Unified Purpose on Display at Town Hall Safety Meeting

Town Hall Safety Meeting
Panel addresses audience at the Town Hall Safety Meeting held last month.

By Barbie Klik, Safety Committee Chair

On February 1st, about 240 neighborhood residents and MICA students gathered to discuss how we can make Bolton Hill a safer community.

Facilitated by Reverend Grey Maggiano of Memorial Episcopal, the event was attended by Mayor Catherine Pugh, Commissioner Kevin Davis, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, Councilman Eric Costello and others. The Town Hall Meeting notes includes a full list of panel guests and other details.

During the two-hour gathering, many ideas were exchanged and everyone walked away with a shared sense of purpose and strategies to make Bolton Hill safer. 

MICA President and Bolton Hill resident Sammy Hoi kicked off the event by describing how the community can engage MICA security. Hoi and MICA Security Director Marlon Byrd explained that MICA security guards, including both armed, off-duty police officers and unarmed officers, generally have four guards on neighborhood streets at all times. Although MICA guards do not have jurisdiction off of MICA property, they will assist any resident who requires assistance.

club cars
Midtown Benefit District’s new “Club Cars” will be on the streets in March.

Bolton Hill is one of the four neighborhoods covered by the Midtown Benefits District (MBD). Executive Director Michelle Wirzberger explained that they spend 21% of their budget on safety, some $250,000 annually, including 17 off-duty BPD officers who patrol the neighborhoods on a rotating basis.

MBD just received a small fleet of Club Cars to supplement its current security patrol capabilities. Used in conjunction with the Segways already in use, these cars will allow MBD officers to increase their patrol capacity by about 25%. Look for them on Bolton Hill’s streets beginning in early March.

State’s Attorney Mosby gave an impassioned description of the effects that community impact statements and community involvement can have during the criminal sentencing process. She explained that because her office has no control over sentences, community involvement at sentencing is the best way to influence the outcome for violent offenders.

State’s Attorney liaison Ashe Smith monitors the arrest and trial proceedings for violent crimes in the neighborhood and alerts the MRIA Safety Committee when sentencing is scheduled so that we can organize residents to show up. Mr. Smith reminded the audience of the importance of having victims testify at a trial, as many cases are thrown out due to a lack of witnesses.

Focusing on the juvenile justice system, Gavin Patashnik, Chief of Juvenile Justice for the State’s Attorney’s Office, outlined various diversion programs for juveniles, and encouraged the neighborhood to get involved with them.

In particular, Mr. Patashnik mentioned the excellent youth programs at Reservoir Hill’s St. Francis Neighborhood Center.  Coincidentally, the MRIA Social Action Task Force highlighted this organization, along with the Kids Safe Zone, during February’s Party with a Purpose. He also mentioned the Reading Partners mentoring program, another local organization which SATF has promoted and supported. See related article here. (See related article on St. Francis Neighborhood Center in this issue.)

Although laws limit the information that can be shared with the community regarding a specific juvenile crime, Mr. Patashnik noted that here too impact statements are effective for guiding sentencing. If the community is concerned about a crime involving a juvenile, Mr. Smith should be notified with the case number, so that he can advocate for our interests. Without such notification, the State’s Attorneys usually becomes aware of a case much later in the process due to the special rules governing the juvenile justice system.

Commissioner Davis, Chief Robinson and Major Jones of Baltimore City Police reiterated that if you see suspicious activity, call 911. Try to provide as much detail as possible, including height, hair characteristics, and clothing, especially descriptions of shirts and shoes, since a coat or sweater can be easily discarded.

Moreover, they reminded us that most crimes are based upon opportunity. Watch your surroundings and walk confidently, while avoiding the distraction of earbuds and displaying your phone as little as possible.

Police Lieutenant Samuel Hood III discussed CitiWatch, encouraging neighbors to send crime video directly to him via email to Samuel.hood@baltimorepolice.org. Include the date and location of incident, your name, address, email, phone number, description of perpetrator. Type and color of shoes are important, as are the clothes under the jacket.

