Tag: Harlem Park

Project CORE shares plan for the demolition of 149 vacant buildings in 2017

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.

613 S. Monroe Street, Baltimore

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.

1138 Mosher Street, Baltimore

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.

78-84 S. Franklintown Road, Baltimore

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.

2858–2860 W. Lanvale Street, Baltimore, 21216

Sellers Mansion, Captain Emerson Mansion and former Odell’s Restaurant up for auction on June 9

Three significant historic buildings are up for auction next month as part of the new One House at a Time Select Auction—the Sellers Mansion at Lafayette Square, the Emerson Mansion in Reservoir Hill and the former Odell’s Restaurant on North Avenue. In contrast to the rowhouses usually listed in One House at a Time’s bi-monthly  property auctions, these buildings are much larger and better suited to a multifamily, mixed-use, or commercial use. Minimum bids for all three buildings are set at $10,000. The application asks interested bidders to explain their experience with the rehabilitation of vacant multifamily, mixed use, or commercial properties, show their ability to finance the development, and be in good standing as a property owner in Baltimore. To avoid the continued neglect, buyers are also expected to abate the vacant building notice within one year after settlement.

Learn more about these buildings and help us spread the word to help make sure that these properties are developed and preserved.

Sellers Mansion – 801 N. Arlington Avenue

Photograph by Eli Pousson, 2009 October
Sellers Mansion, 2009 October

Built in 1868, the Sellers Mansion (801 North Arlington Street) is a three-story Second Empire brick house with a mansard roof that rivaled its outer suburban contemporaries in size, quality of craftsmanship, and attention to detail.

Learn more from A.J. Billing & Co. Auctioneers.

Captain Isaac Emerson Mansion – 2500 Eutaw Place

2015 February 19
Emerson Mansion, 2015 February 19

The grand Emerson Mansion was built in 1895 by Captain Isaac Edward Emerson at 2500 Eutaw Place. Over the past twenty years, the condition of the building has deteriorated from bad to worse as broken windows have left the interior open to the weather and copper architectural elements have been stolen.

Learn more from A.J. Billing & Co. Auctioneers.

Former Odell’s Restaurant and Bar – 21 E. North Avenue

Courtesy A.J. Billing & Co. Auctioneers.
Courtesy A.J. Billing & Co. Auctioneers.

Odell Brock opened Odell’s Restaurant and Bar at this former automobile showroom on North Avenue in 1976. Brock passed away in 1985 but the club continued to operate until it closed in 1992. According to the SunOdell’s was “revered by some as the heart of house and dance music in Baltimore in the 80s.”

Learn more from A.J. Billing & Co. Auctioneers.

News: Lafayette Square shares its history

“Next Saturday’s tour of “Lafayette Square By Foot” carries an accurate secondary description: “Baltimore Thru the Ages!” This neighborhood, constructed around a public park, has ties to the Civil War, slavery, and the monied Victorians who gave way to Baltimore’s African-American upper middle class. Did I mention that jazz legend Billie Holiday once lived around the corner too?

The square itself is a fascinating, if overlooked, urban destination. On a chilly April afternoon, I observed its detached beauty. It was quiet and occupies high ground. You could observe its history in the facades of all the grand mansions. You visualize Baltimore’s 19th-century wealth one minute and the next imagine how those fortunes moved on.”

Jacques Kelly, “Lafayette Square shares its history,” The Baltimore Sun, April 11, 2015.

Join us for our Lafayette Square walking tour this weekend and check out the full list of Billie Holliday Centennial Programs this month. You can also learn more about the history of Lafayette Square with the story of the Civil War Lafayette Barracks and our neighborhood history of Harlem Park.

West Baltimore Squares – Civil rights stories from Parren Mitchell’s home at Lafayette Square

Thanks to Baltimore Heritage intern Elise Hoffman for her research on the history of the Parren Mitchell House. This post is cross-posted from the Friends of West Baltimore Squares blog.

