Reconciling the Truth About Bolton Hill’s Monumental Past

From Just Us to JusticeOn May 2nd, 1903, more than 700 people gathered on a platform erected on Mt. Royal Avenue to celebrate the commemoration of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument—the first of four Confederate monuments erected in Baltimore. Hundreds more people gathered around the platform and on the parade route, which left from Mt Vernon Square and marched to Bolton Hill. The marchers, dressed in full Confederate military dress, made sure to stop at 814 Cathedral Street, the home of General Lawrason Riggs, where a member of his family waved a Confederate battle flag from one of the upper windows to rousing cheers from the procession. 

Among those celebrating this event were many Bolton Hill residents. One was the Rev. William Meade Dame, rector of Memorial Episcopal Church. Another was Mrs. D. Giraud Wright, the President of the Daughters of the Confederacy, who lived on Park Ave. Newspaper accounts of the event gave the impression that much of the city turned out for the celebration.

During the opening prayer, the Rev. Dame reminded the crowd of the righteousness of the cause of the Confederacy and how the men being honored today “shed such luster on their name and race.”

Those who witnessed the spectacle might be forgiven for thinking the South had won the war and that slavery was still the law of the land.

This typical celebration of the “Lost Cause” movement defined the Confederacy as a heroic struggle for states’ rights against an overbearing government. It also occurred during a time of increasing racial tensions in the city of Baltimore. In 1903, Democrats in Maryland began their campaign to disenfranchise black voters through a series of proposed constitutional amendments. These failed, but in 1910, Baltimore passed the most restrictive housing ordinance in the country. Many of the local activists supporting these efforts were Bolton Hill residents. We should not forget these facts.

General Howard, the keynote speaker at the commemoration of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument, said it was being erected “in the last days of the actors of the war”—that is, as the last of the Confederate soldiers were passing away—in the hopes that “in ages to come men and women who pass will say, ‘it is a worthy tribute from noble women to brave men.'” In all my research on this era of our city’s and our neighborhood’s history, I have been struck by the fact that there is almost no mention of slavery, the black residents of Baltimore, or the issue of race in general when it comes to the Civil War. It seems that in the interest of “reconciliation” between the North and South, reconciliation for slavery and the evils done to black bodies and minds was set aside and never taken up again.

Now that the city of Baltimore has taken down the all four monuments, the question that ought to be asked is: What next? Is the plinth left on Mt. Royal Ave. left empty? Does it become a platform for MICA students and other artists to express themselves? Should another statue be erected in its place? What conversations—if any—should be had with the Daughters of the Confederacy and the descendants of those who erected the statue in the first place? 

While many feel great relief that these statues have finally come down, many others, I suspect, may be surprised or even taken aback by the City’s actions. Very few, I suspect, are aware of the origins of these statues, their ties to the Lost Cause movement and the strong white supremacist overtones that surrounded their installations. I suspect many may still wonder why it was necessary to remove these statues at all.

Perhaps we, as a community, need to dedicate ourselves to our own neighborhood truth and reconciliation process. We need to tell—and hear—the truth about Bolton Hill’s own history of racism and support for segregation, and then have some honest conversation, not only about removing statues, but about the current realities of race and racism in our neighborhood, schools and universities here in Bolton Hill. How to people of color continue to be affected by these realities?

To this end, we’ll be hosting further discussion about Memorial Episcopal Church and the role it has played in Bolton Hill’s racial history on Wednesday, September 27, at 7 pm. We hope you’ll attend and help continue our neighborhood’s truth and reconciliation process.

Bolton Square Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Bolton Square-interior
Green space and fountain inside the Bolton Square development, built in 1967. Photo by Eli Pousson, Baltimore Heritage.

by William Hamilton

The 50th anniversary celebration of Bolton Square will be held on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 1–6 p.m. Come celebrate our neighborhood and this great example of our neighborhood’s resilience.

Bolton Square’s mid-century modern townhouses and gardens will be open for tours from 1–4 p.m., followed by a ceremony and cocktail party on the common green area that faces West Lafayette Ave. between Eutaw and Bolton streets. Enter at 300 West Lafayette Ave.

Admission is $10; company and organizational sponsorships are available. The nationally recognized architect who designed Bolton Square, Hugh Newell Jacobsen, and the widow of Baltimore developer Stanley Panitz, who constructed the 35 units, will attend. Sponsors include Baltimore Heritage and the Maryland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Bolton Square-ext
Mid-century modern in Bolton Hill. Bolton Square condo fronting Lafayette Ave.

Bolton Square is not just architecturally distinctive. It also plays an important part in our neighborhood’s history. 

In the aftermath of World War II, Bolton Hill was on the skids. Wealthy families who built the 19th-century mansions had given way to absentee landlords who cut them into rooming houses for workers in town to grab jobs in the war economy. Many houses were rundown, and others were abandoned.

The city assumed control of land between West Lafayette Avenue and McMechen Streets, just east of Eutaw Place, and considered knocking down decaying buildings and constructing large-scale public housing. The city hired consultants, including Connie Lieder, an urban economist who still lives in the neighborhood, to do an economic assessment. Her study concluded that there were promising signs of new life as people had begun buying and restoring the old houses. Based in part on that study, the city decided to hold an architectural competition and award a contract for the best design for new housing.

In 1964, Panitz and Jacobsen were awarded a contract to begin construction on the cleared city land, which included closing Linden Avenue to create a common, enclosed green space. The first segment was finished in 1967, and the developer moved his own large family into an end unit. Then came the assassination of Martin Luther King, rioting and white flight. Several Bolton Square units had to be rented because no buyers were interested. The builder persevered, however, and the units all eventually become owner occupied. A year or so later the Linden Green apartments, facing Bolton Square, were constructed, along with what is now the newly renovated Linden Park apartment tower on McMechen and the Sutton Place apartments on Park Ave. Urban renewal funds made it all possible.