The night finished with a discussion of the Community Conferencing Center by Founding Director Lauren Abramson. The group facilitates many mediation efforts, but a main focus is restorative justice. Similar to Truth and Reconciliation programs, the volunteer program brings together perpetrators, victims and both sets of families/supporters to discuss the crime and appropriate punishment. This approach has been shown to reduce recidivism and, more importantly, help victims of crime get closure. (See related article on Community Conferencing in this issue.)

The event is already producing results as more neighbors met recently to ramp up the work of the Safety Committee. Email Barbie at barbie.klik@blackrock.com if you are interested in working on this committee. And stay tuned for updates on these efforts in the Bulletin.

Safety Recommendations from MICA Security, BPD, and MRIA:

  • Keep porch lights on at night.
  • Install lights near garages, back fences, parking areas, dark spaces.
  • Trim trees and shrubs that can be used to hide criminal activity.
  • Install private cameras.
  • After you report a crime, also send the information to BHEN (linda.rittelmann@gmail.com) to ensure that the neighborhood is on alert. 
  • Walk with a dog or another person or use the Companion App.
  • Carry a whistle or a boat air horn.
  • If you are inside your house and hear a whistle, look outside to determine if someone needs help.  Call 911 immediately. Help if it is safe to do so. 
  • Don’t talk on cell phone or use ear plugs while walking during the day or night.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Engage with people on the street. Make eye contact and say hello. 
  • Report suspicious behavior to police using 911 (not 311).
  • Always lock your car doors and remove any and ALL items from the car—even empty fast food bags or trash. Any items left in the car can tempt criminals. 
  • Join COP (Citizens on Patrol)*.
  • Follow court cases; go to court during trial; file an impact statement with the court.
  • Get to know your neighbors at block parties and other neighborhood events. 
  • Get involved. 25% of city residents are living in poverty, and you can take social action. Join Big Brothers/Big Sisters or the MRIA Social Action Task Force

*COP is increasing the number of groups walking the neighborhood, at night and in the mornings. Barry and Barbara Blumberg coordinate an evening walk every Thursday evening starting from 1329 Bolton (410-669-0175 or theblumbergs@earthlink.net).

Jonathan Claiborne leads a walk every Monday evening beginning at the corner of Bolton and Lafayette (jeclaiborne10@gmail.com), and Jack Brown leads a walk on Monday and Wednesday mornings (reach him at NextDoor). 

Community Conferencing Reduces Crime and Empowers Communities

Dr. Lauren Abramson spoke to February’s Town Hall Safety Meeting about her work with a new method for providing resolution to victims and perpetrators in the aftermath of crimes. We wanted to learn more about her Community Conferencing Center.

Lauren Abramson and the Community Conferencing Center
Lauren Abramson and the Community Conferencing Center.

In 1994, Dr. Lauren Abramson attended a conference in Philadelphia and heard a talk on Transformative Justice by Australian David Moore. This led to participating in the first facilitator training workshops on restorative justice conducted in the United States.

As she learned more, Lauren became keenly interested in bringing community conferencing to inner-city Baltimore. She saw its potential to not only bring about important system reforms in criminal justice and education, but to also empower individuals, families and communities to resolve their own conflicts and crimes.

After years of work, the Community Conferencing Center (CCC) opened its doors in 2000. The CCC is the only broad-based conferencing program in a large American inner-city. Even more noteworthy, most its services are provided at no cost to participants.

Widely recognized for its use of restorative justice and conflict management strategies, the model developed by CCC has found success in a variety of settings, including criminal justice, education, community development and business, addressing a variety of issues and a wide range of populations.

They now serve as a hub for training and technical assistance in Maryland, working in over a dozen jurisdictions. With requests for assistance from other states as well as countries, the center works nationally and internationally to help communities establish similar restorative justice programs.

The Process Works

The CCC takes a radical approach: they provide ways for people to resolve situations and build community by sitting in a circle and talking with each other.

