Now and Then
The main goals of the Baltimore City Historical Society (BCHS) are to promote the history of Baltimore City and to help ensure the preservation and ease of access to the sources that document that history. This newsletter/blog is centered on those efforts, highlighting the activities and interests of its members and introducing its readers to the many and varied stories of life in and about town over the centuries since July 30, 1729, the date frequently chosen for the founding of Baltimore on the banks of the Patapsco River.
The Baltimore Gaslight focuses short essays on the people and places of Baltimore derived from the inquiries to the Society's web site, and the ongoing research interests of its members. For those who wish to follow the activities of the Society, and announcements relating to events sponsored and co-sponsored by the Society, readers should consult the Society's web site.
Too often the histories of urban places fail to link the in depth stories of people to place, overlooking the history of the neighborhoods from the standpoint of the individuals who lived and worked there. To unravel the histories of neighborhoods in terms of the people and businesses that are found there at any point in time takes considerable detective work. Thanks to the many resources available now on the web from census schedules and city directories to probate records, it is possible to link memories and oral history to people and place in a way that it is hoped will encourage more to be done and written about. It is also hoped that how the stories are documented here, will also direct readers to sources they have yet to consult.
Readers are encouraged to let us know their stories of Baltimore neighborhoods and businesses, hopefully illustrated with images from their personal collections.
Baltimore memorabilia and documents continue to be ‘hot’ items on the auction and manuscript market. This cover, without contents, sold for $50 (although the estimate before auction was $100-150). Who knows what the content might have revealed, having been posted during the Union ‘occupation’ of the city. It could have been from a soldier in town, or perhaps one of the Arnolds in business in the city, according to the 1863-64 Cross business directory (https://archive.org/details/
If you have $2,000 to spare you can still buy what is described as War Of 1812 Manuscript Archive 3 Handwritten Letters From Baltimore:
Beardsley is an intriguing character. Later the Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio, he came to Baltimore to teach and to make his fortune with apparent little success. The letters provide some insight into his life in Baltimore and commentary on the preparations for the defense of the city in 1814. He advertised his school on the front page of the Baltimore American for October 1, 1814, not without competition:
Gaslights Then and Now
At the suggestion of a former board member, the masthead of the Gaslight has been re-designed. It incorporates the 15 star Fort McHenry flag and the image of one of the last gaslights in operation in Baltimore (1957). For those interested in the history of gaslights in Baltimore see Fred Rasmussen’s 1998 article in the Baltimore Sun, http://articles.baltimoresun.
1966: Two new gas lights at the Peale Museum are lit for the first time by Wilbur H. Hunter, right, museum director, and William E. Russell of the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company. Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/
In his Way Back When column Fred Rasmussen pointed out that the City's gaslight glow dimmed in 1957, adding that The American gas industry was born in Baltimore in 1816, when an artist wanted a clean, smoke free way to illuminate a roomful of paintings. The artist was Rembrandt Peale, the founder of the Peale Museum in Baltimore where in 1966, a replica of the first gaslamp was installed at the Museum. While the fact that Peale’s museum would later be the first city hall is widely known; that it was also the first African American high school is not, a fact that Dr. Brian Morrison pointed out in his presentation on Colored Teachers for Colored Schools: The Campaign for Control of Black Schools in Late-19th-Century Baltimore at the Village Learning Place on May 19. Dr. Morrison provided an overview of the efforts to provide public education for blacks in Baltimore throughout the 19th and early 20th century focusing on the efforts to bring black teachers into the classroom.
Dr. Brian Morrison at the Village Learning Center. Courtesy of Joe Stewart.
Explore other topics at the Village Learning Place.
Details on the Baltimore Historical Society Facebook page:
One of Dr. Morrison’s slides took the audience back to one of the earliest efforts to provide education for Free Blacks in Baltimore:
The first notice for the African Academy was submitted to the Baltimore Telegraph and Daily Advertiser on June 21, 1797, by the Quaker and long-time secretary of the Baltimore Equitable Company, Joseph Townsend. By 1799 the school was under attack by Philom writing in the Federal Gazette (November 5, 1799), who argued that the school did not meet its declared objective that the “African race should emerge from their present state of untutored ignorance, by being made partakers of erudition and learning, and that it was their noble design to be liberal in assisting them therein.” Instead, wrote Philom, “in the present much neglected state of that school, is not its language contempt, reproach, and whatsoever else might stir up the the minds of our honorable citizens to a more zealous and spirited conduct?” It is not clear what drove Philom to write, although he made it clear that the school cost too much for many, and that a number of the parents of those who did attend had tried without success to enroll their children in white schools. Although willing to pay they could ”find none where it was admissible to teach white and black children together.”
In 1800, during the yellow fever epidemic, all of the orphan children found in Fell’s Point were gathered at the African Academy building by the two health commissioners, one of whom was Joseph Townsend, and in November of that year those that had survived and were left at the Academy were advertised as in need of legal representatives to retrieve them, or ”they will be placed out in such manner as may be thought adviseable for their future welfare.” (Federal Gazette, November 17, 1800). The children were named. It is not clear if any were African American, nor is known whatever happened to them.