The grand brick rowhouse at 828 North Carrollton Avenue may look like many others in West Baltimore but it has a unique history all its own as the former home of Congressman Parren Mitchell, the first African American congressman from a Southern state since Reconstruction, who lived on Lafayette Square from his retirement in 1988 until shortly before his death in 2007. Even before Parren Mitchell moved to the neighborhood, the house had a long history of civil rights activism as the home of Methodist Bishop Alexander P. Shaw during the 1940s and an office for Bishop Edgar A. Love in the 1950s. Still farther back, when the neighborhood remained segregated white, the rowhouse was home to Colonel J. Thomas Scharf, one of Baltimore’s foremost early historians, who himself opened a window into the early history of West Baltimore neighborhoods.

Photo courtesy the Maryland Historical Society, z24-01518Built in 1880, this six-bedroom Federal style house was built with a red brick façade and an ornate interior including ten fireplaces with marble mantles, crown molding, and the original wood flooring.Colonel Scharf lived at the house soon after its construction, as early as 1888. His most significant work, The Chronicles of Baltimore; being a complete History of Baltimore town and Baltimore city from the earliest period to the present time, was reviewed as “the most comprehensive and complete book upon the subject ever offered to the public” and remains an essential history of Baltimore. Dr. William B. Burch, a well known community physician, moved his offices into the North Carrollton Avenue address in the early 1900s, joined by the Maryland State Vaccine Agency around 1905 which offered vaccination services to area residents.

From the 1920s through the 1930s, Lafayette Square was a neighborhood in transition from a largely segregated white neighborhood, anchored by segregated white congregations and institutions like the “Presbyterian Old Folks Home,” also known as the “Presbyterian Home for the Aged of Maryland,” in the Carrollton Avenue home, to become the vibrant African American community that later attracted Parren Mitchell. The Presbyterian Old Folks Home soon relocated to Towson, Maryland and African American congregations moved to occupy all of the churches around the square by the early 1930s. By 1941, Methodist Bishop Alexander P. Shaw moved his offices into the building. Shaw served as the Resident Bishop of the Baltimore Area with a responsibility over 1,300 African American Methodist churches in Maryland, Delaware, DC, North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee. A 1950 Time Magazine profile described Shaw as “consistently [advocating] self-improvement and development” sharing his views in a book, What the Negro Must Do to be Saved, in which he advocated for self-reliance for African-Americans in the face of continuing segregation. Bishop Shaw retired in 1952 and moved to Los Angeles in 1953.

Even after Shaw left, the home on Carrollton Avenue continued to serve as a base for the Methodist Church, becoming the office of Reverend Samuel M. Carter and Bishop Edgar A. Love in 1955. Born in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Edgar Love first came to Baltimore to attend Morgan College for his undergraduate education, later receiving a Doctor of Divinity. Bishop Love was an active advocate against segregation within the Methodist Church, describing it as the “smaller foe” in the battle against segregation and racism. In one of his first acts as a Bishop within the church, Love arranged a meeting with then President elect Dwight Eisenhower leading to the creation of a commission to study segregation practices against minority groups in the United States. Through the 1950s, Love worked against segregation within the church, pushing for Methodist churches, colleges, and hospitals open their doors to all people regardless of race.His achievements and work as a civil rights advocated were well recognized with Love participating as an honored guest at the 1963 March on Washington and later serving as a member of the Maryland Interracial Commission.

With such a rich legacy of civil rights activism in Lafayette Square it came as no surprise when in 1988 Congressman Parren Mitchell moved from his home on Madison Avenue to the rowhouse at Carrollton and Lafayette. Elected in 1971, Parren Mitchell was the first African American congressman from the state of Maryland, the first from a southern state since Reconstruction, and soon became a founding members and leading voice within the Congressional Black Caucus. Born in Baltimore in 1922, Mitchell graduated from West Baltimore’s Frederick Douglass High School in 1940. After service in WWII, Mitchell graduated from Morgan State University with honors in 1950 but segregation at the University of Maryland College Park campus barred him from attending the University of Maryland Graduate School. On the advice of his brother Clarence Mitchell Jr., who worked as the chief lobbyist for the NAACP for nearly 30 years, Parren Mitchell and his lawyer Thurgood Marshall successfully sued the University of Maryland, gaining his admission to the graduate school and becoming the first African-American to graduate. As a congressman from 1971 through 1988, Mitchell established the Minority Business Enterprise Legal Defense and Education Fund and ensured millions of dollars of support for minority business owners. Since his death in 2007, the home has remained well maintained but empty, waiting for the next resident interested in taking on the home’s tremendous legacy.