Since that time, the neighborhood has regained much of its historic appeal and value. Bolton Square today, like Bolton Hill around it, is home to an intergenerational and interracial mix of professionals, business people and academics. Celebrate it! For further information, contact Monty Howard, Bolton Square Homeowners Association president, at 410-243-2902 or montyhoward@earthlink.net.

Sign on to Bring a Grocery Store to Madison Park North

Could we see a grocery store on North Avenue?

The Neighborhood Coalition for Madison Park North Redevelopment reports that Berg Demo is close to completing the demolition of the Madison Park North site. The school records building was the last piece to come down.

The developers are preparing initial plans for the east side of the development (totaling 50,000 square feet and approximately 200 housing units), which will be presented at their next meeting on September 25 at 7 pm. Meeting location TBA.

However, a grocery store has yet to give a firm commitment to the project. The developers have asked the community to send letters to grocery stores encouraging them to sign onto the property. Stores to contact include Whole Cities Foundation (part of Whole Foods), Trader Joe’s/Aldi, Fresh Grocer, and Lidl, a German company that has committed to building in Baltimore City. The grocery stores need to fit within a 25,000-30,000 square foot space (approximately the size of Eddie’s in Mt. Vernon).

The Coalition is going to write up a letter template for the community to send to grocery stores of interest. A petition is circulating in the area, which people can sign at the next Coalition meeting. They are also looking for community members to identify what they want to see in a grocery store. Contact the Coalition at ncmpnr@gmail.com with ideas or if you are interested in volunteering in this effort.

Explosive Oil Trains Endanger Our Community

by Andrew Hinz

Bolton Hill is one of several Baltimore neighborhoods at risk from highly explosive crude oil trains. Bakken oil transported from North Dakota contains fracking chemicals and elevated levels of methane, making it more flammable than conventional oil.

Oil train derailment, Lynchburg, VA
A train carrying crude oil derailed while traveling at low speeds in Lynchburg, VA in April 2014, bursting into flames and dumping oil into the James River. Photo courtesy riverwatch.org.

Since the fracking boom began in 2008, the transport of crude oil by rail across North America has dramatically increased. A string of derailments has followed, including a July 6, 2013 disaster in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec that killed 47 people and destroyed 30 buildings. Rail infrastructure across the U.S., including in Baltimore, is under stress, increasing risk to those of us in the blast zone within a mile of the tracks.

In 2013 and 2014, more than 100 million gallons of crude oil were shipped by rail through Baltimore. Shipments of “unit trains” carrying 35 cars of crude oil have slowed since the price of oil dropped, but they could increase substantially if oil prices rebound. And it only takes one derailed tank car of Bakken crude oil to cause a fire and explosion. This volatile cargo also endangers infrastructure for general cargo and intermodal traffic, which bring more revenue and jobs to Baltimore and Maryland than bulk commodity shipments like crude oil.

Concerned officials at all levels of government are addressing this public health and safety issue. Maryland’s Attorney General has joined five other states in asking the federal government to limit the volatility of oil transported by rail. But it is uncertain whether federal authorities will act, making local action even more important. 

Thankfully, City Council members Mary Pat Clarke and Edward Reisinger are co-sponsoring a zoning amendment to prohibit new or expanded crude oil shipping infrastructure in Baltimore City. The amendment will grandfather the two terminals currently operating, one in Canton and the other in Fairfield. Maryland’s General Assembly will consider legislation in the 2018 legislative session requiring more transparency in reporting of crude-by-rail shipments, increased emergency preparedness, and proof of insurance from rail companies, similar to a bill just passed by the New Jersey legislature.

Councilman Eric Costello, who represents our neighborhood, is currently undecided on the bill. You can write him at eric.costello@baltimorecity.gov to encourage him to support this important legislation.

The faster we move away from dangerous and polluting fossil fuel infrastructure like crude oil trains, the faster we can transition to job-creating clean energy projects like offshore wind and community solar.

If you’d like to find out more about the oil train issue, you can attend a screening and discussion of Bomb Trains: The Crude Gamble of Oil by Rail on Thursday, September 21, 6–8 pm at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore at 12 West Franklin Street (use their Charles Street entrance to Parish Hall for the screening). This 23-minute film by Vice News outlines the use of defective DOT-111 oil tankers and the secrecy around rail oil shipments.

Park Café Is Back–Is Dooby’s On the Way?

by William Hamilton

The Park Café, which closed abruptly in July, is back in business with new owners. Meanwhile, Dooby’s Café—or something similar—may be coming to Bolton Hill soon. 

“We’re not quite ready to announce anything,” said Phil Han, who owns Dooby’s, a restaurant that serves Korean-tilted food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as Sugarvale, a small bar, both located in Mt. Vernon.

Discussions are underway for Han’s organization to take over the vacant Two Boots Pizza location on Mt. Royal Avenue adjacent to the Brass Tap pub and the Barnes & Noble bookstore. But neither Han nor Bolton Hill resident Monica Lavorgna, who manages retail space rentals for the Fitzgerald apartment building, would say when an announcement might be forthcoming.

Elsa Valdez and her brother Jorge Gonzalez are now at the helm of Park Café, which reopened on Aug. 9. Valdez was the chef when the café operated under other owners. The coffee, soup and sandwich venue keeps the same menu and community spirit that has made the place successful in the past. 

“We will operate the cafe as a family business, providing customers with the same great service and quality of food as always,” the new owners said. “Moving forward we will focus on the introduction of new menu items, including more house-made pastries, ethnically inspired dishes, and expanded catering.”

MICA and ACLU Host Symposium on Democracy in Trump’s America

The Maryland Institute College of Art and the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland commemorate Constitution Day, September 17, with a 2-day symposium exploring the emerging crisis in democratic institutions and government brought upon by the Trump administration.

