Tag: Seton Hill

A red brick church overlaid with blue text reading "Thank you!"

Tours, food, micro-grants, and a big thank-you at the historic Orchard Street Church

We’re throwing a party on Tuesday, October 2, 2018 and you are the reason for the celebration. This is our third year hosting a heartfelt thank you event for the many people who volunteer, participate in our heritage tours, and support Baltimore Heritage as members and sponsors. Our friends at the Greater Baltimore Urban League are opening up their historic Orchard Street Church for this free event that will include tours of the church (among the oldest structures built by a local Black congregation), food, drinks, and a chance for you to help us give away four preservation micro-grants.

This event is also our annual meeting where members elect new board members and officers. Please join us!

Also check out our jam-packed schedule of tours and talks over the next few weeks. On the afternoon of Sunday, September 23, local historian Jack Burkert will kick off our history lecture series at the Garrett Jacobs Mansion with a talk entitled: The Port of Baltimore: Shaping the City Over the Ages. On Wednesday, September 26, we are touring the Sheppard Pratt Hospital complex. And on the morning of Tuesday, October 2, we are repeating our tour of Fashions Unlimited garment factory.

Finally, we are teaming up with Doors Open Baltimore again for a unique bus tour: Masons, Jazzmen, Doctors and More. Join us and CHAP director Eric Holcomb on this narrated trip that includes five fantastic sites: the Prince Hall Masonic lodge, Eubie Blake National Jazz Center, Davidge Hall, Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast, and the Ambassador Marburg Mansion on Mount Vernon Place.

Thank you again to everybody who volunteers with us and supports our work as members and contributors. Without you, we could not do what we do. I hope you can join us on October 2 and on some of our upcoming events.

404 George Street in Seton Hill up for auction next Thursday – Update: House under contract, auction cancelled

Update –January 6, 2015: We just confirmed with Ashland Auction that 404 George Street is now under contract and the auction is cancelled. We plan to share additional information about the new owner and their plans for the building when we learn more. Thank you to everyone who helped spread the word!

Tucked away on a narrow street, 404 George Street has had our attention since concerned neighbors first contacted us in 2012 about this three-story rowhouse in Seton Hill. Next Thursday, January 7, the building is up for auction—offering a unique opportunity to buy a historic house just steps away from the famed Mother Seton House.

In July 2012, local residents pushed Baltimore Housing to file a receivership case against the owner who held the building since 1986. Receivership is a process where a municipality or a qualified non-profit applies for a court to appoint them as the receiver of the property and move to restore the property to use.

Courtesy MRIS, 2014.
Courtesy MRIS, 2014.

Unfortunately, years of neglect took a toll on the structure. At the first auction in October 2014, the 404 George Street received no bids from interested buyers. Thankfully, Baltimore Housing quickly responded and stabilized the building to make the property more attractive to prospective developers. Stabilizing distressed vacant houses is a key strategy for encouraging private reinvestment and is often more cost-effective than demolition.

On Thursday, January 7 at 1:00 pm, 404 George Street is up for auction again. If you are a local builder, developer or an enthusiastic home rehabber, we invite you to come out next Thursday and invest in this beautiful community. If you are a neighbor, we need you to help spread the word!

Built in the 19th century, 404 George Street is less than a block away from the Mother Seton House and St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel—an 1808 landmark designed by architect Maximilian Godefroy. St. Mary’s Park boasts a recently restored fountain and won recognition from Baltimore City Paper as the city’s best park in 2014. The 2012 master plan for Seton Hill has much more information on the neighborhood. Of course, the property is eligible for city and state historic tax credits—review our historic tax credit guide for more details.

Please help make 2016 the year that the vacant house at 404 George Street turns back into a home.

St. Mary's Park. Courtesy Live Baltimore.
St. Mary’s Park. Courtesy Live Baltimore.

Learn more about 404 George Street and the auction process from the Ashland Auction Group. For questions or more information, contact auctioneer Adam Shpritz by phone at 410-365-3595 (cell) or 410-488-3124 (office) or by email at adam@ashlandauction.com. Bids start at $30,000. Pre-bid offers are accepted by phone at 410-488-3124 or by email to adam@ashlandauction.com.

Friday! Bmore Historic Happy Hour at St. Mary’s Historic Site in Seton Hill

We’ve been busy this fall getting ready for Bmore Historic – our third annual “unconference” for historic preservation, public history and cultural heritage. If you work at a local archive, volunteer regularly for a historic site or house museum, or work in historic preservation, Bmore Historic is always a great opportunity to network with colleagues from all over the Baltimore region – and we still have a few spots left! Whether you’re coming to Bmore Historic or not, you are all welcome to join us this Friday evening at the St. Mary’s Historic Site for a tour and happy hour following the unconference.

Bmore Historic 2013 Happy Hour at St. Mary’s Historic Site

Friday, October 11, 2013, 4:30pm to 6:30pm
St. Mary’s Spiritual Center & Historic Site
600 North Paca Street, Baltimore, MD 21201​

No registration required! Beer and wine available – suggested $5 donation. Limited off-street parking is available in the St. Mary’s Spiritual Center lot and additional on-street parking is available in the area. 

