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Maryland's National Register Properties

Photo credit: MHT Files, n.d.
Hollins-Roundhouse Historic District
Inventory No.: B-5144
Date Listed: 7/22/2009
Location: Baltimore, Baltimore City
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1835-1945
Description: 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 infl Significance: 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.
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