MHT File Photo
Federal Hill Historic District
Baltimore, Baltimore City
Federal Hill Historic District lies south of the Baltimore harbor, and consists of mainly mid-late 19th century rowhouses of two or three stories. The gable-roofed houses here are generally similar to that category of Baltimore rowhouses which has been called "Late Federal." Late Federal pertains more to the houses of the Otterbein and Montgomery Street areas than to those in the rest of the district which are too far removed from the Federal period to warrant any association with it. The axiom that Baltimore builders were reluctant to relinquish a style which had long been in practice accounts for this atavistic use of gable roofs. In the gable house ridges are parallel to the street with the exception of a few houses with perpendicular ridges on the 1300 block of Battery Street. Dormers are infrequently used, although an entire row of dormered houses appears at 107-139 Gittings. Façades are two bays, with entrance off-axis. Fenestration is of tall proportions, 2/2 double hung sash being the norm. The "Italianate" houses comprise the bulk of residential construction. These are flat-roofed structures of two or three stories and two or three bays in a wide range of stylistic pretention, from genuine Italianate houses with elaborate wooden cornices and entrances to simple flat-roofed houses. Fenestration is 1/1 or 2/3. The larger, more heavily decorated houses tend to be the oldest, built during the period when the Italianate was a current style, the 1870s and 1880s. The successor to this style is the local "Beaux Arts" category. These houses rarely occur larger than two bays and two stories and are almost universally found in long rows of terraces. Ornamentation including ¾-round turrets with tall conical roofs with a wide flare at their bases, pressed-metal swag cornices, and protruding bays are found on these houses, most of which were built during the first decade of the 20th century.
Affording a sweeping panorama of Baltimore and its harbor, Federal Hill has long been the center of the city’s commercial activity. Named for the new national government, Federal Hill was the scene in 1788 of a celebration in honor of Maryland’s ratification of the Constitution. An observatory built in 1795 was used to signal local merchants of arriving ships. Brickmaking and pottery were important industries of the area, and both red clay and white sand were mined here. Near the northern boundary of the district is Federal Hill Park, measuring four and one quarter acres.