Source: Federal Gazette, November 17, 1800
One of the last gaslamp lighters in Baltimore was Walter Lindman, shown here at Bruce and Lemmon Streets in West Baltimore in a Sun photograph by Aubrey Bodine, taken August 4, 1957:
This last March, Baltimore found replicas of gaslights lining Pratt Street for Baltimore’s first Light City Festival, the artistic creation of Paul Rucker in collaboration with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. One reviewer, Bret McCabe, praised its impact on the attendees, while the subject, Baltimore’s involvement in the slave trade, was well documented on the web site, even though there were not enough printed handouts to go around during the festival:
Paul Rucker’s “In Light of History” does a fair job of tapping into the city’s checkered past. For “In Light” Rucker has installed a small street light at 11 places along Pratt Street that were sites of businesses involved in the slave trade. The light posts are modest, maybe six feet tall, and their lights are glowing areas that slowly change colors. Each lamppost supposedly had a pamphlet Rucker designed about this slave trade history, but even by 8:30 p.m. on Monday night I didn’t come across a single post that still had this publication in stock.
“In Light of History” is the lone Light City installation that I’ve come across thus far where the Inner Harbor’s overbearing presence amplifies the work’s thematic intent. Rucker’s lampposts are easy to walk right by and not even notice. Or you might see one and think it’s just a different kind of sandwich-board placard for one of Pratt Street’s many chain stores. Is this lamp telling me where the Starbuck’s is or where human beings profited from the selling of other human beings? Both.
Rucker’s performance on Monday night, however, was just a breath of fresh air. He set up with his solo cello right there at the Inner Harbor amphitheater where Light Street bends into Pratt, a pond of blinking star lights surrounding him. He announced that he wrote a piece of music for each of the sites in his installation and was going to play three of them, and the first went off without a hitch. The next two were plagued by technical difficulties—a looping pedal wasn’t working appropriately—and he eventually ended his set playing the prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 (I think, my classical music knowledge isn’t what it should be).
But despite the technical difficulties, Rucker was everything the festival needs more of: genuine joy, sincere interactions with attendees, and above all a respect for the intelligence of the general public. He talked about liking the family friendly festival because kids were up late and out of the house with their parents, and toward the end of his set he invited all of the age seven-and-under tykes up to grab one of the blinking stars that surrounded him, causing the kind of adorable chaos that ensues anytime a group of starter humans trundle about. He asked the crowd history questions—What year and amendment gave women the right to vote? (1920, the 19th Amendment) What year was the Emancipation Proclamation issued? (1863) What year did Maryland outlaw slavery? (1864)—and people yelled out answers. The entire set never once felt like an eager-to-entertain tourist sideshow, and was a brief moment of good-natured fun in the presence of a grown-up human who happens to be an artist.
Source: BMORE ART, March 31, 2016
Recently a great deal of attention has been focused on the sale of Maryland 272 slaves by Georgetown University in 1838 with articles and a web site presentation by The New York Times, the most recent of which was on Saturday, May 21, 2016. There is a direct connection with the labor of those slaves and their predecessors and Baltimore. The southern Maryland plantations run by the Jesuits from which the 272 slaves were drawn, provided an important source of income for the Catholic Church in Maryland prior to 1838 when the remaining slaves were sold, although the proceeds from their sale went to finance college buildings in Georgetown. John Ashton (d. 1815), a former Jesuit, ran the Church’s Prince George’s County plantation at White Marsh, and managed the Church’s finances as Procurator General. Archbishop Carroll thought so highly of him that he once remarked that “Ashton ... is the most industrious man in Maryland: it is a pity that he could not have the management of all the estates belonging to the clergy in this country: they would yield thrice as much as they now do.” Income from the slave based plantations in Maryland was used to help finance the building of the Baltimore Basilica.
While Alexandria, and to a lesser extent Georgetown, were active in exporting slaves and kidnapped free blacks from the Chesapeake, including the slaves sold for the benefit of Georgetown College in 1837-1838, Baltimore played an even larger role in the trade highlighted by Paul Rucker’s In Light of History. The premier historian and documenter of the domestic slave trade out of Baltimore is Ralph Clayton whose Cash for Blood, Black Baltimore, and his multi-media Slavery, Slaveholding and the Free Black Population of Antebellum Baltimore are still in print, and available from Amazon. No one interested in this aspect of the City’s history should be without copies.
That the domestic slave trade was important to the economy of the city in the years before the Civil War cannot be denied. In fact there were probably few commission merchants who filled the ships from Baltimore with export cargo and passengers who did not engage in the domestic slave trade in one way or another. Woolfolk, Donovan, Slatter, Harker, Woods, and Denning, all illuminated by Paul Rucker’s gaslights in memory of those they shipped South to slavery, did not own the ships carrying their slaves. They relied upon the commission merchants to secure passage for them among whom were such city notables as Henry Thompson (1774-1837) of Clifton fame, and Galloway Cheston (1806-1881), the first Chairman of the Board of the Trustees of Johns Hopkins University. The Chestons had long been associated with the slave and convict labor trade, and may even have built a fast clipper ship in 1855, the James Cheston, possibly intended for the illegal Atlantic Slave Trade, although it was initially scuttled by its captain and crew on its maiden voyage, and, after salvage, plied the immigrant and commodities trade between Liverpool and Australia, instead.