West Baltimore Squares – Remembering the Celestial Ceiling of the Harlem Theatre

Thanks to Baltimore Heritage intern Elise Hoffman for researching and writing this post on the history of the Harlem Theatre. This post is cross-posted from the Friends of West Baltimore Squares blog.

The Harlem Theatre, now known as the Harlem Park Community Baptist Church, is a local landmark on the western edge of Harlem Park– one of the city’s most extravagant African American movie theaters with a unique “celestial ceiling” featuring “twinkling electrical stars and projected clouds.” Built in 1902 as the home for the Harlem Park Methodist Episcopal Church, after they out grew their previous building, the structure still retains its ornamental Romanesque style with arched doors and windows made of rough blocks of Port Deposit granite.

Image courtesy the Maryland Historical Society, B1617

Harlem Park Methodist Episcopal Church did not remain in the area long however. After the building opened in 1903, two destructive fires — in December of 1908 followed by an even more severe fire in 1924 — led the congregation to sell the building and move out to a new church at Harlem and Warwick Avenues at the western edge of the developing city. At the same time the neighborhood began to transition from a largely segregated white to a predominantly black community, a change that almost certainly influenced the white congregation. In 1928, the congregation sold the church to Emanuel M. Davidove and Harry H. Goldberg, owners of the new Fidelity Amusement Corporation, established to build “a 1,500 seat motion picture theatre for Negroes…to be known as Harlem Theatre.”

The company hired architect Theodore Wells Pietsch, a notable Baltimore architect who also designed Eastern High School and the Broadway Pier. Pietsch took the property’s history into consideration when designing the new building: the theatre was made fireproof through the use of steel and concrete, and a fire extinguishing system was also included in the building’s design. Pietsh’s new design had an elaborate Spanish Mission theme described at the time as one of most elaborate designs on the East Coast and promoted as “the best illuminated building in Baltimore.” The bright façade included a 65-foot marquee with 900 50-watt light bulbs illuminating sidewalk underneath, “tremendous electric signs” around the marquee, and a forty-foot tall sign that could be seen from two miles away.

In October 1932, the owners organized a celebration to open the theater “in a blaze of glory” drawing jubilant crowds of 5,000 to 8,000 people. The jubilant scene was described by a journalist:

“The blazing marquee studded with a thousand lights made the entire square take a semblance of Broadway glamour. The marquees illuminated the entire Harlem Square which was crowded with those who lined the sidewalk unable to gain admittance.”

Over the next forty years, countless numbers of Baltimore residents enjoyed the theatre’s “cavernous three-story high ceiling, a balcony, carpeted floors and thick cushioned seats” and “celestial ceiling with twinkling electrical stars and projected clouds that floated over movie-goers’ heads.” The Harlem Theatre also hosted events supporting the broader community, such as a free “Movie Jamboree” in 1968 for the children of Baltimore workers donated by the theatre’s then-manager Edward Grot, and midnight shows to raise money for the local YMCA. Unfortunately for the Harlem, as movie theatres that previously discriminated against black customers began to desegregate in the mid 20th century, their business declined. By the mid-1970s, the Harlem Theatre had closed.

The building took on a new life in 1975 when Reverend Raymond Kelley, Jr. purchased the old theater and turned it into the Harlem Park Community Baptist Church dedicated on July 6, 1975. The building has been refurbished– the congregation traded in the old theater seats for pews and removed the large marquee–but much of the original historic character remains intact. Of course, the story of the Harlem Theatre also remains in the  memories of thousands of Baltimore residents and we hope you can share your stories with us in the comments.

Do you want to share your photos or stories of West Baltimore landmarks? Please get in touch with Eli Pousson at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org or 301-204-337.

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