The Davis Children’s Home Weekly: Our First Neighborhood Newsletter

by Jean Lee Cole

The Bolton Hill Bulletin began publication 45 years ago and is one of Baltimore’s longest-running neighborhood newsletters. But it was not Bolton Hill’s first neighborhood newsletter. That honor may go to the Home Weekly, which appeared on the streets of Bolton Hill more than a hundred years ago–and was written and published by a group of kids.

The December 19, 1908 Christmas issue of The Home Weekly, published by Bolton Hill’s Davis and Stieff children. Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Editor’s Note: If you are having trouble viewing the slideshow above, try viewing it at this link.

The Weekly was the brainchild of Francis A. Davis, age 13, who assembled an editorial team that included his brother, Allan, age 11, friend Gideon N. Stieff—scion of the Stieff silver family—also 13 years old, and two of the younger Davis siblings, Hamilton Chase, 8, and Clara, who began contributing stories at the ripe old age of 6. According to John Davis and Jenny Hope, the son and granddaughter, respectively, of Hamilton Chase Davis, the Davis and Stieff children published the Weekly when they lived at 1701 Park Avenue (currently a large, multifamily residence). Several Davis children attended Friends School on the other side of the Park Avenue median, in buildings that were eventually converted into condominiums, and their grandfather, Francis Sr., lived down the hill at 1606 Park Ave.

The Home Weekly shows the active imagination, sweet sense of humor, and artistic ambition of the Davis clan. Francis, the eldest, declared in 1910 that it was precisely “Our aim … to show the curious the literary talent concealed in the family of Mr. & Mrs. E. A. Davis and aid in bringing out and developing the abovementioned talent. If we succeed only partially in fulfilling this aim we shall be more than satisfied.”

Lacking access to photocopiers, mimeograph machines, or printing presses, each issue of the Weekly was painstakingly copied, by hand, by Francis Davis. For this reason, they initially charged only a penny to those who wanted to read an issue, and a nickel (worth about $1.25 in today’s dollars) for readers who wanted their own copy.

Initially, the Weekly consisted of a single sheet from a lined, 2-column stenographer’s pad. Quickly, however, the creativity of the Davis and Stieff children filled 4, 12, even 20 pages. Each week. Within a year, prices had doubled, costing 2 cents to read and a dime for your own copy.

The contents of the Weekly mirrored popular magazines of the day. Most issues began either with an editorial or a piece of fiction, sometimes serialized, and fiction generally dominated throughout. But the editors of the Weekly also included squibs “reprinted” from other magazines, including Boys’ Life and St. Nicholas, as well as the local newspapers.

Like magazines and newspapers then and now, the Home Weekly sought to be topical. In preparation for their Christmas issue, the editors ran a fiction contest, offering fifteen cents for “the best Christmas story submitted to us by December 15, 1908” and a dime for the “second best.” They sternly advised potential submitters to follow these guidelines:

The stories must contain at the least 700 words and at the most 1,000.

An story (sic) that does not come up to the above qualifications will not be considered.

If we think that none of the stories are of the required standard all the rewards are revoked.


Christmastime was clearly a special season in the lives of the Davis and Stieff children. In the pages of the Weekly they described the Christmas plays performed by different classes at Friends School, noting that during one performance “one of the actors hooked his foot in a piece of scenery, pulling it down with a crash,” while “Another actor hit a foot-light with his foot so it went out with a loud pop.” Meanwhile, at Boys’ Latin, all of the students gathered in the school auditorium to present their gifts to their teachers: silver bon bon dishes, stickpins, a pipe and cigarette holder—certainly not gifts students would give a teacher today!—and a “Silver Handle Umbrella.” They wrote, “As each teacher received his gift he opened it so that everyone might see what it was and then made a short speech to the boys.” (One of the teachers, we should note, was a “Miss Dammran.”)

