Hollins-Roundhouse Historic District
Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Hollins-Roundhouse Historic District is a primarily residential area located directly north of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s Mount Clare yard and shops on W. Pratt Street in Baltimore. The district is characterized by a variety of rowhouse forms typical of Baltimore during the 19th century. The area began to be developed soon after the railroad began its car building operations at Mount Clare in the mid-1830s. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad had begun in 1828, with the goal of laying a railroad line to the Ohio River. The first 26 miles of track were open from Mount Clare to Ellicott’s Mills by May, 1830, inaugurating the first regular railroad service. By December 1831, the railroad had been completed to Frederick. A branch line running between Relay and Washington, D.C. opened in 1835, and a year later the railroad builders reached Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. When the fledgling engine and car shops opened along Pratt Street in the early 1830s, the men working there had to travel from the developed parts of Baltimore east of Fremont Street. Many lived in the area north of Old St. Paul’s graveyard and south of the new Lexington Market, west of Greene Street. The earliest houses in the district were built along Hollins and Schroeder streets beginning in 1833, and were 2 ½ stories in height. Fine examples of other houses of this type, built in 1839, still exist on the south side of Hollins Street, west of Schroeder, part of the Union Square National Register Historic District. Only a few blocks north, the struggling poet Edgar Allan Poe was living with his aunt, Maria Clemm, at this same time in an even smaller 2 ½-story house at 203 N. Amity Street, now open to the public as the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum. Other 2 ½-story houses of this period survive on the north side of W. Lombard Street, extending east from Arlington Street to the mid-block of Amity Street (at 943-49 and 930-50 W. Lombard Street, built by James Dixon in 1838) in the Hollins-Roundhouse Historic District, as well as in the nearby Pigtown National Register District. So many new rows of 2 ½-story houses went up in the immediate neighborhood of the Mount Clare yards that in 1836 the growing community petitioned the city council to open a city market in the area—the Hollins Market—that is still flourishing. The late 1830s and 1840s saw tremendous growth of the facilities at the B&O’s Mount Clare yards as the railroad reached even further west—to Harper’s Ferry in 1836, Cumberland in 1842, and Wheeling, West Virginia in 1853. In 1835 locomotive builder and inventor Ross Winans took over the Mount Clare engine building shops and over the next decade produced a whole new class of locomotives capable of hauling heavier loads, especially the massive amounts of coal being brought to the port of Baltimore from Western Maryland, after the B&O reached Cumberland in 1842. The Mount Clare station house was built in 1851 on the southwest corner of Pratt and Poppleton streets as an adjunct to the shop expansion going on in preparation for opening the line to Wheeling. Within only a few years, the B&O had linked with two Ohio railroads to offer passage through to Cincinnati and St. Louis. By this time, the railroad operated 45-50 freight locomotives. Two passenger trains also left each day from Wheeling; one ran to Frederick and two to Ellicott’s Mills. By the fall of 1857, the B&O boasted “the largest fleet of any railroad in America,” with 236 locomotives, 124 passenger cars (many of which were painted yellow), and 3,668 freight cars. At the same time the number of both Irish and German immigrants in Baltimore was changing the face of the city. Fleeing the Irish potato famine and economic and political unrest in Germany, immigrants flooded into Baltimore looking for work just as the railroad was expanding. The majority of the houses in the central portion of the district are modest in scale and were built in the 1840s and early 1850s to accommodate this influx of railroad workers. Many groups of two-story-and-attic houses survive from this period. In a number of instances, one or more houses in the row later had their roofs raised to a full three stories and a more fashionable Italianate cornice added. In other cases, only part of a once-longer row survives. By about 1850, builders providing houses in working-class areas throughout the city began to build full three-story houses with a gable roof. Often, houses of this type were built at street corners, where the first floor served as a store or business, and the family lived above. One such house survives at the east end of the row of 2 ½-story houses built along the north side of the 900 block of W. Lombard Street in 1838. But as more and more housing was needed in the area, some of the local builders began to construct whole rows of 3-story gable-roofed houses, usually in the early 1850s. Builders developed another, smaller house type during these years to meet the increased housing demand. These were simple two-story, two-bay-wide houses with very low-pitched gable roofs, and many were built along the narrow, mid-block streets in the district in the 1850s. Although these inexpensive houses have few, if any, decorative features, they can be considered to be in the vernacular late Federal style. The district also contains a few examples of the smallest type of houses built in working-class neighborhoods in the 1850s—houses that are only the front half of a regular house. “Half-houses” can be seen at 107-9 Callender Street and 102-4 and 110-12 Parkin Street. All of the blocks immediately north of Pratt Street in the district were built for a working-class market. Two blocks north and to the east, however, a prosperous area with grand Greek