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Threatened: Royer’s Hill ME Church

Anderson Automotive Site, WV Urban Developments LLC

In November 2009, WV Urban Developments LLC presented their plans to develop the former Anderson Automotive Site with a Lowe’s, a grocery store, 32,000 square feet of retail, and up to 60 apartments in an area of  approximately 11 acres bounded by 25th Street to the north, Maryland Avenue to the east, 24th Street to the south and the CSX rail line to the west (map). The developer’s presentation to the community is available on the Charles Village Civic Association website here (PDF). After meetings with the Remington Neighborhood Alliance, the Greater Remington Improvement Association, the Charles Village Civic Association, and the Old Goucher Community Association the proposal was covered in a series of posts on Baltimore Brew, in the Baltimore Sun, and The Alligator, a Remington neighborhood blog. While the prospect of expanding neighborhood amenities, new jobs, and broader economic development is exciting, Baltimore Heritage has significant concerns regarding the proposed demolition of the former Royer’s Hill Methodist Episcopal Church at the southeast corner. This 1891 stone building began as a mission of the Lovely Lane Methodist Church and still serves as a landmark within the Remington neighborhood. We believe that this stone building, which retains significant historic character, should be preserved and utilized to help establish a successful transition between the large commercial development and the historic residential Remington neighborhood.

February 7, 2009, Image courtesy Dottie Campbell

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Baltimore Building of the Week: Homewood House

This week’s featured Baltimore Building of the Week from Dr. John Breihan is Homewood House at 3400 North Charles Street on the campus of The Johns Hopkins University.

Image courtesy of John Breihan

Even the wealthy Charles Carroll was shocked by the cost of his son’s country villa, Homewood, built early in the 19th century on a hillside north of town.  A federal-style version of the standard five-part Georgian Palladian mansion house (see Mt. Clare), Homewood’s principal floor is tall, elegant, airy, and cool.  Service rooms are tucked away in the basement or attic (there is a fine brick privy in back).  The Johns Hopkins University acquired the surrounding estate and built a new campus there early in the 20th century.  Homewood is open to the public as part of Johns Hopkins University Museums.

The Homewood House Museum is currently hosting a four-part speaker series in association with their fourth annual student-curated focus show, On the Road: Travel and Transportation in Early Maryland. The first event in the series is David Shackelford, Chief Curator at the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, speaking tonight, February 18, 2010 at 4:30 PM.

Baltimore Building of the Week: Washington Mill

Reflecting the rich industrial heritage of the Jones Falls Valley, this week’s Baltimore Building of the Week is the 1807 Washington Mill building.

Image courtesy Jack Breihan

The Industrial Revolution began in England with simple water-powered machines to spin and later to weave cotton. Although Samuel Slater smuggled some of the designs into Rhode Island in 1793, the English mills dominated the market until 1807, when President Jefferson imposed an embargo on trade with England. The Washington Cotton Factory in Mount Washington dates from that year. Besides being the oldest industrial building in Baltimore, it is arguably the third oldest in the USA. Drawing power from the swiftly flowing Jones Falls, the sturdy stone mill was built to bear the weight of heavy machinery. Long rows of windows provided natural light for the three factory floors. This historic building, along with other pioneer industrial buildings on the site, has been imaginatively preserved as part of the mixed office and retail Mt. Washington Mill development. Other textile mills along the Jones Falls south of Mount Washington have been put to a variety of new uses, reminding Baltimoreans of their industrial heritage.

The rehabilitation of the historic mill complex began in 1988 and many more photos of the site may be found on the Mt. Washington Mill website. For more on the industrial heritage of the Jones Falls, check out this history from the Jones Falls Watershed Association or the Maryland Byways brochure on Falls Road (PDF).

Baltimore Building of the Week: Octagon Houses

This week’s Baltimore Building of the Week from Dr. John Breihan is an unusual dwelling type that can be found throughout the country– the Octagon Houses inspired by Orson Squire Fowler. More information on this fascinating example of American vernacular architecture can be found in the Octagon House, 1850-1860 by Deborah Holmes.

Mt. Washington, courtesy Jack Breihan

In 1848 the polymath Orson Squire Fowler of upstate New York (presumably not related to Baltimore’s Lawrence Hall Fowler) published A Home for All, a book extolling an octagonal floor plan as the most desirable residence. Later editions also extolled a primitive form of concrete construction. In this era of eclectic architecture, other free-thinkers were inclined to try it out. There is a particularly fine single-family octagon in Lutherville. Within today’s city limits, Rev. Elias Heiner of the German Reformed Church built an enormous octagon for the Mt. Washington Female Seminary, which occupied it between 1855 and 1861. For about a century the hilltop octagon housed Mount St. Agnes College, until it merged with Loyola University in the 1970s. It now is part of the Mt. Washington Conference Center. Across Smith Avenue at the foot of the hill stand two unusual octagon duplexes (demi-octagons?), reflecting perhaps a Baltimore tendency to turn anything into a rowhouse.

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2010 Award Winner: Miller’s Court

Miller's Court before renovation, photo courtesy Tom Terranova
Miller's Court after renovations, photo courtesy Brigitte Manekin

Constructed in 1874, the former H. F. Miller and Son’s Tin Box and Can Manufacturing Company at 2601 N. Howard Street served as a manufacturing site for the American Can Company. Vacant for the past 20 years, this landmark building has experienced a renaissance as Miller’s Court–a mixed-use redevelopment offering affordable apartments for teachers and office space for nonprofit organizations that work with the city’s school system. To boot, the rehabilitation work combined the highest preservation standards with the gold standards for green and sustainable design. The end product is already breathing life into Howard Street and the surrounding community. The Adaptive Reuse and Compatible Design Award went to owner Seawall Development, architect Marks Thomas, and contractor Hamel Builders.