The history of the Baltimore Police Department is a complex one in which the City and the State vied for control over its operations. Today there is considerable focus on the actions of the Department in relationship to the Community and no aspect of the City’s current history has garnered more national attention in the media. The April 2015 reaction to the death of Freddie Gray and the subsequent trials of those who arrested him and transported him to jail currently make the nightly news and the text messages among the youth protesting at and out of Mondawmin Mall have been published in book form as “The 2015 Baltimore Uprising A Teen Epistolary” available from Amazon. For a review of the book see http://www.citypaper.com/arts/
In the aftermath of the ‘uprising’, Board member and Urban Historian Elizabeth N. Nix, was invited by the Police Department to speak on its history and has provided the Gaslight with a summary of her talk:
On April 27, 2015 a beacon went up from some of Baltimore’s neighborhoods, revealing decades of disinvestment. News cameras captured crowds throwing rocks and burning cars against a backdrop of vacant rowhouses, check-cashing outlets and corner liquor stores. When the smoke died down, people who do not live in West Baltimore or drive through its streets ventured to ask “How did we get here?” They wanted to know how portions of our city could be so depressed while other areas were thriving.
As a board member of the Baltimore City Historical Society and an associate professor of history at the University of Baltimore, I was in a position to help various groups in our city understand the policies and practices over the last 200 years that led to segregation and concentrated poverty. Building on the work of Joseph Arnold, Antero Pietila, Seth Rockman, Ed Orser, Jessica Elfenbein, Garrett Power, Deborah Weiner, Christopher Phillips, Elizabeth Fee, Linda Shopes, Linda Zeidman and Philip Merrill, I created a slide lecture that attempts to connect the dots from Baltimore’s early days as a boom town that was home to America’s largest population of free African-Americans to 20th century policies including the West Ordinance, redlining, and restrictive covenants, incorporating my own work on the disturbances that followed the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. I customized the presentations for various audiences, in some cases including a brief history of philanthropy, in others emphasizing immigrant groups, in still others focusing on particular neighborhoods.
Early in 2016 Police Commissioner Kevin Davis invited me to deliver a version of the lecture to the current class of Baltimore Police cadets as part of his initiative to integrate history into police training. My congregation, Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian Church in Bolton Hill, offered to host the event, and the police department allowed a generous three hours for the session. Some participants arrived early and in our conversations I learned that many of the recruits were raised in New York and New Jersey and had very little knowledge of Baltimore’s past. Some department veterans with deep ties in the community attended as well. At the start of the morning, Commissioner Davis introduced the session and graciously presented me with a challenge coin, then stayed throughout most of the morning.
We started with Fells Point in 1800, looking at the strivers of all kinds who came to our city. I described the complicated relationships between immigrants, free African-Americans, and enslaved people in these early days, reminding the audience that instead of going to investments in businesses or property, the wages that free people of color earned often were used to buy their friends and families, a burden European immigrant groups did not have to bear. I told them about the skilled African-American caulkers who established the reputation for quality work on the docks of Baltimore City and contributed to the economic growth of the city. Together the police and I looked at some excerpts from the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Written by Himself, including one passage in which Douglass convinces the hungry immigrant boys on the street to teach him his letters in exchange for bread. We discussed Douglass’ description of the life of an enslaved person in an urban environment and his experience of the violence between African-American and Irish workers in the shipyards.
After a break we came back to chart the growth after the Civil War of residential neighborhoods and the African-American professional class. I showed them the map from Antero Pietila’s Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City which indicates the original location of Johns Hopkins where North Howard and North Eutaw Streets cross Monument and Centre. When that institutional anchor left for its new campuses, faculty, students and staff vacated comfortable three-story brick row-houses, and African-American doctors and lawyers moved in. Booker T. Washington visited this West Baltimore neighborhood in 1909 and remarked that “So far as I know there is no city in the United States where the coloured population own so many comfortable and attractive homes in proportion to the population as in the City of Baltimore,” showing that Upton was already a healthy African-American community over 100 years ago.
The audience might have been the most engaged when I distributed copies of Robert Coleman’s 1916-1917 Colored Professional, Clerical, Skilled and Business Directory of Baltimore City. The police looked at the streets where teachers, pharmacists, and government workers had made their homes and run their businesses one hundred years earlier. Some officers identified their ancestors in the directory; others asked if they could take their copies home.
The lecture then moved into the backlash against the success of the black community: the infamous West Ordinance of 1910 that divided Baltimore into black blocks and white blocks (declared unconstitutional in 1917); the restrictive covenants that kept African Americans and Jews out of certain neighborhoods; the redlining maps that discouraged conventional banks from making loans in inner city neighborhoods. We ended with the unrest of 1968 and the beginning of the “War on Drugs” in the early 1970s.
Members of our police force see our city’s neighborhoods in light of their own experiences – the crimes they have investigated, the citizens they have helped. I hope that this lecture gave them a historical lens that can enrich their view.
