East Monument Historic District
Baltimore, Baltimore City
The East Monument Historic District is an approximately 88-block area in East Baltimore centered on the East Monument Street commercial corridor. It lies north of the Patterson Park/Highlandtown Historic District and south of the Broadway East/South Clifton Historic District. This rowhouse community developed east of North Broadway beginning in the 1870s, primarily as housing for the city’s growing Bohemian (Czech) immigrant community. Most of the oldest houses, both north and south of East Monument Street, between Broadway and North Washington Street, have been demolished for the expansion of the Johns Hopkins Hospital. The surviving houses immediately east of Washington Street were built in the 1880s in the Italianate style, but as development progressed eastward in the 1890s and early 1900s, two-story, two-bay-wide rowhouses in the Neoclassical style filled block after block. All of the blocks in the East Monument Historic District were developed according to the plan created by Thomas Poppleton in 1823, with each city block bisected by a narrow alley street. Developers made use of this layout to create differently priced housing options in each block. After the City Council banned building on narrow alley streets less than 40’ wide in 1909, developers still laid out each block with a narrower middle street where less expensive houses were built. Many of the houses in this area were built by a group of Bohemian builders, including the young Frank Novak, for members of their own community.
The East Monument Historic District is historically significant for its association with the history of Bohemian immigration to Baltimore in the late 19th and early 20th century. The district is the center of the city’s Bohemian immigrant community and is home to the Bohemian National Parish of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Wenceslaus. Not only did most of the Bohemian immigrants to Baltimore settle here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but many of the typical two-story Neoclassical-style brick rowhouses that fill the blocks of the district were built by Bohemian-born builders, most notably Frank Novak (1877-1945). Novak’s family settled in this area and he began his building career by apprenticing to other local Bohemian-born builders. By 1914 he was building on his own, continuing to fill blocks in the district to the city’s eastern boundary line at East Avenue. He later became the city’s most prolific builder of reasonably priced two-story houses, concentrating his efforts in the eastern and southeastern sections of the city as industrial expansion brought even more jobs to this area. Throughout his career, most of his clients were first- and second-generation Eastern European immigrants. The district thus derives additional architectural significance as a relatively pristine example of a type of working class neighborhood that characterized Baltimore in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Although a number of blocks on the western edge of the district contain late Italianate-style houses of the 1880s, by far the largest majority of housing in the entire district was built in the Neoclassical style popular in the early years of the 20th century. The first efforts to provide housing for the influx of Bohemian immigrants to the district began in 1867; construction in the neighborhood was essentially completed in 1926.