Update – April 13, 2018: The March 8 auction was cancelled. The auction was rescheduled for Thursday, May 3 at 12:00 p.m.
The former Home of the Friendless, an 1870 orphanage located at 1313 Druid Hill Avenue in Upton, is up for sale in a foreclosure auction scheduled for Thursday, May 3 at 12:00 p.m. Two years ago, Baltimore Housing awarded the building to local developer AZ Group through the Vacants to Value Surplus Property Sale. Unfortunately, while the building was approved for state historic tax credits last year, the plan to convert the 13,300-square-foot building into seventeen apartments never found the financing required for rehabilitation work to begin.
With this new sale, we’re hoping the building finds a new developer that recognizes the importance of this West Baltimore landmark and find a way to bring it back to life. Learn more about the auction by Melnick Auctioneers or see photographs of the Home of the Friendless on Flickr.
Home of the Friendless Property Information:
Address: 1313 Druid Hill Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21217
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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.
Built in 1868, the three-story brick rowhouse at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue is an important reminder of the city’s rapid growth after the Civil War and the African American history of the Upton neighborhood. Please come to the public CHAP hearing on Tuesday, January 12 to support listing 1232 Druid Hill Avenue as a local landmark and protect the building from demolition. If you are unable to attend, you can share your support for the nomination by email with Eric Holcomb, Executive Director, CHAP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Continued threats to Civil Rights heritage in West Baltimore neighborhoods highlight the urgent need to preserve 1232 Druid Hill Avenue. In September 2015, Bethel A.M.E. Church received permits for limited interior demolition at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue (acquired by the church in 1981) and the neighboring 1234 Druid Hill Avenue. Regrettably, the work soon led to a roof collapse at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue and the church received a permit to demolish both buildings—despite the fact that 1232 Druid Hill Avenue remained structurally sound. As the contractor tore down the Freedom House in early November, they continued to gut 1232 Druid Hill Avenue with an clear plan to tear the building down shortly.
Fortunately, the Baltimore Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) stepped up and placed the building on their potential landmark list. The potential landmark list is a new tool for preservation in Baltimore created by the revised CHAP ordinance and replacing the controversial “special list” designation. As the Baltimore Brewreported in November, CHAP posted a notice at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue and scheduled a hearing for January 12 to hear testimony from the owner and members of the public and decide whether to add the building to CHAP’s landmark list.
1232 Druid Hill Avenue tells the story of Baltimore’s changing neighborhoods through the stories of the many families who have called this house home. We call this the King/Briscoe House to recognize two particularly important residents at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue: local printer George W. King (who lived there from 1883 to 1898) and African American wagon driver Abraham Briscoe (who lived there with his family from 1899 to 1908). You can learn more about the history of 1232 Druid Hill Avenue with our draft landmark designation report.
If you plan to testify to support the designation next week, we urge you to read our tips for effective public testimony. The hearing starts at 1:00pm. This is the third item on the agenda so the staff presentation is likely to begin around 1:30pm. To testify, you need to sign up at the front desk for the planning department located just outside the Planning Department hearing room. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments or send me an email at email@example.com.
Last week, Bethel AME Church demolished 1234 Druid Hill Avenue, a rowhouse located just outside Upton’s Marble Hill historic district with strong connections to Baltimore’s Civil Rights movement. The demolition came as a shock to neighborhood activists who had urged city officials to investigate and protect the property when Bethel AME began work on the building in late September.
1234 Druid Hill Avenue is known to a generation of local Civil Rights activists as “Freedom House”—serving as an office to the local chapter of the NAACP, hosting meetings with Clarence Mitchell, Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, luncheons with Eleanor Roosevelt and even Martin Luther King, Jr. Known as a “mighty little organization,” Freedom House was established by the Baltimore NAACP in 1970 under the leadership of Dr. Lillie M. Jackson. By December 1977, the organization had “received many citations including the AFRO’s highest honor for its successful crusades in reducing unemployment, crime and delinquency.”
Just as importantly, 1234 Druid Hill Avenue had been the home of Harry Sythe Cummings and his family from 1899 to 1911. In 1889, Cummings graduated from the University of Maryland Law School (one of the first two black men to do so) and, in 1890, became the first African American elected to a Baltimore City Council seat.
How did Baltimore lose the Freedom House?
1234 Druid Hill Avenue and its neighbor at 1232 have been owned or controlled by Bethel AME Church for decades. In recent years, the buildings deteriorated significantly and, in July 2015, Baltimore Slumlord Watch highlighted their poor condition. Bethel AME Church responded to these issues by securing a city building permit for both buildings in late September that allowed non-structural alterations and limited demolition (e.g. removing debris, interior drywall, nonbearing walls). Unfortunately, in October the church changed their plans and received approval from the Baltimore Housing Department to demolish 1234 Druid Hill Avenue—without notifying preservation advocates or the local chapter of the NAACP.
It is currently unclear whether the demolition permit for 1234 also applies to 1232. Continuing confusion around the status of the permit for this planned demolition has been a source of frustration for concerned residents. If reports by residents are accurate, Bethel AME Church is planning to continue to demolish 1232 Druid Hill Avenue within the next few days.
What can be done to preserve Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage?
The destruction of the Freedom House on Druid Hill Avenue is a shocking wake-up call for anyone concerned about the preservation of Baltimore’s Civil Rights heritage. Persistent vacancy and demolition by neglect are destroying historic buildings that tell the important story of the Civil Rights movement in Baltimore and around the country. Please join Baltimore Heritage as we support tomorrow’s rally urging Bethel AME Church to preserve 1232 Druid Hill Avenue and fight for the protection of West Baltimore’s Civil Rights landmarks. Baltimore Heritage is asking neighborhood leaders and elected officials to support a comprehensive effort to address the deteriorating condition of the landmarks of Baltimore Civil Rights history and ensure their preservation for future generations to discover.
Learn more about our work to document and protect Civil Rights landmarks. For questions or additional information about tomorrow’s rally, please contact Louis Fields, President, African American Tourism Council of Maryland, Inc. at 443-983-7974.