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A gothic stone church seen from the roof of a building across the street.

Explore the stories of the people (and landmarks) from Baltimore’s Civil Rights movement Please share your comments on the first draft of our local Civil Rights heritage study

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.

A black man in uniform and a black woman wearing a dress and bonnet sitting for a portrait with their two daughters on each side.
Unidentified African American soldier in Union uniform with wife and two daughters, c. 1863-1865. Library of Congress.

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 info@baltimoreheritage.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.

A crowd of African American people looking towards a stage set up in front of a large modern office building.
Charles Plaza during the first Afro-American (AFRAM) Exposition, August 7-8, 1976. Special Collections, Langsdale Library, University of Baltimore, rbcae76n0705 (CC BY-NC-ND).
The words "Everyday Utopias" above a photo of the ladder at the edge of the former Pool No. 2 (now filled in and covered with grass)

Closing Reception! Everyday Utopias: Druid Hill Park Exhibition Exhumes the Promises of a Once-Segregated Pool

Come out for the closing reception of Everyday Utopias at Pool No. 2 in Druid Hill Park! The reception features a performance by Fluid Movement at 5:00 pm; an artist talk and poolside discussion at 6:00 pm and a film projection of photos from Henry Phillips, Sr. narrated by Irv Phillips, Jr. beginning at 7:45 pm.

Pool No. 2 (1921-1956) operated as a segregated pool in the historically black section of Baltimore’s Druid Hill Park. From the initial campaign to construct the city’s first public pool for black people to the resolute activism that led to its eventual closure, Pool No. 2 reflects the quotidian pragmatism of an “everyday utopia”—a term coined specifically to define those creative practices that we engage in daily to find new and better ways to improve our lives and the world around us.

Everyday Utopias invites viewers to consider the promise of both real and imagined aspects of civic participation as they navigate their way through physical structures and spiritual spaces of the pool’s remains. Pool No.2 was a local flashpoint for the discourse on race that was happening nationally in American society during the mid-1950s and is a physical reminder that the failures and struggles of our efforts at civic repair are just as important as the successes.

Sheena M. Morrison, MFA Candidate in MICA’s Curatorial Practice Program, brings together eleven contemporary artists who respond to the palpable history of Pool No. 2 with imaginative wit, humor, and compassion. Artists in the exhibition: Billy Colbert, Sutton Demlong, Andrew Keiper, Fluid Movement, Tiffany Jones, Lauren R. Lyde, Antonio McAfee, Kameelah Rasheed, Edward-Victor Sanchez, Michael Trueblood and MacArthur Genius Fellow Joyce J. Scott.

The words "Everyday Utopias" above a photo of the ladder at the edge of the former Pool No. 2 (now filled in and covered with grass)

Everyday Utopias: Druid Hill Park Exhibition Exhumes the Promises of a Once-Segregated Pool

Please join Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) MFA program in Curatorial Practice and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks for the opening reception of Everyday Utopias, a public art installation at Pool No. 2 in Druid Hill Park. Everyday Utopias invites viewers to consider the promise of both real and imagined aspects of civic participation as they navigate their way through physical structures and spiritual spaces of the pool’s remains.

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1232 Druid Hill Avenue is saved from demolition… for now Help us push to protect the King/Briscoe House and Baltimore's Civil Rights heritage

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.

1232 Druid Hill Avenue, 2016 January 15
1232 Druid Hill Avenue, 2016 January 15

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 eric.costello@baltimorecity.gov.

1200 block of Druid Hill Avenue, 2016 January 15
1200 block of Druid Hill Avenue, 2016 January 15

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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Show up to support the preservation of 1232 Druid Hill Avenue Help us save the historic King/Briscoe House in Upton's Marble Hill

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 eric.holcomb@baltimorecity.gov.

1232-1234 Druid Hill Avenue
1232-1234 Druid Hill Avenue

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 contractors 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 Brew reported 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.

Druid Hill Avenue, 1869. Courtesy Library of Congress
Druid Hill Avenue, 1869. Courtesy Library of Congress

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 pousson@baltimoreheritage.org.