Mary Ellen Hayward
Hampden Historic District
Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Hampden Historic District is an approximately 400-acre residential and commercial area initially created to support the industrial activities of Maryland's largest 19th century textile milling area. Generally bounded by the Jones Falls (and its remaining mill buildings) on the west and south, W. 40th Street on the north, and Wyman Park on the east, the community is distinguished by its siting on various high ridges that overlook the Jones Falls Valley. Here, in the valley, a group of mill-owning families took advantage of the rushing waters of the Jones Falls to establish several neighboring mill villages beginning in the mid-1830s. Initially these mill owners provided housing near the mills for their workers and by the end of the Civil War several distinct villages had sprung up on the hillside rising from the east bank of the Jones Falls. These early communities of stone and frame mill housing, dating from the late 1830s to the mid-1860s, distinguish the western part of the Hampden Historic District. Constructed by local masons, these mainly double stone houses relate closely to the vernacular Greek Revival (with touches of Italianate decoration) architecture of the older mills built in the valley in these years. Brick and frame housing in this area shows a similar mix of styles. One common characteristic of all these early houses in Hampden is their wide front porch and front yard and generally deep lot. Paired houses had side yards as well. In the 1870s, as the textile industry continued to expand, development spread eastward to the crest of the hill, from Falls to Keswick Roads, where local developers put up single, paired, and rows of frame and brick housing. Initially, the majority of the housing constructed in the Hampden area was frame, but after its 1888 annexation into the city of Baltimore, building laws mandated the use of brick. By the 1890s population increases led to the building-out of the area with traditional city rowhouse types, beginning with late Italianate forms, moving through picturesque variations such as swell- and square-fronts, and bay-window, porch-fronts to 1920s Daylight, neocolonial houses. Building types also include commercial structures and churches. The area witnessed high profits during World War I and continued to thrive financially through the 1920s, but was sorely affected by the Depression. When the major textile mills began to relocate to the south and its cheaper labor after World War II, the community ceased growing.
The Hampden Historic District is significant for its association with the industrial development of the Jones Falls Valley, which was the center of Baltimore's important textile industry throughout the 19th century. In 1899 this relatively small geographical area produced more cotton duck than the combined output of any other milling centers in the United States. The district offers a largely intact picture of the development of a self-sufficient working-class community, based upon a single major industry, which flourished for nearly a century. The district derives additional significance for its architecture, comprising a broad range of vernacular, working-class housing including an exceptional collection of early company-built workers' housing (for various job levels) dating from the mid 1830s into the 1880s. Operating at their peak in the 1890s, the Hampden and Woodberry mills boasted some 4,000 employees. By that time the company-built housing could no longer provide for the community's needs, and a host of local builders and investors saw an opportunity to develop the area above the mill villages with owner-occupied houses whose designs continued traditions established in the rural mill town, while filtering national stylistic influences through contemporary Baltimore rowhouse forms.