Continue reading …

Seeking A Few Great Sponsors

sponsorsAs we roll into 2017, the Bolton Hill Bulletin has a few openings for new sponsors. If your business or organization is interested in reaching, as well as supporting, our neighborhood, please consider becoming one of our 24 sponsors.

In the past year, advertisements on the Bulletin website were displayed between between 400–1,200 times each day, varying widely depending on the time of month. On release dates at the beginning of each month, the number of ad views have exceeded 2,000.

Compare this online advertising to the number of views possible in our printed newsletter (discontinued in 2016), which was distributed to just a few hundred subscribers once per month, read once or a few times, and then discarded.

Since Bulletin readers can access all of the articles, event listings, neighborhood news and past issues anytime they want – 24/7— it doesn’t take much figuring to see how much potential exposure your business or organization will receive by supporting the online Bulletin.

Truly, this is a win for everyone, as you will be supporting both the Bulletin and the work of the Mount Royal Improvement Association.

What’s the Deal?

Each sponsor’s individual ad rotates randomly into the four ad spaces that appear in the right hand column of each web page. A different set of ads appears in the ad spaces each time a web page is opened by a reader, so each business or organization gets an equal share of views.

Since we limit the total number of sponsors to a maximum of 24, on average, your ad will appear on every 6th page opened by any visitor. Plus, each ad provides a clickable link directly to your website, so that readers can find more information about you.

The Bulletin‘s main menu, which appears at the top of the page, prominently displays the link to our Sponsors’ Page, with an alphabetical listing of all our sponsors. Each sponsor’s listing can include contact information, a short tagline or description and an additional link to their website. This listing basically functions as a second ad for no extra charge.

In 2017, we are also adding a new feature. Each issue will include a Meet Our Sponsors post that will highlight one or two of our sponsors. The editors will work with you to craft a short piece that introduces your business or organization to our readers by highlighting your work.

Our rates remain the same for 2017 as they have been for years, $180/year for a full-size ad in all eleven issues and a full year of online presence, providing great value for your advertising dollar.

If you or someone you know might be interested in becoming a sponsor, please contact the editors at for more information.

Madison Park North Demolition Begins

Madison Park North as it currently stands.
Madison Park North as it currently stands.

Developers Dave Bramble of MCB Real Estate and Mark Renbaum of MLR Partners were on hand at the November meeting of the Madison Park North (MPN) Neighborhood Coalition. The MPN site sits just across North Avenue opposite the end of the 1800 block of Bolton Street.

The main focus of the meeting was listening to demolition contractor David Berg of Berg Construction explain the demolition process and answer questions from the group.

Demolition is slated to begin on December 9, 2016 and will last approximately five months. To start, the construction crews will rip out the innards of each building, while ensuring that any asbestos is properly removed.

Then, each building will be demolished, with the brick and concrete recycled on site for use in rebuilding the property. Demolition work will take place most days from 7 am to 3 pm. The chain link fence encircling the property will remain until the site is cleared.

The developers reiterated that they want input from the community regarding desirable uses for the site. The adjacent properties on North Avenue, currently Linden Liquor Lounge and Total Healthcare, along with the new John Eager Howard School construction, may eventually become part of the overall development plan for this area.

Everyone is invited to attend the MPN Neighborhood Coalition’s monthly meetings at 7 pm every 4th Monday (but NOT in December) in the St. Francis Neighborhood Center, 2405 Linden Avenue.

To keep abreast of the news about this redevelopment project, the Coalition’s meeting minutes are posted online at this Google Drive link.

Potluck with a Purpose on Dec. 11

The monthly meetings of MRIA’s Social Action Task Force are always open to everyone, but in the aftermath of this year’s divisive elections, the SATF is encouraging all interested neighbors to attend their December meeting on Sunday, December 11, 6 to 8 pm.

It’s a Potluck Party with a Purpose, so please bring something to share—something to eat and wine or another beverage.

SATF cleanup of vacant lot last summer
SATF cleans up a vacant lot last summer.


