Ridgely's Delight Historic District
Baltimore, Baltimore City
Ridgely’s Delight Historic District is a wedge-shaped area roughly bounded by Fremont Avenue on the west, Conway Street on the south, Russell and Green Streets on the east, and Pratt Street on the north. The specific district boundaries have been drawn to exclude the modern power station on the northeast corner. The historic district represents a surviving fragment of a larger neighborhood which has been constricted by modern development. The construction of Russell Street in the 1930s eradicated a broad swath on the eastern side of the neighborhood. Demolition of entire blocks on both sides of Fremont Avenue and the south side of Conway Street for the construction of Martin Luther King Boulevard artificially separated Ridgely’s Delight from similar types of neighborhoods to the west. The expansion of the University of Maryland complex has extended to the north side of Pratt Street and forms a distinct boundary there. However, within these artificially created boundaries exists a cohesive neighborhood, which by virtue of the "human" scale of its buildings and the irregular streets with their self-contained, intimate vistas, still possesses its original 19th century character. The street pattern is an essential ingredient of the visual character of the district. Only the northernmost blocks follow strictly the north-south grid used in the bulk of the city. Washington Boulevard, which predates the district, runs southwest from the northeast corner of the district, and determines the remainder of the plat. Streets and alleys which join the boulevard are generally perpendicular to it. South Fremont similarly predates most development, and with Washington Boulevard is responsible for the shapes of the several triangular blocks in the midsection of the district. A visual result is a number of closed vistas along streets and alleys contributing significantly to the scale of the area. The District’s residential structures range from the 2 or 2 ½-story late Federal houses representing the first phase of row house development in Baltimore, to the more substantial three-story corniced Italianate versions built for the middle and upper classes toward the end of the 19th century. Frequently the latter type represents a modernization of the former.
Ridgely’s Delight Historic District represents a substantial and well preserved fragment of the large neighborhoods which developed during Baltimore’s first period of expansion in the early 19th century. It is furthermore exemplary of the manner in which Baltimore neighborhoods have risen and developed, both socially and architecturally, and covers a span of time equal to any within the city’s history of expansion beyond its original incorporated boundaries. With few exceptions, the street pattern adheres to that surveyed and recorded by Thomas Poppleton in his plan of 1823. The majority of the development occurred between 1830 and 1870, following a rather cohesive pattern that reflects Ridgely’s Delight conception as an urban neighborhood and which was fueled by the bordering industrial development as well as the establishment of the University of Maryland medical facilities. During its heyday in the latter half of the 19th century, Ridgely’s Delight was a prosperous middle class neighborhood, and while it has deteriorated in the 20th century, the historic fabric has largely been protected from modernization, the street pattern left intact, and neighborhood integrity maintained, making this isolated neighborhood an even greater phenomenon in light of its surroundings.