“We are living in exceptional political times, where, many argue, the basic and central institutions of our democracy are threatened–by the president himself,” said Constitution Day organizer and MICA Humanistic Studies faculty member Firmin DeBrabander.

“How worrisome are Trump’s perceived attacks? What shall we make of them, and how shall we respond?” he continued. “Is this tyranny, and if so, how will democracy survive?”

Events take place on Tuesday, Sept. 19, and Friday, Sept. 22. All events are free and open to the public, and will take place in MICA’s Falvey Hall, 1301 W. Mount Royal Ave. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Schedule of events

Tuesday, Sept. 19, 7–9 p.m. “Is This What Democracy Looks Like?” Panel discussion with MSNBC’s Joy-Ann Reid, “revolutionary” artist Dread Scott and history professor Kenneth Ledford, Case Western University, moderated by WYPR Maryland Midday host Tom Hall.

Friday, Sept. 22:

  • 12:30 p.m. “Restoring Civic Culture” with Baltimore Youth Arts Founder Gianna Rodriguez and community arts activist and organizer Graham Coreil-Allen, moderated by Kalima Young.
  • 2:30 p.m. “Educating for a Democratic Society” with Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen, Liberty Elementary Principal Joseph Manko, M.A. in Teaching Director Adriane Pereira, and North Avenue Knowledge Exchange Program Coordinator Khadiha Adell, moderated by Marketplace Education Editor Amy Scott.
  • 5:00 p.m. Artist Mel Chin and Lester K. Spence, associate professor of political science and Africana studies at Johns Hopkins University, discuss the role of art in a democratic society and the role citizens play in defining democracy.

Established in 2005, Constitution Day continues the College’s tradition of leadership in raising and exploring important political issues. This year’s Constitution Day officially launches a new College-wide initiative MICA Making Democracy, which advances MICA’s core values in response to changes in the cultural and political landscape.

Meet Our Sponsor: Corpus Christi Catholic Church

The forbidding gray façade of Corpus Christi Catholic Church belies rich beauty within.

Home to some of the nation’s finest examples of Florentine glass mosaic, Corpus Christi is also home base for a close-knit, welcoming congregation.

Consecrated in 1891, the church was built by the five children of Thomas Courtney Jenkins and Louisa Carrell Jenkins in honor of their parents. It was designed by the Brooklyn architect Patrick Charles Keeley, designer of over 600 churches, with decorations made by an English company that participated in the design of the Houses of Parliament.

The church’s Florentine mosaics exemplify the lush coloring and imagery of the Pre-Raphaelites, contrasting with the church’s Gothic Revival exterior. Mosaics over the altar and throughout the church depict Biblical themes, the history of Catholicism in Maryland, and the history of the Jenkins family, which has roots in Maryland dating to the 1600s.

Fr. Marty
Father Martin Demek, pastor of Corpus Christi Catholic Church.

Father Marty Demek presides over the congregation. A native Baltimorean, Fr. Marty was educated at St. Paul Latin School, St. Charles College in Catonsville, and the Pontifical Gregorian University. He came to Corpus Christi in 2010 after serving at various parishes in the Baltimore area and in Manchester, MD.

Parishioners note the church’s warm, welcoming atmosphere. “You have basilica-level beauty in a small parish with a tight-knit yet welcoming, vibrant community,” says Sarah Bujno. “It’s a different experience than I’ve had with other churches.”

During the service, this spirit of welcome is evident during the passing of the peace. Rather than just greet their immediate neighbors with a simple handshake and a “peace be with you,” parishioners leave their pews and move throughout the nave, greeting old friends and new ones alike with kiss on the cheek or an embrace. “It’s an active community event,” said Bujno.

Corpus Christi also ensures equal representation of men and women at the altar during service, scheduling three female Eucharistic Ministers for each Sunday Mass to balance a male Eucharistic Minister, Fr. Marty, and his attending Deacon.

The church organizes a variety of opportunities for spiritual growth for children, teens, and adults. Children under five get their own “Liturgy of the Word,” which takes place during the 10:30 am Sunday mass, while kids between kindergarten through tenth grade receive Faith Formation on Sunday mornings before Mass and in preparation for sacramental rites of passage such as first communion and confirmation.

Adult parishioners may join a variety of committees that support the activities of the Church. Corpus Christi also sponsors marriage preparation classes (open to anyone planning to wed in a Catholic church), Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) for those interested in learning more about the Catholic faith, and Gays and Lesbians at Corpus Christi (GALA). The Social Justice and Community Service Committee also organizes social justice coffee houses with speakers on current issues and the church’s annual day of service.

The church’s spirit of community reaches well beyond church walls. With financial support from Ellicott City’s Church of the Resurrection, Corpus Christi’s long-running food program, directed by Beth Steinrock, served over 2,000 lunches last year from the rectory door. They also collect food donations from area schools, Whole Foods, parishioners, and neighbors, and partners with St. Francis Neighborhood Center in Reservoir Hill to distribute bags of groceries to those in need. Last year they distributed over 1,000 bags. They also participate in Tri-Church events such as the Lenten Education Series and Palm Sunday procession, and support MICA and UB’s Catholic student population.

Parishioner Denise Duval, who serves with the grocery bag program and also co-chairs the Social Justice and Community Service Committee, said she is “constantly amazed by the deep generosity and love of the Corpus Christi community.”

Mass is held on Saturdays at 4 pm and Sundays at 10:30 am; reconciliation on Saturdays at 3:30 pm or by appointment. To contact the church, call (410) 523-4161 or email mdemek@archbalt.org. If interested in volunteering, contact beth.steinrock@archbalt.org.

Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia

crape myrtle
Crape myrtle in bloom.