Andrew Parlock painting a building across from the lot
Andrew Parlock paints a building across from the lot.

The potluck will be in Upper Parish Hall at Memorial Episcopal (enter from the Lafayette Street side). SATF will recap this year’s accomplishments, review its mission, and discuss goals and projects for 2017.

Many nonprofit organizations serving the 21217 neighborhood will be on hand to provide their input on how Bolton Hill’s efforts can best complement their work.

Get involved in your community. Together we can make a difference.

Read about the success of SATF’s fall event, the Halloween Pumpkin Fest.

New Life for Historic Marble Hill Community

Booker T. Washington School
Booker T. Washington School in Marble Hill.

by Marti Pitrelli

Under the direction of new president Atiba Nkurmah, the Marble Hill Community Association’s goals are to increase homeownership, attract investment, stabilize historic structures, decrease criminal activity and student truancy, and generally support neighborhood residents.

Several public middle and high schools are located in Marble Hill, which lies just west of Bolton Hill, on the west side of Eutaw Place. Decreasing student truancy will no doubt have a positive effect on decreasing adolescent crimes in both Marble Hill and Bolton Hill.

The Marble HIll Historic District was once the home of the African American elite of Baltimore. Unlike large areas of Bolton Hill that were demolished, Marble Hill survived the urban renewal of the1970s largely intact. Many beautiful buildings remain, including schools, churches, and continuous rows of grand houses.

One of Marble Hill’s architectural gems, the impressive Richardson Romanesque-style Booker T. Washington School, on the National Register of Historic Places, just received 200 new, custom-made Marvin windows. Come by and take a look at this enormous brick and marble structure and its beautiful new windows!

To name just a few of the neighborhood’s illustrious residents, prominent figures in the Civil Rights Movement such as Thurgood Marshall and Clarence and Juanita Jackson Mitchell, John Murphy (founder of the Afro-American newspaper), Harry S. Cummings (first African American Baltimore City Councilman and one of the first two African Americans to graduate from the University of Maryland Law School), Henry Hall (founder of the National Aquarium in Baltimore) Cab Calloway, and Billie Holiday all resided in Marble Hill.

Douglas Memorial Community Church, built in 1857 suffers neglect
Built in 1857, Douglas Memorial Community Church is one of Marble Hill’s many architectural gems.

Unfortunately, disinvestment in recent decades has caused many of the buildings to fall into a state of vacancy and disrepair.

Marble Hill is working closely with the City of Baltimore and Baltimore Heritage to identify historic rowhouses to save them from demolition and to stabilize them where necessary. The properties are then put into the hands of responsible owners who will restore them to their former glory. This enormous task requires close coordination between the city legal department, code enforcement, financing departments, tax lien departments and stabilization crews.

Marble Hill Community Association has appointed a new Architectural Review Committee (ARC) chairperson who will oversee these preservation efforts. After many years of service, the former ARC Chair Marion Blackwell has stepped down, and Marti Pitrelli will serve as the new chair of the ARC.

The ARC will continue working to expand the current Marble Hill Historic District to include all streets of Marble Hill, an effort projected to take 1-2 years.

They will also continue efforts to attain landmark designation for the A.M.E. Bishops’ Headquarters/King-Briscoe House located at 1232 Druid Hill Avenue. This structure was the first building in the city of Baltimore to utilize CHAP’s new Potential Landmark Provision, which temporarily protects a building until it can be properly researched and designated as a “historic landmark.”

This new provision was used to protect the building from demolition, following the widely publicized demise of its “sister house,” the Lillie Carroll Jackson Freedom House at 1234 Druid Hill Avenue. The Freedom House was demolished against Lillie Carroll Jackson’s wishes, without community input or CHAP review, in October 2015.