Based on the principles of conflict transformation and community justice, the CCC provides ways for people to safely, collectively and effectively prevent and resolve conflicts and crime.

This approach has been uniquely effective at resolving the conflicts around crime between the victims and the perpetrators. Nearly 20,000 people in Baltimore have successfully resolved their own crimes and conflicts using the CCC.

The results speak for themselves:

  • Over 95% of the community conferences conducted result in a written agreement, with an over 90% compliance rate.
  • Young people who participate in a successful community conference re-offend at a rate 60% lower than those who go through the juvenile justice system.
  • For juvenile felony cases diverted to community conferences instead of going through the court system, young people are half as likely to be re-arrested after 1 year, and a third as likely after 2 years.
  • Community conferencing costs a tenth of what it costs to go through the courts.

Community conferencing creates a fourfold benefit by holding offenders accountable and including victims in deciding outcomes, while lowering repeat offenders and reducing costs.

Learn more on the Community Conferencing website.

Join the MRIA Board

The Mt. Royal Improvement Association seeks new members for its Board each year. The Nominating Committee, chaired by Past President Steve Howard, is seeking interested neighbors who are interested in joining the Board.

If you or someone you know would be interested, please email Steve at stevehoward.howard@gmail.com.

DEADLINE for submissions is March 15, so write to Steve today.

The next MRIA Board Meeting will be Tuesday, March 7 with socializing at 7:30 and the formal meeting at 8 pm. Open to all.

An Note of Thanks from Park Café and Coffee Bar

Editors’ Note: Near the end of January, police arrested the man they suspect committed robberies in the neighborhood at the Park Café, as well as other nearby businesses. Charged with armed robbery and assault, his preliminary hearing was held on February 23.

Our State’s Attorney liaison Ashe Smith will monitor this case and keep the community informed so we can participate. We received this update from Café owner David Hart. 

The Park Café would like to thank the Baltimore City Police Department for the apprehension of the suspect who is believed to have robbed not only the cafe, but other area businesses.

While the process took longer than any of us—neighbors and police—would have liked, this person is now off the street.

Additionally, on behalf of our staff, we are grateful for the outpouring of concern, the many good wishes, and the continued patronage by our neighbors in Reservoir Hill and Sandtown Winchester, as well as the Bolton Hill community.

As a result of our experience, the Café no longer accepts cash. We are working on a process for selling gift cards using money orders and will unveil this to our customers shortly.

With gratitude, David Hart and Joseph Costa

Reminder: Renew Your Parking Permits

As we noted in our story published in last month’s Bulletin, all current residential parking permits will expire March 31. You may renew and pay for your permits online at the Parking Authority website.

Neighborhood Pickup Days take place at Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church on Lafayette and Park Ave., Saturday, March 18, from 8 am to 12 noon, and Saturday, March 25, from 8 am to 1:30 pm. Purchase your permits online at least three days before you plan to pick up. Enter at the Lafayette St. door.

You can also obtain your permits beginning on March 13 at the Parking Authority Office, 200 W. Lombard Street, Suite B, 21201.

The Parking Authority accepts credit cards, checks and money orders made out to the Director of Finance. Cash is not accepted.

Be sure you bring current documentation when picking up your permits, including your current Maryland Vehicle Registration with an Area 3 address, plus one of the following that shows an Area 3 address:

  • Current driver’s license
  • Proof of residency, such as a current lease signed by all parties that is not month-to-month.
  • Proof of home ownership (settlement papers)
  • Utility bill in your name that is at least 30 days old
  • Official State ID card

If your vehicle is registered out of state, you must register your vehicle in Maryland before being permitted to purchase a parking decal, unless you are a full-time student or a member of the military.

Out-of-state students and military must purchase a Non-Resident Permit from the MVA and present it at pick-up for the decal to be released.