Since July Lagerstroemia’s long-lasting, clustered blossoms have made summer gardens of our streets. White, mauve, raspberry, plum—the Victorian shades of these small trees’ flowers suit Bolton Hill. 

But all good things come to an end: in September their colors fast fade away.

The flowers are “perfect,” meaning they contain both female and male parts. Native to Asia, Lagerstroemia have decorated our southern landscapes since 1790, when French botanist Andre Michaux brought them to Charleston, SC.

The leaves are opposite each other on the twig, and “simple” with “entire” margins: meaning the leaf is not lobed and its edges are smooth rather than serrated. Honeybees and pollinating wasps are attracted to the bright generous flowers and to the residue left from crape myrtle aphid activity. Ladybugs keep the aphids in check.

Next, the leaves will give us nice fall color—but nothing so splendid as the sherbets shades of summer. And finally, all that will be left will be the mottled, smooth bark, which provides interest throughout the winter.

Helfenbein Elected to Board of No Boundaries Coalition

Rob Helfenbein
Newly elected NBC board member Rob Helfenbein.

At their most recent meeting, Bolton Hill neighbor Rob Helfenbein was elected to the board of No Boundaries Coalition. Several other Bolton Hill residents, including Rob, received Volunteer Awards for their work with the organization.

Of his award, Rob said, “I am humbled to be among a group of community folks who give much more of their time than me.” As a board member, he hopes to further their work on eliminating food deserts, ensuring the enforcing the Department of Justice consent decree with the Baltimore Police Department to reduce police brutality against citizens, and increasing voter registration in advance of the 2018 and 2020 elections.

He said he especially hopes to contribute to their youth initiatives and “bring conversations about Baltimore City Schools into the mix.” And of course, he hopes to continue working to break down the boundaries between neighborhoods like Sandtown/Upton and Bolton Hill.

“I could not be more impressed with this organization,” Helfenbein said. “No Boundaries Coalition is one of the most organized and well-run community organizations I’ve ever seen and their impact is only growing in the city.”

Jayne Chartrand's meeting notes
Notes from a recent NBC meeting taken by MICA grad Jayne Chartrand.

Michael Booth and Peter Van Buren also received awards, along with residents from neighborhoods throughout the 21217 zip code served by No Boundaries Coalition, for their work for the organization.

In recent weeks, NBC sponsored a Community Forum in partnership with Coppin State’s Criminal Justice and Urban Studies Departments on Thursday, July 6 and facilitated by NBC’s co-director, Ray Kelly, to get community feedback on the DOJ consent decree.

Kelly also was one of 100 community leaders invited to participate in the 6th annual conference of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice in Oakland, CA in June, where he shared NBC’s efforts to transform the Criminal Justice system through education, advocacy and legislation. 

NBC also was asked by the National Organization of Retired State Troopers (NORST) and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) to participate in a precedent-setting panel discussion on June 29 on the responsibility of black police officers to their community.

NBC also recently celebrated the graduation of two founding youth members of the Baltimore Youth Organizing Project (BYOP). One has received a full scholarship to MICA, and the other will be attending Howard University. BYOP was pivotal in pressuring the Mayor into restoring after-school and community-school funding. BYOP was first to the name the 25% cut to in the Mayors preliminary budget and helped organize over 600 youth and concerned residents from across the city to attend a City Council meeting on June 7th.

As part of their work on eliminating food deserts, No Boundaries Coalition is happy to announce the reopening of Fresh at the Avenue (1700 Pennsylvania Avenue) on July 22, with a Grand Reopening Celebration slated for Saturday, July 29.

Please support this fresh food market in West Baltimore! And please contact the No Boundaries Coalition or attend a meeting to help be part of the solution to the myriad problems facing the city. With effective organizing, says Rob Helfenbein, No Boundaries Coalition is helping to create “an amazing, positive community.“ 

Coming to Grips with our History

When you move to Bolton Hill, an unspoken question lingers in your mind for the first few months, maybe even years, that you live here.

“How does this place exist?”

This question takes different forms. How does a neighbor get to be so friendly? Do people really sit on their stoops and talk to each other? Do moms and dads really go out of their way to watch kids, pick up dinner, play in the park, organize activities? And as a new resident with two young children I am happy to say the answer to all of those questions is “Yes!” Bolton Hill really is a special place. A unique community that exists sometimes as a village in and of itself, where neighbors really will let you borrow a quart of milk (or more likely a six-pack of beer).

But there is another side of this question that sits a bit lower, and is a bit more uncomfortable. “How does this place exist?”—when neighborhoods on every side have been ravaged by drugs, crime, white (and black) flight and the dereliction of the city? How have these homes stayed so well preserved? How do people feel safe on the streets? How is it that the shops are devoid of bullet-proof glass, that the parks safe and green and well kept?

A challenging reality for all of us who live here is that the answer to that question is rooted in a history of racism, Lost Cause pro-Confederate movements, pro-segregation movements, neighborhood covenants, urban renewal and even today, the New Jim Crow that Michelle Alexander writes so eloquently about.

As a priest and as Pastor at Memorial Episcopal Church, I am keenly aware of this reality because for many years, members of our parish propagated this way of thinking and acted to keep the neighborhood “white.” I am also keenly aware of the importance of telling the truth about our history in order to chart a new course for the future of Bolton Hill, and perhaps for greater inner-West Baltimore.

This past January, Memorial Church began exploring the history of racism within our parish. At the time, I had no idea how far the tentacles would reach. But as we uncovered more and more stories we realized that the story of racism at Memorial is also the story of racism in Bolton Hill and to some extent, the greater Mt. Royal District—which originally extended from Dolphin to Druid Hill Park and from Mt. Royal to Pennsylvania Avenue. 

The continued shaving-off of pieces of that neighborhood until we got “Bolton Hill”—a name only adopted in twentieth century—was part of an effort to keep the so-called “neighborhood” white.