Elizabeth M. Nix, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of History
Legal, Ethical & Historical Studies, The University of Baltimore
There is much to be written and learned about the history of community based efforts of the Baltimore City Police Department. One of the underutilized resources are the records of the police department at the Maryland State Archives and the Baltimore City Archives.
Community Activists During and After the Civil War
Three days before the anniversary of the arrival of the Union Troops from Massachusetts and the bloody aftermath, City Archivist Robert Schoeberlein gave a talk at Clifton on the relief efforts in Baltimore City in the Civil War Era, exploring new ways in which to approach the nature and history of community during and after the Civil War. He was asked to provide a summary of his talk for this edition of the Gaslight:
Contributions to Civility and Civil Life
by Baltimore Women and African Americans
in a Nation in Civil War
The talk, given at Clifton Mansion on the 16th of April, focused upon the sustained wartime and immediate post-war relief work of Baltimore’s Unionist women.
On April 19, 1861, citizens attacked the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment in the heart of Baltimore. Four soldiers died and scores were wounded. Citizens loyal to the Union, however, rallied to the aid of United States troops within their city both then, and throughout the Civil War. Women, prompted by compassion and a patriotic spirit, often spearheaded soldier relief activities. A Connecticut volunteer stationed in the city would remark, “if the Secesh in Baltimore are the meanest… the union [people] are certainly the best and truest.”
Many factors have worked together to overshadow the role of Baltimore Unionists and to obscure the dynamics of their actions. The April 19 Riot has unduly colored most histories of the city and have given the city's Unionists only a marginal role thereafter. Former secessionists penned the most notable nineteenth century accounts of the 1861 events as well as the more general histories of the city. A paucity of primary documentary material relating to city Unionists is another key obstacle.
Individual, spontaneous and small-scale efforts characterized the relief work of Baltimore Unionist women at the outbreak of the Civil War. In May 1861, as the first Maryland Union regiments formed, women gathered to sew haversacks and useful articles. Sometimes women greeted and offered water to thirsty Union volunteers.
Baltimoreans inaugurated their first formalized relief efforts for U.S. soldiers in the summer of 1861. The Ladies Union Relief Association initially devoted its activities at the Union Relief Rooms and, later, at the nearby National Hospital across from the Camden Street Railroad Station. The East Baltimore branch focused its activities at the Patterson Park Hospital and also provided refreshments to the soldiers de-training at the President Street Railroad Station. A German Ladies Union Relief Association also formed as well. German-American women favored picnics, chorales, and concerts to raise funds for soldier relief.
African American women also were very active in relief activities but their work is not nearly as well documented since Baltimore newspapers did not report regularly upon their efforts. At least two groups did arise: the Colored Ladies Union Association and the First Colored Christian Commission. The Colored Ladies group hosted an 1864 Thanksgiving dinner for the African American soldiers at McKim’s Mansion Hospital.
Some other Baltimore women centered their attention on aiding the wives and dependents that Maryland soldiers left behind. The Ladies Aid Society for the Relief of Soldiers' Families made friendly visits to over 1,200 families, distributing money, food, clothing, shoes, and fuel.
Others chose to focus upon morale-building activities for soldiers. "The Union Assemblies" events allowed for light-hearted diversion, simple food, and polite social conversation between citizens and the regimental commanders whose camps were situated throughout the city.
Flag presentations by women to Union volunteers from Maryland and elsewhere took place quite frequently. On two separate occasions in August 1863, the city’s African American community made flag presentations to the Fourth U.S. Colored Troops, a regiment composed of many Baltimoreans. In late August, a group calling itself “The Colored Ladies of Baltimore” bestowed a blue silk regimental flag in a program that included Baltimore’s Bethel A.M.E. choir. That flag is now held by the Maryland Historical Society.
It was the 1864 Baltimore Sanitary Fair, however, that provided the large-scale vehicle for many Unionist women to bring together both of their benevolent and patriotic impulses to aid sick and wounded soldiers. Other cities across the Union had held such events previously. Baltimore's Fair raised about $86,000. 
The “Colored State Union Fair,” was organized in the ensuing months and held in late November 1864. Notices for the Fair, which featured a lecture by Frederick Douglass, appeared in several of the Baltimore newspapers. African American women’s societies and church circles prepared their handiwork, coordinated and ran the event. Held in the Bethel A.M.E. church hall, the women raised $1,200.
Baltimore City Archivist
Once upon a time Baltimore had an official Archaeologist for the City. Elizabeth Anderson Comer’s notes and copies of her reports are now at the Baltimore City Archives (BCA BRG 79). Archaeology is still of interest in Baltimore City, even though it is no longer a function of City Government.
One of the most current and best historically documented archaeological sites in the city is along Herring Run, which can be followed on the web site https://herringrunarchaeology.
Eutaw Farm along Herring Run, property of the late B. W. Hall, 1851, Judicial Record WMI 65, p. 265, 1851/06/17 MSA C2853-4, p. 1.
The original 1826 patent for this property is to be found on plats.net at http://plats.net/pages/unit.
aspx?cid=BA&qualifier=S& series=1190&unit=1714&page= adv1&id=1152081497
Portrait of William Smith and His Grandson, Charles Wilson Peale, 1788.