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the Parking Authority at rpp@bcparking.com or 443-573-2800, extensions 863, 845, or 851. You may also contact your Area 3 representative, Patsy Andrews, by email at pandrewsmd@yahoo.com.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center Embarks on Major Capital Campaign

By Morganne Ruhnke, Development and Event Coordinator at St. Francis Neighborhood Center

Did you know that more than 1,200 children in the Reservoir Hill area live in poverty? St. Francis Neighborhood Center (SFNC) is responding to this need with educational and enrichment programs to uplift children and their families—making more than 40,000 individual contacts with Reservoir Hill residents every year.

Reservoir Hill kids on honor roll
Smiles of Success

 

SFNC is a community-based, non-profit organization committed to ending generational poverty through education, inspiring self-esteem, self-improvement, and strengthening connections to the community. It was founded in 1963 as an outreach center for two local churches, and is the oldest enrichment center of its kind in Baltimore City. SFNC founder Father Tom Composto was a Jesuit priest who moved into the facility in the 1960s. He stayed there for the remainder of his life, devoting himself to the poor.  

Father Tom, also known as the Pope of Whitelock Street, would stand at the corner of Whitelock and Linden and challenge drug dealers to do something better with their lives. After he passed away in 2010, SFNC Board and staff have carried on his passion and vision, with programs and projects that serve the community that Father Tom so dearly loved.

The Center offers a computer lab and a community library that is free of charge to the neighborhood. They offer adult literacy and job readiness programs. They hold community yoga sessions on Wednesday evenings, and Narcotics Anonymous meets there three evenings a week. Every Monday, friends from Corpus Christi Church distribute free groceries to anyone who lives in the 21217 area. Many other partner groups use the Center for their meetings and also provide services that benefit the community.

SFNC’s award-winning flagship programs for youth have received national recognition. The Power Project is a free after-school program, with fifty “prodigies”—youth—currently enrolled. The Summer of Service Excursion (SOSE) is held for eight weeks from 8:30 am to 5:30 pm during the summer months and is the longest running summer program in the City. SOSE participants focus on topics including education, art, STEM, and character building.

Ethan's poem
Poem describing the “St. Francis Way.”

Every summer, the Center coordinates with its many longstanding partners to host the day-long Reservoir Hill Resource Fair & Festival at the corner of Whitelock and Linden. The festival brings together this vibrant, diverse community and features a grocery and bookbag giveaway, food trucks, local art, and live music. Save the date for Saturday, August 5, 2017—and if you are interested in getting involved as a vendor, volunteer, or supporter, contact Morganne Ruhnke at mruhnke@stfranciscenter.org.

St. Francis Neighborhood Center
Consider donating so that even more children can join the fun

The Center is currently embarking on a major capital campaign, “Count on Me.” This community-driven campaign addresses the pressing need to serve more children. More than 30 kids are already on the waiting list for the youth programs, and with the merger of Westside Elementary and John Eager Howard School, the number of children in need will soon triple. We want them all to have a positive place to attend educational and enrichment activities after school and are excited about our plans for growth. To learn more, contact Angela Wheeler at awheeler@stfranciscenter.org.

SFNC occupies a historic, four-story townhouse, and while we love our location, we are limited in our ability to serve more children and to provide programming to fulfill ever-evolving community needs. Our total goal is to raise $4 million in two years to add classrooms, an art studio, a kitchen/cafe, greening projects, multipurpose space, and expand our media lab and library. Once complete, we expect to serve more than 200 children in our education programs, an 100% increase in capacity.

We invite you to be a part of this transformational change. Can we count on you to join us in achieving this milestone for Reservoir Hill and West Baltimore?

How you can you help:

  • Donations of all sizes are greatly appreciated and help us get one step closer to serve more of the community.  To donate and learn more about the center check out our website at www.stfranciscenter.org.
  • We are always looking for people to host fundraisers, serve as mentors and tutors, and help us with special events and daily operations.  To get involved, please contact us at volunteer@stfranciscenter.org.

Find out more on the St. Francis Neighborhood Center website.

Art and Hearts at Midtown Academy

Art auction and exhibition at Midtown Academy
The Art Auction and Exhibition at Midtown was well attended.