A few of you may be asking, “Why are we talking about race? In a community newsletter?”

Perhaps it’s because that’s where these conversations should start—not with big, national-level ideals floated among strangers, but among people who live next door to each other, see each other in the parks and on the sidewalks and at the grocery store. 

The only way our national dialogue around race will get any better is if we can tell the truth about our past and have honest conversations about our future with the people who live closest to us. And those conversations should begin here, because even though we have a historic pattern of segregation and racism in this part of Baltimore, our neighborhood is also one of the most diverse in the city.

Our neighborhood is 57% white, 32% black and close to 7% Asian. We have teachers, police officers, professors, professionals, doctors, lawyers, artists, students, musicians. Gay and straight. Religious and less so. Within our bounds we have three fixed-income senior housing buildings, a small number of fixed-income apartments, and a variety of homes ranging in value from $200,000 to close to a million dollars. We have student apartments and luxury apartments. Starter homes and the palatial mansions of Park Avenue.

This spring, during Lent, Memorial Episcopal led neighborhood residents on a Confronting Racism—Stations of the Cross Walk. It proved to be a cathartic moment for church members and neighbors who participated. Not because we suddenly “prayed racism away,” but because we were able to put words to the unspeakable actions of the past that inform who we are today, and in so doing, begin to unravel a new way of moving forward. 

But we still work to do. Five-year-old black children get profiled playing in the park. MICA students are followed or stopped by police for walking home. If I am talking with a member of the Samaritan Community, neighbors will frequently check in as they walk by, asking if I am “ok.” More than a few African American neighbors express feeling like they don’t fully belong here.

So our work continues and the conversation continues, within the parish and within the neighborhood.

I hope you will consider joining in this work.

Prepare for Fall Tree Planting

Three dead and dying trees on Mt. Royal at North Ave. (wall of Bolton North) are on the list for replacement despite having been planted only recently.

Ever wonder why Bolton Hill’s streets have more trees than most neighborhoods in Baltimore? It takes a lot of work—much of it done on a volunteer basis. To maintain our neighborhood’s current tree canopy, roughly 50 trees need to be planted each year.

George Lavdas has been planting and caring for trees in Bolton Hill for the past 25 years. Of late, he’s been joined by David Nyweide and other Bolton Hill residents.

These good folks are currently compiling a neighborhood tree census—something they do twice yearly— to identify locations with dead or dying trees, stumps that need to be ground out, and empty tree wells primed for planting.

David and George report the trees or stumps to be removed to the City so that the sites are ready in time for tree planting in spring and fall. Working with Caleb DeMario of the Midtown Community Benefits District, George and David order trees from the City and arrange planting dates with the Midtown greening crew.

The following 32 sites have been identified for preparation for new tree plantings this fall because they have empty tree wells, stumps that need to be removed, dead saplings, or dead or dying trees:

  • Maple Leaf Park, island between parking strips off Bolton and Robert
  • 2004 Eutaw (on either side of the address awning)
  • 2002 Eutaw
  • 2000 Eutaw at corner with Presstman and on Presstman
  • 1308 Eutaw
  • 1301 Eutaw, in median strip
  • 1300 Eutaw, by bus stop on south side of Lanvale
  • 1627 Park, in median strip
  • 1703 Park, in median strip
  • 1111 Park (at the end of Dolphin)
  • 1805 Bolton
  • 1824 Bolton
  • 1415 John
  • 206 Laurens
  • Mt. Royal, next to wall surrounding Bolton North parking lot (2 trees)
  • 301 McMechen
  • 300 block of McMechen in the median strips across from Save-A-Lot (3 stumps)
  • 300 block of McMechen, south side of the street
  • 122 W. Lafayette
  • 123 W. Lafayette
  • 100 block of W. Lafayette, along Corpus Christi Church
  • 123 W. Lanvale
  • 229 W. Lanvale
  • 120 W. Lanvale
  • 134 W. Lanvale
  • 103 W. Lanvale (near intersection with W. Mt. Royal, along granite wall)

Is there an empty tree well or dead tree or tree trunk in front of your house? Contribute to the census by sending an email to both David Nyweide (dnyweide@yahoo.com) and George Lavdas (lavdasgeorge01@gmail.com).

Volunteers are needed to help plant new and prune existing trees. The fall planting date will be announced in the Bulletin calendar—keep an eye out for it!

If you’re interested in becoming more involved with keeping the neighborhood canopy thick and healthy by planting and pruning trees, please contact George or David. George can also help answer any questions about what City Forestry can (or cannot do) and can put you in contact with private tree professionals, who (for a fee) can work with you to do the fertilizing and maintenance pruning of trees around your home.

Help Build Ana’s Garden

By Kendra Parlock

Longtime neighbor Marcia Ribeiro is hoping to build a garden in Bolton Hill. Ana’s Garden will be a tribute to Marcia’s mother, Ana, and a memorial for her love for Bolton Hill. Ana passed away from pancreatic cancer last fall.

Rendering of Ana's Garden
Landscape architect’s rendering of Ana’s Garden.

Ana decided to spend her retirement in Bolton Hill with Marcia and her husband Paul Silvestri after having worked as a nurse for 25 years. Many neighbors knew Ana from her walks in the dog park at the end of Mosher. She loved spending time there getting to know the people that passed through and the dogs that ran in the park.

Plan for Ana's Garden

Ana’s Garden will be a quiet, reflective space located at the dog park that will enable people to come together as a community during a time when many feel the need to come together more. The project and design was approved by Linden Park Building Management and the MRIA Architectural Review Committee. The space will feature seven trees of different varieties, nine boulders and four custom benches made of cypress, steel and concrete that will be inviting and architecturally interesting.

Bench designs
Bench designs for Ana’s Garden.