Courtesy Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,
with Eutaw Farm in the background
The study of the lives of the owners of the land along Herring Run is particularly thorough and well written. A good example of the care that has gone into searching for the above ground evidence is the narrative of William Smith and Eutaw Farm. The author(s) there, and on the Baltimore Heritage web site have made good use of the probate, land, equity, and tax records at the Maryland State Archives, although in calculating the value of at least one transaction in today’s dollars (the acquisition of what became Eutaw Farm), they were not aware that in 1779 inflation was rampant, and that the cost of the farm to Smith was in vastly inflated dollars.
William Smith is of particular importance to the history of the built city at the time of the War of 1812. When he died in 1814, he owned and rented out many buildings in town, had invested extensively in stocks and bonds, and had considerable small debts outstanding that were collected by his administrators. His probate records provide a wealth of information about his investments. Between 1815 and 1826 his administrators disbursed $373,986.97 and as late as 1885 there was enough interest in the remaining debts owed the estate that a new administrator was appointed to collect them. When one of his heirs, B. W. Hall, surrendered the titles to all the lands that made up Eutaw Farm along Herring Creek for a new patent that would take up any vacant land, the original 170 acres had grown to 292.5. A piece of the farm was sold to the Baltimore Water Board in 1851 in anticipation of securing a better water supply for the City, something that did not happen until the 20th century when attention turned to the Gunpowder Watershed, leaving Herring Run to feed Back River and to help (without much success ) to dilute and flush out the effluent of the Back River Sewage Treatment plant (built between 1907 and 1911).
Another interest in underground Baltimore centers on the water and sewer infrastructure of the city, which to most accounts is now suffering from age. Ronald Parks’ new book provides insight and a catalog of the extensive archive relating to Baltimore’s Water Supply and should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in how Baltimore came to have some of the best water in the world (at least according to some rating systems). Without Ron Park’s devotion to preserving the records relating to the development of the water supply they would have long ago been consigned to the incinerator.
Baltimore Above Ground: The City Sensible movement
One of the Scholars most familiar with William Smith’s early 19th century generation of Baltimore entrepreneurs and townhouse builders is Dr. Lance Humphries, whose remarks at William Elder’s memorial symposium at the Maryland Historical Society in November 2014, whetted appetites for more with his “Architectural Salvage: Piecing together Baltimore’s Early Townhouse Architecture from Fragments.” More recently Dr. Humphries has turned his attention to the City Sensible movement in a talk he gave on March 23, 2016, at the Engineer’s club, sponsored by the Baltimore Architecture Foundation and the Mount Vernon Place Conservancy. According to the announcement, the theme was City Planning and Landscape Architecture in Baltimore: The City Beautiful Contributions of Carrère & Hastings. Dr. Humphries pointed out that
while the Olmsted's’ role in Baltimore landscape and planning history is well known—Carrère and Hastings’ early 20th role is less known—and was significant. Carrère was brought into town in 1902 to speak to the Municipal Art Society on civic planning and park extension—his talk essentially launched the MAS’s support of the 1904 Olmsted park plan…the MAS’s interest in civic planning was stalled because of the fire—but they continued to push—brought Carrere back with Brunner (and in name Olmsted)—which resulted in the Partial Report on “City Plan” 1909 [published in 1910]—then Hastings was brought in in 1917 by Preston to realize the Civic Center idea, redesign Mount Vernon Place to accommodate the Lafayette statue (groundbreaking weeks after US entered WWI), and design Preston Gardens.
Carrère, Hastings, and Brunner’s plan for a Tuileries like park in front of City Hall, 1910
Carrère, Hastings, and Brunner would have preferred using the term City Sensible instead of the City Beautiful which by the time of the preliminary report to the city (1910) was a movement under fire for being impractical and too expensive for American municipalities. They advocated collecting government buildings on the edges of landscaped parks, such as the one they suggested in front of City Hall which never materialized. Even Mayor Preston, who at first championed the plan, succumbed to the war memorial and paved plaza of the 1920s that was adopted in place of the Carrère and Hastings plan for a tree-lined open space leading to a fountain. Out of office in 1920, the former Mayor wrote in a personal and not for publication letter that a paved over space was a much better idea:
I was first under the impression that a park with grass and trees would be the most advantageous treatment of the open square bounded by Holliday, Lexington, Gay and Fayette Streets, but when I began to consider it a little bit more carefully I came to the conclusion that an open paved square was the most advantageous and most attractive treatment and would have the greatest influence on development around it.
My reasons for this were these. It would be the only paved open public square that I know of in the United States and Baltimore would be unique in having such improvement. It would be advantageous in assembly troops and in reviewing from the Mayor’s office and the City Hall large assemblages or parades. It would give a beautiful view from all parts of the eastern section of the open square to the City Hall … Park squares with grass and trees are the common treatment for public squares. We have them all over Baltimore. … If grass, plants or trees are elements of the treatment, it interferes with the access of both pedestrians and vehicular traffic ….