By Jennifer Devon, Executive Director of The Midtown Academy

Uniting Diverse Artists

The Midtown Academy kicked off the new year with a bang! The 3rd Annual Uniting Diverse Artists Art Auction and Exhibit raised over $43,000 for the school to support students and critical programming.

The large and wide-ranging show featured over 80 pieces of art from Midtown and Baltimore City student artists, as well as nationally recognized leaders in the art community.

We thank our artists and buyers for their generosity and commitment to our school, as well as our dedicated sponsors, guests and donors. Their support made this event a great success. View more photos of the fun.

Be the Heart Campaign

Spring brings our Be the Heart of Midtown campaign. Each grade is competing to bring in the most participation to raise money for programs and projects at Midtown.

You can make your donation to the Be the Heart campaign at www.themidtownacademy.com.

Donors can designate the grade they would like to support. The campaign will run from February 10–March 10, and the grade with the most participation wins a prize.

Ashley Day

Board Member Spotlight

The Midtown Academy is fortunate to have a number of amazing board members serving as leaders and advisors for our school.

This month our board member and alumni representative, Ashley Day, was featured as a High Achieving Millennial. Read more here.

Mt. Royal Middle School Students Headed to Europe

The beauty of Dublin

By Stacy Wells, Mt. Royal parent and PTO President

Trip to Europe

Help fund the travel experience of a lifetime for 23 middle school students as they journey to Dublin, London and Paris this summer on a European Study Tour.

Organized and led by social studies teacher Joseph Francella from June 26–July 5, each trip will cost $3,770 per student. A scholarship fund has been created, with a goal of $12,000 to provide assistance to students who need it.

Travelers can still be enrolled through March 7, and neighborhood families are welcome to join.

You can learn more about this program and help students get one step closer to Europe with a donation to the scholarship fund by visiting the scholarship fund website.

Thanks to Our Community Partner, Park Café and Coffee Bar

On the first Friday of every month, the Park Café & Coffee Bar sponsors our Golden Eagle Award Breakfast. At the breakfast, awards are given to students who show effort, achievement, generosity, leadership, excellence and safety.

Winners are invited to attend a breakfast at school with members of their family to celebrate their accomplishments. We are very lucky to have the support from this wonderful business located right in our own neighborhood.

Stay Informed

Mt. Royal is proud of our school and loves to share news with the community.

We’ve updated the school website, created a comprehensive Facebook page, and created a Monthly Newsletter (here’s February’s) highlighting student accomplishments and new initiatives at the school. Announcements and updates are also posted online here. Follow us!

Bolton Hill Architectural Terracotta Residency in Ceramics

Five national and international ceramic artists will participate in an innovative residency in the Ceramics department at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Baltimore National Heritage Area.

The Bolton Hill Architectural Terracotta Residency in Ceramics seeks to create a dynamic relationship with the community for its development.

Bolton Hill residents are invited to submit photographs of historic architectural stones in or on their homes, along with stories or histories relevant to their home’s architecture. These will provide context for the artists’ consideration during the residency.

During the residency period of May 27 – June 17, artists will work collaboratively and individually on prototypes of contemporary architectural terracotta that align with the aesthetics of the neighborhood’s historic architecture.

Artists will explore innovation in design and motif through new technologies such as 3D scanning, computer-­aided design (CAD), and computer numerically controlled milling (CNC).

Please send photos and other submissions with your name to professor Mat Karas at mkaras@mica.edu with the subject heading “Bolton Hill Terracotta Project.”

You can also become a partner with MICA and the Bolton Hill ceramic residency by making a gift in support of the project at www.mica.edu/give or by calling 410-225-4259.

Neighborhood History: Thomas Courtney Jenkins and Corpus Christi Memorial Church

Early etching of Corpus Christi Church

By Kristine Smets

Corpus Christi Church, at the corner of Mount Royal Avenue and West Lafayette Avenue, was built in memory of Thomas Courtney Jenkins, who would be celebrating his 215th birthday on March 19.