Fundraising began in March to cover all expenses as well as future maintenance and upkeep. So far Bolton Hill neighbors and friends of Ana have contributed approximately $7500 of the $22,000 that is needed.  Marcia is managing the project and has enlisted the help of a landscape designer, artist and fabricator in an organic process of creation and development. The first plantings are scheduled to be installed in October.

Please support the project by donating to Ana’s Garden on GoFundMe.com or dropping off a donation at 1422 Bolton St. You can honor the memory of a loved one in the garden with an engraved plaque that will be affixed to one of the nine boulders (available for a $300 donation). Plaques may be installed on on one of the two small benches for a $1200 donation or on one of the two large benches for a $2400 donation.

Please contact Marcia at (443)717-2200 or marciova1962@gmail.com with questions and for more information. 

The Commuter Chronicles: Digital Bibliophile

Commuter ChroniclesBy Claudia DeCarlo

Recently on the train, I saw someone reading a large, heavy, hardcover book. It looked to be a collection of stories, although I couldn’t make out the author’s name or title. 
 
But this wasn’t just any hardcover book. This one had a familiar-looking sticker at the base of the spine, with a series of letters and numbers denoting what will surely one day be as defunct as cursive writing: the Dewey decimal system. 
 
My fellow commuter was holding a real relic—an actual library book.   
 
I consider myself an avid reader, and seeing that book made me smile. I reminisced about my younger days, the prehistoric, pre-iPad days, when books were friends you spent the afternoon with at the public library or shared a latté with at a local Barnes and Noble café. 
 
I looked down at my iPhone6. I was reading, too. Actually, I was listening to an audio book on Audible. Does that count as reading? When was the last time I read an actual book, let alone from a library?   
 
I looked at my own digital library. Since I started commuting, I’ve amassed 24 titles in my Audible library. Some on my mobile device, some in the cloud. None in my actual hands.   
 
I observed the commuters seated around me. About half were reading real books, the other half e-books. (As for audio books, I could not accurately observe how many). No differences in gender, race, or age marked the groups of readers. The commuter with the large library book looked to be in her twenties, defying the stereotype that younger people prefer tech over paper. 
  
Does the fact that I read—er . . . um . . . listen to—my books digitally make me any less of a bibliophile? I must admit, seeing that book in that young woman’s hands made me long for the days when I folded down the corner of a page to mark my place and collected bookmarks, when I picked a book to read because I was enchanted by the imagery on its cover. 
 
Then I take inventory of what is currently in my oversized and overstuffed commuting bag. In order of importance: laptop, iPhone, coffee mug, hand sanitizer, headphones (Bluetooth and regular), water bottle, laptop charger, extra battery charger, makeup, hairbrush, umbrella, keys, extra jacket, and a half-eaten bagel from this morning. 
 
I really don’t want to add the complete works of Stephen King to that list. 
 
So, fellow commuting bibliophiles, let’s take a poll. Which do you prefer on your daily trek between home and work? 

a) regular book 
b) e-books 
c) audio books 

And if you’re a book-lover of the digital sort, is there a part of you, ever so slight, that feels a bit guilty for trading in your old paper-book friends for newer, digital models, all in the name of an easier commute? 

Be a Citizen in the Know: the Criminal Justice System and Community Impact

Both violent and property crime have been on the decrease over the past six months. Nevertheless, because we often see an uptick in crime as the temperature rises, the MRIA Safety Committee wants to remind readers of the role the entire community can play in the criminal justice process.

Below are major crime data (assault/robbery, aggravated assault, and burglary) for the last six months (mid-November – mid-May) for the 132 Central District post, encompassing all of Bolton Hill, parts of Reservoir Hill and some areas west of Eutaw St.

BH crime stats 11/16-5/17

What can the community do to mitigate the impact of crime? Most importantly, do what you can to avoid becoming a victim. The Safety Committee has collaborated with Midtown to offer four self-defense classes, which will be held at locations throughout Mt Vernon and Bolton Hill. Anyone can enroll for these classes.

In the instance when a crime does occur, it’s important for the community to be engaged in the process at every stage. They can elect judges and submit community impact statements; but they can also play an important role as attentive and active observers. To have the greatest impact, citizens must stay informed about a very complicated process.

Victims, of course, are at the center of any case, because it is up to them whether or not to press charges. The victim also makes certain that the charges and police reports are accurate and complete.

It is essential that victims remain engaged in the judicial process, even though doing so can be emotional and at times traumatic. Without the victim present, charges can be dismissed. As Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Kevin Davis reported at the May MRIA meeting, more than 50% of cases involving guns are dismissed because the victim does not show up for the trial.

Perhaps the most important thing the community can do when an arrest is made and a court date set is to encourage, support and empower the victim. Victims of crimes, as well as their representatives and witnesses, have rights that include:

  • The ability to receive crisis intervention help;
  • Notification of dates and times of court proceedings;
  • The ability to seek protection from harm or threats of harm arising out of the prosecution of the case;
  • Information about financial compensation, criminal injuries compensation, and social services available to victims and their representatives;
  • Assistance in seeking employer cooperation to minimize loss of pay or other benefits resulting from their participation in the criminal justice process;
  • Ability to address the court or submit a victim impact statement to the court.

During the preliminary hearings and the trial itself, the victim will be consulted but community impact is not considered. However, they can be called upon to offer community impact statements once a defendant has been convicted, during the sentencing process.

It is important for community members to remain engaged throughout the course of a trial in order to be able to most effectively argue the community impact during sentencing. Commissioner Davis pointed out that in gun-related arrests that resulted in a conviction and the imposition of a sentence, the sentence was suspended in 60% of the cases in Baltimore City.

Community members should also keep in mind that judges are elected officials, which gives citizens the opportunity and responsibility to assess their performance in managing the judicial process through the power of the vote.