Revival houses grew along both the north and south sides of Hollins Street beginning in the mid-late 1840s, after the building of St. Peter the Apostle Church. East of the new church lay the large country estate of the McHenry family, called “Fayetteville,” built in 1803 by Dr. James McHenry. In 1845 only one house existed in the area, a 2 ½-story house built by James Dixon on the south side of Hollins Street (825 Hollins) about mid-way between Poppleton and Fremont. In that year, the McHenry heirs began selling lots on the eastern edge of the Fayetteville property (facing Fremont Avenue) to a local builder/entrepreneur named George Law. Law built an unusual group of small 2-story-and-attic houses on both the north side of Hollins and the west side of Fremont Street; houses built individually or in pairs on wide lots, set back from the street with front and side yards. The eight houses on Fremont are now gone, but one of this group still survives at 814 Hollins Street. Nearby, 808 Hollins has been enlarged to a 3-story house. The McHenry heirs and other men who owned the land immediately south of the estate and St. Peter’s Church saw the opportunity to attract new, prosperous upper-middle-class residents to the area, particularly those individuals who owned or held high positions in the new car manufacturing shops, as well as the new ironworks opened by the Hayward-Bartlett Company on Pratt Street, east of Scott, in 1850. These wide lots held large town mansions in the then-fashionable Greek Revival style, with low-pitched gable roofs, fine pressed brick facades whose windows have splayed brick lintels and stone sills (if not cast-iron lintels with Green anthemions), Greek Doric door enframements, tall first-floor windows with cast-iron window baskets, and stylish interior double parlors. Many still retain their cast-iron front yard fencing. The stylishness and desirability of the neighborhood got a boost when, in 1851, Ross Winans’ son Thomas purchased Fayetteville and immediately hired Baltimore’s most successful architectural firm, Niernsee & Nielson, to design for him a grand Italianate country villa on the property. The large house (an enlargement of the old McHenry mansion) occupied the northwestern corner of the estate, with the entrance drive leading in from Hollins Street some distance east of St. Peter the Apostle Church. The grounds became well known for their lavish gardens, conservatory with exotic plants, and statuary-lined walks. Winans named the estate Alexandroffsky, after the town in Russia where he had made his fortune helping Czar Nicholas I build a railroad between St. Petersburg and Moscow. In the 1860s, wealthy owners such as Ross Winans and Enoch Pratt added fashionable “French,” or mansard roofs to their Greek Revival mansions in the district. A few new three-story, three-bay-wide town houses were built in the Italianate style in the 1860s. The last few rows built in the Historic District went up in the late 1880s and early 1890s for an upwardly mobile middle class composed of Baltimore’s immigrant Lithuanian community in the early years of the 20th century. These Italianate houses had more elaborate cornices with extra-long scroll-sawn brackets and elaborate jig-sawn frieze panels.
The Hollins-Roundhouse Historic District is historically significant for its association with the early development of rail transportation. The area was the primary location, in the middle of the 19th century, of houses and services for the employees of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad’s Mount Clare yards and car-building shops. From its inception in 1828, the nation’s first railroad quickly expanded its locomotive and car-building shops just south of this historic area on West Pratt Street, at the same time that it was laying track steadily westward in service of its company directors’ goal to reach the Ohio River. The district derives additional significance for its association with ethnic immigration to Baltimore in the 19th century. In the 1840s and 1850s, the area was one of the centers of Irish and German immigration into the city. Both groups settled initially in Fells Point, where their ships docked, but gradually made their way north and west to newly developing areas like Hollins-Roundhouse, where they built important churches, schools, and institutional buildings. The Irish Catholic church, St. Peter the Apostle, built in 1843 in the Greek Revival style by a prominent local architect, is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Later, beginning in the 1880s and continuing through the 1920s, the district became established as the center of Baltimore’s immigrant Lithuanian community. The area gains architectural significance because so much housing and church architecture remains from the key developmental period of the 1840s and 1850s—a period that saw the development of three new forms of vernacular residential architecture designed to be affordable for working-class families. As both Irish and German immigrants flocked to the area to find jobs with the railroad or in nearby car-building shops, speculative builders erected row after row of two-story-and-attic houses in the late 1840s; rows of three-story, two-bay-wide gable-roofed houses in the early 1850s; and much smaller two-story, gable-roofed “alley houses” built at the same time. The area also provides an excellent example of the way in which most Baltimore city blocks were developed in the 19th century to offer a range of sizes and prices of housing, so that people of varying economic means could live in the same area. The district contains several blocks of large, stylish Greek Revival and Italianate townhouses. At the opposite end of the spectrum, most of the alley streets that bisect each block in the historic district are intact, often with surviving housing reflecting the small two-story “alley house” and “half-house” types.