The Great Western Rowhouse Road Trip — Baltimore to Pittsburgh and beyond!

Yesterday afternoon, my colleague Charlie Duff of Jubilee Baltimore and I headed west out of Baltimore. Our quest? Look at rowhouses and rowhouse neighborhoods beyond Baltimore.

250 years ago, settlers piled their Conestoga wagons full of provisions at a tract of land John Eager Howard donated that later became known as Lexington Market and set out to Pittsburgh on what was then the Western frontier. Some of these settlers kept traveling west but some settlers  stayed and even built rowhouses! What are rowhouses like in Pittsburgh? What strategies are preservationists in Western Pennsylvania using to revitalize their historic neighborhoods?

Johns and Charlie in Pittsburgh
Johns and Charlie in Pittsburgh

Today, we will be meeting with the Arthur Zigler, the director of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and a veteran preservation advocate in Pittsburgh. We at Baltimore Heritage already have benefited from Arthur’s experience. Our revitalization through preservation work in West Baltimore borrows more than a few pages from Arthur’s playbook that we learned from a visit a few years ago.

After Pittsburgh, our next stop is Cincinnati—the Queen City! A few generations after Baltimore was a launching pad for Pittsburgh settlers, immigrants passed through Baltimore’s Locust Point and headed out  this growing metropolis on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Did Cincinnati go wild with rowhouse building just like we did in Baltimore? What can we learn from their preservation efforts? In the Queen City, we are meeting with Paul Muller, the director of the Cincinnati Preservation Association who coincidentally is wrapping up a conference on the economics of historic preservation.

Charlie and I are not traveling by wagon or train, but in my Toyota Prius. While this lacks the charm and romance of earlier travel, it is a heck of a lot faster for this three-day journey. If you are interested in a slice of rowhouse life outside of Baltimore, stay tuned for a few updates from the front lines in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.


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