Black Walnut, Jenkins Alley

Black walnut, Jenkins Alley
Looking up into the black walnut at Jenkins Alley.

Now here’s a memorable tree living among us: the towering black walnut of Jenkins Alley, which shades the rear side of the almost equally towering Brown Memorial Church. It has BGE wires strung across it like guitar strings.

In its lifetime it’s sung many a song, like the ballad of Judge Tom Ward wrestling a burglar to the ground under its boughs.Its trunk measures a whopping 161 inches around, which may be a record here in Bolton Hill.

Juglans nigra is desirable both for its tasty nut and for its easily worked, deep brown wood. Its leaves are deciduous, alternate and “compound”—that is, each stem has many, rather than single, leaves, which alternate from left to right as you go down the stem rather than being arranged opposite each other in pairs. These leaves yellow and fall as the weather turns cold.The Eastern black walnut is monoecious, meaning that in spring it displays both male and female flowers, taking the form of inconspicuous green catkins. They arrive on separate spikes, typically the females first. However, the tree does not self-pollinate, relying instead on wind and the presence of other walnut trees for propagation.

Even for the mightiest among us, it takes a village.

Tenth Annual Boundary Block Party on June 3

2016's Boundary Block PartyCelebrate the community that unites us, rather than the boundaries that separate us, by joining the fun at the 10th Annual Boundary Block Party, Saturday June 3, from 1 to 4 pm at the Upton Triangle, the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Presstman Street.

Organized by No Boundaries Coalition and Jubilee Arts, you can follow the event and RSVP on Facebook to show your support.

The Boundary Block Party brings together residents of Central West Baltimore as one community, including the neighborhoods of Bolton Hill, Marble Hill, Reservoir Hill, Upton, Sandtown, and Madison Park, and Druid Heights.

Started in 2008, the first Block Party was held on the Eutaw St. median south of McMechen, the unofficial but generally accepted boundary separating Bolton Hill from Madison Park and Marble Hill. From the start, the block party set out to encourage more open involvement between the whole 21217 community.

Boundary Block Party
Lively entertainment is guaranteed

Over the years, it has grown bigger and moved just a few blocks west to the Upton Triangle at the boundary of the Upton, Druid Heights and Sandtown-Winchester neighborhoods.

And the fun has grown too, with live entertainment, music to dance to, grilled food to eat, a community resource fair, and art activities for families. The live entertainment will include Twilighters Marching Band, Brown Memorial Choir, Soulful Sisters, and Dynamic Force, along with others.

Fresh on the Avenue will even be moving their store’s stalls to the park to setup a full outdoor produce market with a large selection of locally grown and organic items.

As they did last year, MRIA’s Social Action Task Force will be organizing a group walk from Bolton Hill over to the Party. This year, they’re meeting at Linden Gazebo at 9:45 am for a morning walk to join the clean up of Upton Park in preparation for the Block Party. Kids and adults welcome – just bring work gloves if you have them.

Plan to make a whole day of it, as Boltonstock 2017 starts afterward at 5 pm—the official after party.

Midtown Academy News

Jonathan
Jonathan Veale, 8th grade, winner of Carson Scholarship.

Carson Scholarship Winner Announced

The Midtown Academy is excited to announce their newest inductee into the ranks of Midtown Carson Scholarship Awardees. Jonathan Veale, 8th grader at The Midtown Academy, was honored this April for his outstanding academic performance, commitment to community and his caring personality and heart. Midtown is proud to stand behind Jonathan and his family as he enters Baltimore School for the Arts next year.

The Carson Scholars Fund awards $1,000 college scholarships to students in grades 4–11 who excel academically and are dedicated to serving their communities. The minimum requirements are a 3.75 GPA and involvement in community service. Schools are generally allowed to nominate only one student per year.

BIKEMORE Bike Installation at The Midtown Academy

You may notice something new outside our doors here at The Midtown Academy. BIKEMORE, the organization which works to expand, protect and promote bicycle infrastructure between neighborhoods, installed their 100th bike rack right in front of our school.

Bikemore
The Bikemore installation in front of The Midtown Academy.

Students, teachers and staff will now have a safe space to lock up their bikes during the day. “Our goal was to encourage our students to ride their bikes to schools, promoting healthy lifestyles and a quick way to get to and from,” says Midtown Executive Director, Jennifer Devon.

Bingo!
Happy bingo players at The Midtown Academy’s bingo fundraiser.

Annual Bingo Raises Over $4,500!

Thank you to all of our community friends and families who came to support The Midtown Academy at this year’s BINGO! Well over 50 players attended, and they helped us raise $4,665 to support critical programs here at The Midtown Academy. Not only did we raise money for our school, but we had an awesome time winning bingo baskets full of prizes and auctioning off great experiences with our Midtown teachers and staff. The Midtown Academy wants to especially thank 1st-grade teacher Mrs. Engel, who took this on along with some of our dedicated parents. Thanks to all those families who makes Midtown such a special place.

Midtown Students on the Run

If you think you’ve seen a flash of lightning coming down Lafayette, don’t be alarmed. It’s just the 5th through 8th grade students in The Midtown Academy Running Club. Students meet every Monday in their “pace groups” and head out for an hour of running and fun games. Thanks to community volunteers and new friends from Morgan State University for helping Midtown’s students get in shape and have fun doing it.

Congratulations to the Class of 2017 

We are excited to announce the 2017 graduating class of The Midtown Academy, who will be attending schools including City College High School, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, the Institute of Notre Dame, Western High School, Baltimore School for the Arts, Milford Mill Academy, Greene Street Academy, Bluford Jemison School, and Digital Harbor High School. We are proud of our graduates!

Fall Play Auditions for A Christmas Carol

A Christmas CarolMemorial Players is pleased to announce auditions for the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted for the stage by Romulus Linney, co-directed by Rina Steinhauer and Darren McGregor and produced by Kristine Smets.