A series of hearings this year resulted in CHAP’s unanimous support of preservation of 1232 Druid Hill Avenue, and they ordered owners to stabilize the crumbling structure. Our District 11 Councilman, Eric Costello, will ask the Baltimore City Council to finalize the landmarking on December 8 at City Hall.

Fire damaged Thurgood Marshall Elementary School
Thurgood Marshall School was damaged by fire this summer.

The National Park Service has plans to resurrect the Thurgood Marshall School (PS 103) on Division Street, after it suffered a devastating fire earlier this year. And the grand and historic Home of the Friendless, at 1313 Druid Hill Avenue, has been sold by the City to a developer who plans to create artist housing and studios. This building was also used as Baltimore City’s first African American Public Health Center in more recent times. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and we are very grateful to the City for selling it to a local developer for adaptive reuse as The House of ART.

Landscaping has transformed the newly restored Henry Highland Garnet Park at Druid Hill and W. Lafayette. The beautiful design includes planting beds, winding pathways and new park benches, and three large 20th-century iron urns which have been returned to the park. Since its renovation, the park has become a favorite gathering place for community events.

Over 200 new trees and tree wells have been planted in Marble Hill and Madison Park with the help of Parks and People, the Baltimore Tree Trust, and many community volunteers.

Baltimore Heritage tour group in front of demolished Freedom House
Baltimore Heritage tour group in front of demolished Freedom House.

Marble Hill, as well as parts of Eutaw Place, are included in the National Park Service’s new Civil Rights Heritage District as well as the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail. Sold-out historic tours of Marble Hill were conducted by Eli Pousson of Baltimore Heritage this year, and starting in spring 2017, Baltimore Heritage and Marti Pitrelli plan to continue tours of the neighborhood. Tour dates and other events will be announced in the Bulletin.

Please walk over and see the progress being made in Marble Hill, and all the wonderful buildings and parks it contains. Witness for yourself the resurrection of Bolton Hill’s neighbor to the west.

Ugly Pumpkin Party a Smashing Success


It’s true. Bolton Hill does know how to throw a party.

MRIA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) proved this again with a laughter-filled afternoon of Halloween fun on the warm, sunny Saturday of October 29. Check out the evidence in the slideshow below.

Due to the generosity of sponsor Kappa Alpha Psi, the Ugly Pumpkin Halloween Fest took place in the vacant lot next to the fraternity’s Youth and Community Center at 1207 Eutaw Place. Halloween-themed rock and roll pumped up the volume, as over 120 candy-fueled kids (plus quite a few adults) decorated pumpkins and experimented with a huge array of donated costumes.

Youths from Kappa's Guide Right Program
Youths from Kappa’s Guide Right Program

Young men from the Kappa League’s Guide Right mentor program, MICA art students and many other SATF volunteers made light work of the setup, running and take down of the party. Former mayor Shelia Dixon even stopped by on her way to another campaign event.

In the end, all of the pumpkins and most of the costumes found their way home with happy partygoers. Best of all, everything was free, thanks to donations from many neighbors.

The afternoon kids’ party was the first half of SATF’s fall Party with a Purpose program. In the evening, adults attended Memorial Episcopal’s Gala 2016 (see details here), which was indeed a most hideous event, and included a highly successful live auction.

Proceeds from the SATF’s Parties with a Purpose benefit non-profit groups that serve the 21217 area. The success of Memorial’s Gala, and the church’s generosity, allowed $315 to be donated to each of the four selected youth organizations that were part of the Halloween Fest, Jubilee Arts, Wide Angle Youth Media, Child First, and the Kappa League Guide Right Program.

Thanks to everyone who made this fun event a big success – so much so that discussions have already started for the second annual Pumpkin Party in 2017.

The Commuter Chronicles #2: The Superhero of Commuters


Day in and day out, more than 30,000 people make the daily trek from Maryland to Washington DC, traveling 4-6 hours per day just to be able to call Charm City home. These are their stories.

by Claudia DeCarlo

Some days, getting out of the house and to the train on time is such an incredible feat, I feel like someone should give me an award. On these days, I am the master of morning multitasking; I am a dog whisperer, an effortless organizational expert, and a fashionista who can throw together a killer outfit in no time.