Jenkins was born in 1802, on the feast day of St. Joseph, the first son of William Jenkins (1767-1843), a successful businessman in Baltimore, and Ellen Willcox (1780-1816), of Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

After attending St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, some 50 miles northwest of Baltimore, he returned to the city and joined his father in the leather business. He was given an interest in the firm, but left six years later to establish the Poland and Jenkins firm with partner Poland Adams.

Jenkins became a prominent businessman and financier. He was one of the original organizers of the Parkersburg and Central Ohio Railroad, the Northern Central Railway, and the Atlantic Coast Line, and also organized the Merchants and Miners Transportation Company. 

In 1829, he married Louisa Carrell from Philadelphia, the youngest daughter of John Carrell (1758-1830) and Mary Judith Moore (1766-1817). Her brother, George Aloysius Carrell (1803-1868), later became the first bishop of Covington, Kentucky, and Louisa probably met her future husband in Emmittsburg through George, who was also a student at St. Mary’s College. Louisa attended Mother Seton’s School in the same town.  

The couple resided for many years at 608 North Calvert Street, in what was then called Waterloo Row. The family later moved to 721 St. Paul Street. Thomas and Louisa had 10 children, three of whom died in childhood; a son died during the Civil War.

Thomas and Louisa Jenkins were prominent figures in Baltimore’s Catholic community. Thomas was one of the first pew holders and oldest member of the Board of Trustees of the Baltimore Cathedral. They were engaged in many of the church’s charitable organizations. Thomas was an intimate friend of James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore and later cardinal. They frequently hosted many of the prelates of the church at their home, especially during their attendance at the councils held in Baltimore. 

Thomas Courtney Jenkins

Thomas Jenkins passed away on Christmas Eve in 1881. His wife died a year later, but not before she had asked her five remaining adult children—George, Eliza, John, Ellen and Michael— to build a church in memory of their father. Eventually, they erected the church in honor of both their mother and father. 

It so happened that as the Jenkins children sought to build a church for their parents, Archbishop Spalding was hoping to establish a new parish, Corpus Christi, in the Bolton Depot area. He had already built a combination church/school in the area—a common practice at the time—and the congregation met in an improvised chapel on the top floor of the school until a permanent church could be erected.

Until that time, the Jenkins family had worshipped at the downtown cathedral, and had no official ties to the Bolton Depot area. Nevertheless, they were easily persuaded by the Archdiocese to construct their memorial church here. At the time, Mount Royal Avenue was one of the most beautiful and important boulevards of the rapidly expanding city. Perhaps they were also inspired by Isabella Brown, who had donated $150,000 ten years earlier to construct Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church in memory of her husband George Brown (son of Alex Brown, founder of the first investment banking firm in the U.S.), in the new, trendy neighborhood of Bolton Hill.

Ground was broken on March 17, 1885, and thirteen months later, the cornerstone of the new church was laid at the corner of Oliver Street (now Mount Royal Avenue) and Townsend Street (now Lafayette Avenue). On December 12, 1890, the remains of Thomas Courtenay Jenkins and his wife Louisa Carrell, were transferred to the crypt in the St. Joseph Chapel in the church. Corpus Christi was consecrated on January 1, 1891.

Further reading: Sources for this article include Requiescat in pace: A History of Corpus Christi-Jenkins Memorial Church (1973) by Frances Meginnis and Thomas Jenkins of Maryland, 1670: His Descendants and Allied Families, compiled by Edward Felix Jenkins (1985).

Kristine’s company Chainlines, which specializes in genealogical and historical research, is a Bulletin sponsor. Find out more about her services in this related article in this issue.

Tri-Church Education Series Asks You to Listen in Lent

Listening with the heartAs in years past, three neighborhood churches – Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, Memorial Episcopal Church and Corpus Christi Catholic Church – will jointly sponsor the Bolton Hill Tri-Church Education Series.

During the Lenten season, the series features topics of interest to the church congregations and the broader community.

