow board members Susan Talbott and Barbara Weeks conducted with him several years ago. We hope you appreciate these short recordings for what they are: Jack sharing stories of fighting to save our heritage, fighting for civil rights, fighting always for the right path forward even against overwhelming odds, and always told with a smile and a joke in a way that only Jack could do.
Facing Urban Renewal & the Highway Fight
Beginning in the 1960s, Jack was one of the very first people to oppose a highway that would have paved over Fell’s Point and Federal Hill in East Baltimore and through Poppleton and Harlem Park in West Baltimore. He was instrumental in saving Baltimore’s waterfront and although part of the highway was built in West Baltimore, he helped block it half-way through construction and prevented even greater destruction in West Baltimore.
Saving Stirling Street (Plus Jack’s Favorite Preservation Story)
With his wife Linda, Jack convinced city officials not only to save historic Stirling Street in the Oldtown neighborhood, but to sell the houses for $1 to new owners, thus launching Baltimore’s famous Dollar House Program.
Preserving the Phipps Building On Hopkins’ Campus
While in the Maryland Senate, Jack threatened to withhold funds that Johns Hopkins Hospital sought for a new oncology center until they agreed to save the historic Phipps building. The result: a saved and restored Phipps building and a new oncology center (with state funds) built nearby.
Passing the Public Accommodations Bill, 1963
In his first year in the state legislature, Jack supported legislation that would make it illegal for owners of places like restaurants and theaters to bar African Americans entry. Jack had won his seat by beating out an incumbent who opposed this civil rights legislation, and was one of two new votes that swung the state legislature into passing the Public Accommodations law of 1963.
Starting the Maryland State Arts Council
Recognizing the importance of the arts in creating vibrant communities, Jack was one of the founding members of the Maryland State Arts Council in 1967.