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Maryland's National Register Properties



Photo credit: Fred B. Shoken, 01/2004
Old West Baltimore Historic District
Inventory No.: B-1373
Date Listed: 12/23/2004
Location: Baltimore City, Baltimore City
Category: District
Period/Date of Construction: 1838-1954
Description: Old West Baltimore is primarily a row house neighborhood of approximately 175 city blocks directly northwest of downtown Baltimore. Strict diagonal and north-south street grids converge within this district roughly bounded by North Avenue, Madison Avenue, Dolphin Street, Hoffman Street, Fremont Avenue, Franklin Street, and Fulton Avenue. Most of the properties are row houses, but the district includes other housing from grand mansions to alley houses, as well as churches, public buildings (primarily schools), commercial buildings, and landscaped squares. Older traditional brick houses with flat facades and refined detailing predominate, but eclectic designs with projecting bays, turrets and terra cotta decorations are well represented in the district. Massive stone churches, often located at street corners, feature towers and spires that rise above the surrounding row houses creating dynamic streetscapes. The majority of commercial buildings, with the exception of corner stores, are clustered along Pennsylvania Avenue, the main street of the community featuring a later 20th century municipal market house. Although some older buildings have been meticulously rehabilitated, many are vacant and in a dilapidated condition. Vacant lots can be found throughout the area. Newer houses, commercial buildings, and churches have replaced large sections of older structures, especially in the vicinity of Pennsylvania Avenue, Gilmor Homes and the Laurens Street-Winchester Street corridor. Despite these intrusions, the historic character of the area has been maintained due to the retention of significant streetscapes and the preponderance of surviving houses, churches, institutions, and civic monuments that relate to Baltimore's premier historic African-American community. Significance: Old West Baltimore is historically significant as Baltimore's premier early African-American neighborhood. Beginning in the 1890s, African Americans began occupying houses on the main streets of this area, most notably Druid Hill Avenue. Prior to that time, African Americans were relegated to alley housing spread throughout the city. In this community, African Americans living in Baltimore gained political power, established social institutions, started businesses, and empowered churches to not only guide the spiritual life of the community, but to spearhead social progress. Such noteworthy figures as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, Congressman Parren Mitchell, Baltimore City Councilman Harry S. Cummings, jazz artist Cab Calloway, civil rights leader Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson, and Carl Murphy, editor of the 'Afro-American' newspaper, lived and/or worked in the area. The area derives additional significance for its architecture as an example of a type of urban development that characterized the city from the second quarter of the 19th century through the first half of the 20th. Its streetscapes include numerous individual buildings representing the evolving character of the district from scattered country estates to an urban row house neighborhood. Although a certain degree of redevelopment has occurred within the area, the district retains the majority of its significant streetscapes, buildings, public spaces, and civic monuments.

District Resources

Resources not specifically itemized in a list within NR nomination form.

 

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