Preston’s revised views prevailed then, but fortunately today more attention is being given to preserving the trees and parks of the City. Herring and Stony Runs for example, are but two of several ‘urban forest’ areas in the city that are getting the attention they deserve in an effort to preserve and maintain the ‘urban canopy’ so essential to the well being of the city environment. One web site that is designed to tell their stories and to promote their proper care is http://baltimoregreenspace.
Recreation and Camping Out: The Story of the Druid Hill YMCA
The Annual Meeting of the Baltimore City Historical Society will be held at the Druid Hill YMCA, 1609 Druid Hill Avenue, at 9am Saturday June 18, 2016.
Detail taken from Baltimore CityView.
A history of the Druid Hill YMCA by Dreck Spurlock Wilson is to be found in the Maryland Historical Magazine, Summer 1989, Vol. 84, pp. 135- 146. A copy is readily available online at http://msa.maryland.gov/
In addition to the services it provided to young men in the City, it also maintained a very popular camp in Calvert County which is now a park. An introduction to the history of the Camp can be found on the Maryland Historical Trust’s web site: https://mdhistoricaltrust.
What do these two buildings – one in Baltimore City and one on a wooded bluff in Calvert County – have in common?
At first blush, absolutely nothing!
But here’s the key: both structures were built by Baltimore’s African American YMCA. Their mere existence touches on the broader story of racial segregation and integration in Maryland.
First organized in London in the 1840s, the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) aimed to provide Christian fellowship for the countless young men who descended on cities for factory work during a time of intense industrialization. Branches began forming in the US in the early 1850s; local branches were often not integrated, so many cities had both black and white associations. In 1885, over 30 years after the formation of the white Baltimore YMCA, black ministers in Baltimore convened the first meeting of the city’s black YMCA. Meeting first in rented houses or in members’ houses, the YMCA purchased its first property in 1899. After relocating several more times, the YMCA mounted a hugely successful capital campaign – which received a key $25,000 donation from Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears & Roebuck – and in 1918 constructed the four-story facility on Druid Hill Avenue in Baltimore (pictured above). The facility contained a swimming pool and other recreational rooms, with rental dormitory rooms on the upper floors. Nearly driven to closure during the Great Depression, the Druid Hill YMCA benefitted tremendously from the Second World War, as black soldiers and sailors embarking in Baltimore overflowed the Y’s sleeping accommodations, and Friday night dances proved a huge draw.
One of the Camp Mohawk cabins prior to restoration.
Just after the war, the Druid Hill YMCA was sufficiently endowed not only to build a generous addition to their Baltimore facility, but also to purchase 286 acres along the Patuxent River in Calvert County. This rural parcel became “Camp Druid Hill”, a residential summer camp for African American youth from Baltimore and beyond. (Calvert County was also home to Camp Conoy, which accommodated white YMCA campers and is now on the grounds of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.) The utilitarian cabins (pictured above) that stand today – walls lined with bunk beds – are thought to have been built around 1950. Boys and girls aged 8 to 16 could participate in weeklong or multi-week summer stays at the camp; scholarships were available for inner-city students. A YMCA newsletter from April 1969 advertises that “YMCA resident camping offers not only wholesome fun in the outdoors but opportunities for character growth and leadership development” (YMCA of the Greater Baltimore Area). Students engaged in “swimming, arts and crafts, archery, canoeing, tennis, Indian lore and talent shows. In addition, the campers are encouraged to develop leadership, physical fitness, outdoor living and the ability to work with others” (Cromwell). Older campers could choose to take special training and return to the camp as counselors.
While the camp remained active until the early 1980s, the world around and within it changed. In 1960 the Druid Hill YMCA became a branch of the newly integrated Baltimore Central YMCA, and its properties – including Camp Druid Hill – also fell under central administration. In 1963 the now-integrated camp became known as “Camp Mohawk”; later still, it was combined with Camp Conoy into “Camp Kings Landing”. In 1984, the camp property was sold to the State of Maryland and leased to Calvert County for park and recreational use; today it is open to the public as Kings Landing Park.
Maryland Historical Trust
Baltimore City Historical Society Board Member Bradley Alston welcomes the Society to its Annual Meeting in the following essay for the Gaslight, expanding on the history of the organization and enticing readers to learn more about the organization and the history of its constituents, including the immediate neighborhood of Upton.
Courtesy of Bradley Alston, as an unidentified clipping from the Baltimore Afro American
THE DRUID HILL Y CELEBRATES 100 YEARS
AT 1609 DRUID HILL AVENUE
By BRADLEY ALSTON
On June 4, 2016, the Druid Hill Y will celebrate the centennial of being at its present location in Central West Baltimore. For 100 years, the YMCA facility at 1609 Druid Hill Avenue has served as a focal point for the physical, mental, and spiritual wellness of the community. During the era of segregation, the facility was the only place where blacks could swim in an indoor pool in Baltimore. Among the youth who learned swimming skills there were Thurgood Marshall and Cab Calloway, who both lived within walking distance of the facility. The Druid Hill Y, however, has a rich and illustrious history that began before it moved to 1609 Druid Hill Avenue.