Courtesy Jack Breihan

Special thanks to Fr. John C. Kemper, S.S. and Heidi Glatfelter for hosting the Bmore Historic Happy Hour. Fr. Kemper will also be leading tours of the St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel: a Seton Hill landmark built from 1806 through 1808 by French architect Maximilian Godefroy for the French Sulpician priests of St. Mary’s Seminary. St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel won a 2013 Preservation Award from Baltimore Heritage this summer for a tremendous restoration by the Associated Sulpicians of the United States, together with Kann Partners, Lewis Contractors, Thomas Moore Studios, and Giorgini Construction. Their nine-month, $1 million project restored to Chapel to its centennial year appearance and surely guarantees its preservation for decades to come.

Moving forward from ten years of work on the historic West Side

Tour group looking at a cast-iron building facade on Balimore Street, West Side Walking Tour

A panel from the Urban Land Institute that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake engaged around the redevelopment of downtown’s “West Side” recently delivered preliminary recommendations (more from the Baltimore Sun). As the area continues to be in the spotlight and we continue working towards a renewed and revitalized West Side, we thought it would be helpful to provide a short recap of how redevelopment plans that have evolved from early proposals calling for widespread demolition to current plans based on both preservation and redevelopment.

The “West Side” of Baltimore’s downtown is an area roughly bounded by Pratt Street (south), Read Street (north), Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (west), and Liberty Street/Charles Center (east). From the late 1700s through the 1940s, the West Side grew as a vital center of transportation, commerce, and cultural life. This growth first began with Lexington Market in 1782–a place that inspired Ralph Waldo Emerson to declare Baltimore the “Gastronomical Center of the Universe”– and continued in the early 20th century with the construction of dozens of premiere department stores and movie theaters that many Baltimoreans still remember fondly. Unfortunately, in the late 20th century retail shopping and investment drifted out to Baltimore’s suburbs, many of these businesses closed, and their buildings began to decay from neglect.

View West Side’s Market Center Historic District in a larger map

After years of decline, Baltimore City proposed a plan in the 1990s that took an old-fashioned urban renewal approach to redevelopment and threatened to demolish 150 or more historic buildings (See Baltimore City Council Ordinance 98-333, 1998). In response, Baltimore Heritage and our partner Preservation Maryland developed a preservation based strategy for the revitalization of the West Side (PDF). This strategy proposed focusing new construction on existing vacant lots, rehabbing existing buildings for new uses, and reducing the number of historic buildings slated for demolition. In 1999, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed Baltimore’s West Side on its annual list of 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in recognition of the threat to one of the best collections of historic buildings in any downtown. In 2000, the National Register of Historic Places listed the West Side as the Market Center Historic District designating hundreds of West Side buildings as significant historic structures.

In 2001 with strong encouragement state legislature, Baltimore City adopted a new preservation-based strategic plan (PDF) and signed an agreement with the Maryland Historical Trust laying out a process for preserving historic buildings and moving forward with revitalization. Many of us celebrated the agreement, which has been in effect in the decade since and continues to guide development today. This agreements supported the rejuvenation of nearly 50 historic buildings, including the rehab of the former Stewart’s Department Store as Catholic Relief Services, the Hippodrome Theatre’s transformation into the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, and the reuse of a handsome retail block on Franklin Street as St. James Place. These projects and many more reflect hundreds of millions of dollars in public and private investment with substantial support from state and federal historic tax credits. However, the real challenge is that redevelopment has taken much longer than envisioned and much of the area, including the Superblock along Lexington Street east of Lexington Market and the Howard Street corridor, is still characterized by vacant buildings and limited street life.

Tour group at the Hippodrome Theatre, West Side Walking Tour

Most recently, Mayor Rawlings-Blake convened a panel from the Urban Land Institute to provide recommendations to jump-start a new phase of revitalization on the West Side. The ULI panel provided preliminary recommendations on December 10, 2010 and final written recommendations from the ULI panel are due to the Mayor in the spring. In one of their most important points, the panel highlighted the West Side’s historic buildings as the area’s greatest asset. Baltimore Heritage is dedicated to supporting a process that can reestablish the West Side as a great Baltimore neighborhood with a distinctive historic character and thriving street life that can attract residents and businesses from across the city and the nation. Our series continues next week with a discussion on the “Superblock” and how historic Lexington Street–formerly known as the heart of downtown–is at the center of this effort to preserve and revitalize the West Side as a great place for Baltimore.

Baltimore Building of the Week: St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel

The Baltimore Building of the Week is St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel at 600 North Paca Street in Seton Hill– the first seminary established in the United States. Over two dozen photos of this important building were taken by the Historic American Building Survey in 1936 and tours of both the St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel and the Mother Seton House are offered every day of the week.

Image courtesy Jack Breihan

At a time when neoclassical architecture was in style, this gothic chapel, built in 1808, was an anomaly. Indeed, it is probably the first Gothic Revival building in the United States. It ushered in an era of eclecticism, in which architects worked different styles at the same time. The architect here was Maximilian Godefroy, recruited as a faculty member at St. Mary’s Seminary, founded in 1781 as Baltimore’s first institution of higher education. Godefroy was clearly happier in the neoclassical style (at the Battle Monument and the First Unitarian Church). The chapel is stiff and symmetrical, with “flying buttresses” facing the wrong way, but it pleased his patrons – Sulpician fathers homesick for the gothic monuments of their native France. The Seminary moved to Roland Park in 1927, but the Sulpicians should be congratulated for continuing to maintain this important building.

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