On this particular dark and rainy early Monday morning, I was a commuting superhero. Even though it was raining miserably, my superhero powers turned every stoplight to green just as I approached it. My superpowers made a spot right by the elevator in the covered parking garage adjacent to the station available when I drove up. I even had extra time to purchase a cup of coffee before calmly walking onto the train ten minutes early.

Sitting there sipping my latté, waiting for the scheduled departure time, I spotted a flashing light through the rain, off in the distance. The light got closer. The rain fell harder. That’s when I saw him. The real commuting superhero. The cyclist commuter.

As if this were the early days of the pony express, neither rain nor hail nor sleet will tempt this guy to call an Uber to get to the station. His bicycle (which folds up into what I am pretty sure is a wallet) is his stallion. His superhero cape is a bright yellow reflective rain poncho with hood, securely fastened around this face. His legs are lean and muscular, covered in long cycling pants, adding to the superhero effect. He glides up to the steps leading to the platform, dismounts with a flourish, folds up his bike up in seven seconds flat, runs up the stairs two at a time, and finds his way to a seat on the train.

I sat there, with my latté, my Burberry rain boots and damp umbrella, and quietly worshipped the All-Powerful Veteran Virtuoso of Public Transit: The Commuting Cyclist.

Want more Commuter Chronicles? Read the first installment, “The Whiskey Clutch,” here.

Sheng Zhen Class Moves to Memorial Episcopal

sheng-zhen-classStarting in January 2017, the weekly neighborhood Sheng Zhen Gong class taught by Peter Van Buren will move to the Upper Parish Hall at Memorial Episcopal Church. Beginning on January 4, one-hour classes will be held every Wednesday from 5:30–6:30 pm.

This past summer, neighbor Virginia Knowlton Marcus began teaching weekly yoga classes at Memorial Church, also in the Upper Hall. Since her class is on the same day from 7–8 pm, Bolton Hill can now enjoy Wellness Wednesdays, as these two classes dovetail with each other.

Peter explains, “Sheng Zhen means ‘unconditional love’ in Chinese, while Gong means ‘practice.’ Through its comprehensive system of moving forms, meditations, philosophy, and contemplations, Sheng Zhen Gong taps into the body’s natural ability to heal itself.”

“The graceful, flowing movements relax and strengthen the body, while quieting the mind and opening the heart. Time and again, I have seen students experience the benefits of balancing their emotions and reducing stress with just one session.”

As an ongoing fundraiser, 100% of the qigong class fees will go to Memorial Church, with suggested donations of $10 per class or a 6-class package for $50. With the help of Rev. Grey Maggiano, Peter hopes the larger space of the upper hall will allow him to introduce this beneficial practice to both the Memorial congregation and the wider Bolton Hill community.

Peter started learning Tai Chi in 1978. Since then, he has enjoyed practicing this martial art in various schools from Massachusetts to Baltimore to Washington, DC. He was introduced to Sheng Zhen Gong by local teacher Pamela Tanton in 2005 and has been practicing it ever since.

Peter has also learned directly from Master Li Junfeng, one of the few living qigong masters and the force who brought Sheng Zhen Gong to the world. After hundreds of hours of training and practice, he started teaching qigong locally in 2014.

Peter started teaching weekly Sheng Zhen Gong classes at the Bolton Hill Nursery in October 2015. A creative fundraiser for the school, the classes produced over $1,000 in donations to the Nursery during that time.

For the past year, classes have been held in the living room of the school’s historic mansion on Lanvale Street, and participants have enjoyed the open sunny space that is permeated with the laughter of so many young children. “This made for a perfect place in which to practice Sheng Zhen, said Peter, “and director Louie Wilder and the staff made us feel truly welcome. I am very grateful for their kindness.”