As early as 1869, colored clergymen organized by Bishop Alexander Wayman of the Bethel AME Church were meeting to discuss concerns about religion, job opportunities, education, public accommodations, and juvenile problems. A successor group, Mutual Brotherhood of Liberty of the United States (MUBL), was formed by Rev. Harvey Johnson of Union Baptist Church. The keynote speaker of the three-day inaugural meeting at the church auditorium on Saratoga Street and Guilford Avenue was Frederick Douglass. The MUBL’s membership grew steadily and included the six black physicians and both black lawyers then practicing in Baltimore. The MUBL’s principal aims were to reverse the erosion of black rights that the Supreme Court began in 1883 by declaring the 1875 Civil Rights Act unconstitutional. The group sponsored the City-Wide Young People’s Forum to provide recreational experiences for colored youth. In 1893, the MUBL petitioned the Central YMCA to become known as the Colored YMCA of Baltimore. Three years later, in 1896, the branch was recognized. MUBL was also instrumental in creating the Baltimore Colored Symphony. Original members of the colored Y included John Murphy (editor of the Afro-American Weekly), Dr. George B. Murphy (a high school principal), and other community notables. From 1893 to 1895, the colored Y held its meetings at a house it rented at 438 West Baltimore Street. Mounting expenses forced them to abandon that property and to hold meetings at members’ homes. In 1899, with a growing membership of 167, the group purchased a 12- room house at Druid Hill Avenue and Hoffman Streets, strategically located between the middle- and upper-class black enclave that extended between North Avenue and Eutaw Place and the lower section of the West Baltimore black community between Biddle and Preston Streets. By 1902, the colored Y sold the Hoffman Street property and for $1,250 purchased a building at 1033 Druid Hill Avenue.
In 1910, the colored Y moved to the southeast corner of Druid Hill Avenue and McMechen Street. At this point the colored Y was becoming weary of the continual moves of the past decade and sought permanent accommodations for a growing membership and community. The community had always responded to the group’s fundraising events. One notable fundraising gala in 1907 featured a 140-voice choir singing black composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s “The Atonement.” The soloist for the concert was a black New Yorker, Harry T. Burleigh, who had recently collaborated with Czech composer Antonin Dvorak on his exciting “New World Symphony” and the “American String Quartet.” The building campaign received a big boost in 1911 when the board of the colored Y received a check for $25,000 from Sears and Roebuck Company President Julius Rosenwald of Chicago. The philanthropic contribution was a matching grant contingent on the board’s raising an additional $75,000 in five years. Baltimoreans responded with $35,242 contributed by Baltimore blacks and an additional $81,274 by whites. The Druid Hill Y’s present location opened in the middle of World War I, and the membership soared from 172 to 812. During the Great War and afterwards, the Druid Hill Y’s leadership changed from that of ministers to military personnel and veterans. The Great Depression brought severe suffering and an increased reliance of the programs of the Druid Hill Y. Paid membership and financial resources dropped at the very time that the demand for services increased. During this period, the staff hung on and even missed some paydays. Members of the board often dug deep into their own pockets to keep operations going.
The advent of World War II and the wartime economy saved the Druid Hill Y, as it did the larger economy of the country. The Second World War saw an additional mission added to the Druid Hill Y’s menu of services. In conjunction with the United States Organization (USO), the central YMCA at its downtown location provided services for white service personnel. The Druid Hill Y did the same for black military personnel. The segregated policy of downtown hotels prompted the Druid Hill Y to offer sleeping space to servicemen at it the facility and at a 62-bed dormitory at 529 Gold Street. Other examples of the Druid Hill Y’s responsiveness to the needs of the community included establishing a student branch in 1942 at Morgan College and an affiliate group at Turner Station. When summer camping facilities were denied to Baltimore blacks, the Druid Hill Y opened Camp Druid Hill on 286 acres on the banks of the Patuxent in Huntingdon, MD. The Druid Y played a key role as a convener during the Civil Rights struggle and led efforts to rebuild West Baltimore after the riots in the wake of Dr. King’s assassination. The Druid Hill Y was one of the very few buildings that stayed open with extended hours during last year’s disturbances after Freddie Gray’s death. In this, its centennial year at 1609 Druid Avenue, the Druid Hill Y continues to provide fitness opportunities and has a new swimming pool, a refurbished gym, a cycling room, a teen radio station, a mirrored dance studio, and aerobic space. Offices on upper levels house the administrative operations for the Y’s Baltimore City’s Head Start and After School Operations.
For Further Reference:
Original newspapers in the Baltimore Afro-American archive
From the Editor’s desk:
detail courtesy of scholastic.com
I hope you have enjoyed this issue of the Baltimore Gaslight. The next issue will be in November, and will be devoted to stories of the neighborhood focusing on Baltimore orphans and veterans. Included will be a history of the residents and the program of the Johns Hopkins Colored Asylum on West 31st Street, and the life of the photographer of the signing of the capitulation documents aboard the USS Missouri in September 1945 who lived at 1720 West Lombard Street. Suggestions and illustrated essays of about 900 words (with footnotes where necessary) are welcome. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that the purpose of the essays is to survey and excite interest in topics relating to Baltimore’s history, and is not meant to compete with publication of articles in scholarly journals such as the Maryland Historical Magazine or on well researched and written blogs such as the Underbelly or Baltimore Heritage. Indeed readers are encouraged to follow both, along with attention to the web sites hyperlinked on this site.