Auditions will be held on the following dates:

  • Friday, June 9th, 6–9 pm
  • Saturday, June 10th, 10 am–1 pm
  • Sunday, June 11, 1–4 pm

Where: Memorial Episcopal Church, 1407 Bolton St, Baltimore, in the second-floor Parish Hall (entrance on W. Lafayette Street).

Callbacks (if needed) will be announced by email.

Who: We are looking to cast 25 to 30 people. All roles are open and unpaid. Actors of all ethnic and racial backgrounds are encouraged to audition. A list of characters is available here.

Specifics: 

  • Actors will be auditioned in half-hour blocks. 
  • Please sign up for an audition slot at SignUpGenius.Com. Please indicate if you have an interest in a specific role.
  • Walk-ins are welcome, but come early.
  • Actors interested in the role of Scrooge, Cratchit, Fred, Marley, Fezziwig, or one of the three Spirits should come prepared with a one- to two-minute monologue. 
  • Those auditioning for other roles are welcome to prepare a monologue, but it is not required.
  • Auditions will consist of cold readings from the script.
  • You will be given a projected rehearsal schedule to review. 

Rehearsals will be held three times per week (Wednesday evening, Saturday morning, and Sunday afternoon) and will begin on September 6th. Please be prepared with dates of major conflicts during the rehearsal period.

Show dates are December 1–3 and 9–11 at Memorial Episcopal Church. Friday and Saturday performances are at 7:30 pm and Sunday performances at 3:30 pm.

Questions? Email falldrama1407@gmail.com.

Meet Judith: Volunteering Is Always in Fashion

Judith McFadden
Judith McFadden, Clothes Closet volunteer manager at Samaritan Community.

For Judith McFadden, Samaritan Community’s Clothes Closet volunteer manager, helping members find new clothes is about much more than a new dress or shirt. It’s about how those clothes can affect a person and how they feel. There’s a sense of pride that comes with new clothes, and this pride is often missing in many of our members’ lives. 

“I love it when we put a nice jacket on a man, one that fits and is of good quality,” says Judith. “His shoulders straighten his posture improves. Sometimes, women come back and show us their how they look in their new outfits. A new look works wonders in how we feel about ourselves.”

But Judith does even more than help a member find clothes. She often becomes source of support for people experiencing a wide range of emotions, from great excitement to worry to despair.  

“Perhaps they need clothes for a job interview or to wear to church. But we also see people who have lost or gained weight because of illness or medication, and need clothing to fit their new body,” she says. “One young mother, unemployed due to a major health crisis and suddenly widowed, was able to find school outfits for her two boys. And something pretty for herself.”

In addition to Judith, other members of Samaritan Community come in to help organize the clothes and household items available at the Shop, and to help on the “sales floor.” And that’s what makes the Shop special for Judith—and for so many others: the sense of community that resides there.

“All of us, helpers and shoppers, really feel like a community—a real community—as we hear stories and share good news,” she says. “We offer encouragement and give hugs, as needed.”

While her professional background includes public affairs, community relations, and teaching, Judith has always volunteered. “It is part of who I am,” she says.

“Whenever anybody asks, I tell them I have the best volunteer job! I make people look good and feel good about how they look,” she says. “What a blessing.”

For more information about Samaritan Community, visit their website.

Meet C&H Restoration and Renovation

C&H
Nick Cairns and Tim Horjus of C&H Restoration and Renovation.

Maybe you’ve seen them driving through the neighborhood, confabulating on a street corner, or making friends with the local canine population. Nick Cairns and Tim Horjus, owners of C&H Restoration and Renovation, seem to be ubiquitous in Bolton Hill. This is really no wonder though since Bolton Hill is where C&H got its start. 

Tim and Nick met years ago at the Area 405 building in the Station North Arts District. Each was working hard trying to pursue a career as an artist while also needing to earn a living. This shared existence planted the seed for the founding of C&H.

Tim grew up in the Midwest and cut his teeth in the trades helping his dad restore pipe organs and working as a house framer and general contractor. He came to Baltimore to attend graduate school at MICA, ultimately receiving an MFA from the University of Maryland. Along with doing carpentry work and floor refinishing, Tim taught art, from kindergarten to the graduate level. C&H is proud to have employed a few of his former students over the years.  

Nick hails from the Philadelphia suburbs, where he spent his childhood in a foundry, helping his father, a sculptor, make plaster and bronze casts. After college in Ohio and several years in New York and Boston, Nick moved to Baltimore in 2004. Here, he developed a small business using his moldmaking and casting skills to restore ornamental plasterwork in older homes throughout Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Gargoyle House
Gargoyle House

Having worked together on a number of smaller restoration and remodeling projects, Nick and Tim were given the opportunity in 2010 to help restore Bolton Hill’s well-known “Gargoyle House.” This beautiful, distinctive building had languished in disrepair for years; a tree had even started growing out of one corner of the house. Over the next two years, Nick and Tim helped bring this home back to its original glory (see more photos here.) During the course of this project, C&H was born.

C&H Restoration and Renovation specializes in the restoration and updating of historic homes. One of the most rewarding aspects of this work is getting the opportunity to play Sherlock Holmes. The darkened marks on floors indicating original wall locations, the joinery method of old joists, the oak parquet flooring installed over the original heart pine floors—not to mention century-old whiskey bottles, newspapers and baseball cards: these all become clues in that help Nick and Tim piece together the histories of these remarkable homes. 

The discovery process is the starting point of each project. Nick and Time then work to seamlessly and sensibly merge the old with the new. C&H loves to work with homeowners to find ways to combine the history of the house with a new vision, a way for homeowners to write their own chapter in the history of these grand old houses.

Perhaps, some century from now, a future house detective will come across C&H’s handiwork in some of these Bolton Hill homes.