Learn more about Sheng Zhen Gong at

Help the Samaritans Support People Like Erika

Erika and her children
Erika and her children

Erika is a hard worker who needed help to get herself and her three young sons into an apartment, and on the right track. Just a few months ago, she had a low-paying job and, along with her children, had to sleep on sofas of different friends. So when Erika heard about Samaritan Community, she came to them as a last hope.

Through their new Housing Stability Pilot Program, they helped Erika pay for a security deposit for a safe, clean apartment for her family, which is near her two older sons’ school and right next door to her youngest son’s daycare. Samaritan also helped Erika by providing fresh groceries and a bus pass that enables her to get to a new, better-paying job.

“I was able to land this much better job because of the stability 
of having an apartment for my family. It’s almost impossible to keep a job when you don’t have a car and you are moving constantly,” Erika says. “In no time, Sharon became like a second mother to me. She saw the best in me and my boys, and wanted us to succeed as much as we did. That meant everything to us!”

Erika’s story, and so many others, are made possible by generosity of Samaritan’s supporters.

For our neighbors living in crisis, The Samaritan Community provides basic necessities and much more. They work continuously to expand the depth and breadth of their services to make the biggest possible impact on their members’ lives. During the past year, they

  • Helped members facing multiple, complex challenges through the Farnham-Krieger Endowment Fund.
  • Established a Housing Stability Pilot Program, helping more families keep a roof over their heads.
  • Created a computer workroom, enabling members to do job searches, school work, and more.
  • Distributed over 7,000 bags of healthy groceries, provided 1,200 hours in individual and group support, and gave more than $25,000 in emergency financial assistance.

Please consider donating to The Samaritan Community this season. A gift of $500 will keep the heat on this winter for a family of five, while a gift of $100 will feed a parent and child for a month.

Support for Our Neighborhood Farm

Canning workshop at WhiteLock Community Farm
Canning workshop at Whitelock Community Farm.

As the growing season ends, Whitelock Community Farm in Reservoir Hill finishes off another busy year. Their 2016 accomplishments include:

  • Growing 5,000 pounds of organic produce that was sold to neighbors through 60 Saturday farm stands and mobile markets.
  • Diverting 2,400 gallons of food scraps from the landfill through their community composting program, while producing nutrient-rich organic “fertilizer” to replenish the farm’s soil.
  • Providing job training for six local youths through their summer internship program.
  • Engaging the local community in farming and healthy outdoor work through 30 volunteer days.
  • Organizing and hosting four community workshops, five neighborhood potlucks, three movie nights and their annual Harvest Festival.

These numbers only tell part of the story. The farm helps make the 21217 neighborhood stronger and more vibrant by building bridges across racial and socio-economic barriers through the simple joys of good, healthy food and positive community activity.


Learning about composting
Learning about composting at Whitelock Farm.

In this season of giving, we encourage you to help their efforts. Please consider donating to their annual fundraising campaign—even $5 goes a long way. And spread the word to others who might be interested in supporting our neighborhood farm.

Read more about Whitelock Community Farm in this Bulletin article from May 2016.

December Events

Here’s a brief overview of some of the local happenings in December.

Go to the Bulletin Calendar for details and additional events, including Christmas services. Just click on an event to see more information.

December 3 – Bolton Hill Garden Club’s Holiday Greens Sale

December 6 – MRIA Board Meeting; everyone is welcome to attend.

December 7 to 10 – MICA Art Market, with loads of cool, locally-made holiday gifts

December 9 – William Christenberry exhibit opens at MICA, through March 12

December 11 – SATF’s Potluck with a Purpose; come help make plans for our activities in 2017

December 17 – Tree Farm Shopping with Memorial Episcopal at Feldhof Farm in Westminster

December 18 – Combined Holiday Open House at Brown Memorial and Memorial Episcopal

December 21 – Winter Solstice Ritual at First Unitarian Church