 Dr. Morrison’s dissertation at Morgan University, Selected African American educational efforts in Baltimore, Maryland during the nineteenth century, can be read at libraries subscribing to Proquest dissertations. Abstract (summary): Contemporary histories of black education have neglected the contributions of African Americans to their own education during the nineteenth century. Most histories have focused on the role of white philanthropists during the post-Civil War years. This dissertation examines the role of blacks in Baltimore, Maryland in creating educational opportunities for themselves during the nineteenth century. The opportunities they created provided them with the essential components of cultural capital, a shared sense of purpose and identity. They employed that cultural capital in their schools in their quest for freedom. Blacks equated education with freedom and used education to seek freedom from physical slavery, ecclesiastical freedom, and political freedom from second class citizenship. Educational leaders like Rev. Daniel Coker, Rev. William Watkins, Sr., and Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange were among the African American educators who established facilities for black youth. Their institutions imbued their students with cultural capital. Also, by employing a strategy of working with sympathetic whites, such as Judge Hugh Lenox Bond and other members of the Baltimore Association for the Moral and Educational Improvement of the Colored People, African Americans were able to gain admission to the Baltimore City public schools in 1867. African Americans continued to demand adequate educational opportunities from the Mayor, City Council, and School Board. They fought for appropriate school facilities, black teachers, and equal levels of education with whites. New black leaders such as Rev. Harvey Johnson, Rev. William Alexander, and other members of the Brotherhood of Liberty, were much more radical than the black leaders of the antebellum era in their demands for equal education for blacks. They threatened to file discrimination suits unless their demands for better schools were met. As the demands for black teachers and more schools were met, black women teachers played a key role in educating African American children. Black women teachers were the predominant instructors in the "colored" schools by the 1890s and continued the legacy of instilling cultural capital in black youth. They had to overcome the racial discrimination in "Jim Crow" Baltimore as well as the gender bias they faced from both black and white men. There is a copy of Dr. Morrison’s dissertation in the library of the Reginald Lewis Museum. Copies also can be purchased from Proquest.
 Quoted by Eric Robert Papenfuse, “From Recompense to Revolution …,” Slavery and Abolition, Vol. 15, no. 3, December 1994, p. 51. The best study of Jesuit slaveholding in Maryland is Thomas Murphy, Jesuit Slaveholding in Maryland, 1717-1838 which is still in print on Amazon. He provides a comprehensive overview of the income derived from the plantations which became even more profitable after the last Maryland slaves were sold in 1838, through tenant farming and sharecropping (Murphy, Jesuit Slaveholding, p. 208 citing Peter C. Finn’s master’s thesis).
 For example see: BALTIMORE CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT Baltimore City Police Department
1861-1978, Maryland State Archives SH248, Series Description The first police force for Baltimore Town was created in 1784. Constables were appointed and given police powers to keep the peace. The State Legislature on March 16, 1853, passed a bill, "to provide for the better security ... in the City of Baltimore." This statute provided that police officers should be armed and that a badge and commission be furnished each member. In March of 1862, the Federal military authorities who had taken control of the Baltimore City police on June 27, 1861, turned over the Police Department to the authority of the state. In 1867 the State established a Board of Police Commissioners (Chapter 367, Acts of 1867). Fom 1867 until 1920, the Board of Police Commissioners was appointed by the Governor. After 1920, a single Police Commissioner of Baltimore City was chosen and also served on the Governor's Advisory Council. The Baltimore City Police Department remained a State agency until 1978, when the Mayor appointed the Police Commissioner, subject to confirmation by the City Council (Chapter 920, Acts of 1976). A Charity organization map ca. 1880 shows the boundaries of the police districts. [description adapted from the official Baltimore City Police Department web site and William Hackley, ecp 2012/02/12. William M. Hackley (d. 3/15/2012) maintained an indpendent website devoted to the history of the Baltimore City Police Department which is available as a slice in time from the Maryland State Archives electronic archives at: http://wayback.archive-it.org/
 See A Fair to Remember: Maryland Women in Aid of the Union, (Maryland Historical Magazine, Vol. 90, 4, Winter 1995) for a thorough examination of this effort, and the most recent issue of Underbelly for “Unwearied in Their Attentions”: Secessionist Women and the 1866 Southern Relief Fair.
 Former BCHS president Judy Arnold, a volunteer at the Baltmore City Archives, found this letter among the files of the City Law Department, BCA BRG13-974, case file 81978. The Law Department files are a largely untapped treasure trove of Baltimore City History which Judy has been cataloguing and describing in the Baltimore City Archives guide to its records. For more information see the Baltimore City Archives web site.
 Thanks to Dereck Wilson, 1984 Druid Hill Y Board of Managers, who did some of the research used in this article.
 For free access to the articles in the Afro from 1888 to the present with a gap from 1988 to 2008, see: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/
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