This year’s series, “Listening in Lent,” is especially timely. Speakers from some of the Baltimore communities most affected by recent political changes will be invited to address the group. They will consider this question: “In light of the current political environment, what response would you like to see from the Christian community?” Each session will have time for questions and group discussion.

Guest speakers will include members of the predominantly African-American Community of West Baltimore, represented by the No Boundaries Coalition (3/8), the immigrant and refugee community (3/22), the Jewish community (3/29), and the Islamic community (4/5).

By forming connections and learning from these groups, our community can better provide the appropriate and needed responses demanded by our current situation. The series is open to anyone interested in making Baltimore a more dynamic and inclusive place.

The Series will be held on four Wednesdays, March 8, March 22, March 29, and April 5. Each session will begin with a light supper at 6:30 pm, followed by the education portion at 7 pm. The series takes place in the Education Building at Brown Memorial.

Planning Begins for Boltonstock ’17

Planning has started for Boltonstock ’17, and the date has been set: the evening of Saturday, June 3 in Arnold Sumpter Park at Jordan and Laurens Streets.

Boltonstock is the latest incarnation of the Bolton Hill Band Concert, and will again feature delicious food and drink, community engagement, and an all-new lineup of local live music.

Boltonstock '16
Boltonstock ’16 was a BLAST.

With planning in the early stages, why not be part of the process? Planning and logistics meetings will be scheduled in April and May.

The organizers need volunteers to cook, sell food and drink, publicize the event, set up on the day of the festival and clean up afterward. 

If you’d like to lend a hand, email Chas at chas.phillips@gmail.com. You can also support the event by becoming an event sponsor. Sponsorships start at $100 and can be purchased by businesses, organizations or individuals. Contact Chas for details.

Most of all, save the date of June 3 for BoltonStock ’17, and kick off the summer with an evening full of fun with neighbors and friends!

Meet Kristine Smets and Chainlines

Kristine Smets

By Greta Brueck

In the middle of Thanksgiving dinner, your great-uncle shocks the family when he relates that one of your 19th-century European ancestors was an infamous serial killer. Sure, Uncle Norm is on his third glass of wine—yet when pressed, he swears this lineage was confirmed by a late relative, who heard it from another relative, who heard it from someone else.

For weeks, you’re unable to stop thinking about this mysterious (and hopefully very distant) branch on your family tree. Is this ancestor for real? A few quick, disappointing Google searches leave you wondering where to even begin verifying such a story.

As it turns out, you may not even have to leave the neighborhood. Bolton Hill resident Kristine Smets is the owner of Chainlines, LLC, which specializes in genealogical and historical research. Kristine makes it her job to follow all the twisted, winding traces of your familial past—even into its darkest corners.

As a librarian for 20 years, with two degrees in history, Kristine is well cut out for the job.

“It all began with a box,” she says. “When we moved my mother-in-law from Chicago to Baltimore about six years ago, amongst the possessions was a box labeled ‘family history.’ I told my husband, “Don’t let me open that box, or you’ll never see me again.” 

But being human, Kristine couldn’t resist the temptation. She opened that box about a year later. When she did, she found that her father-in-law had begun documenting his family history. This discovery inspired her to start a little genealogical research of her own. “Before I knew it,” she says, “I had a [family] tree with 4,000 people in it!” She decided to take a class through Boston University so that she could take her new hobby to a professional level.

The name of her company comes out of her work as a professional librarian at the Hopkins Eisenhower Library and a freelance bibliographer, where she spent several years working with special collections materials and rare books.

“One of the clues that we use when we research rare books or books from the hand-printed era are the chain lines in the paper,” she says. “Chain lines are the lines that you can see when you hold up hand-made paper to the light. They were made by the frames in which the paper was made. I think the name is still apt for what I do as a genealogist: it’s a clue. And in genealogy and family history, we are looking for clues.”

A piece of handmade paper illuminated from behind to make chainlines visible. Photograph by Ambassador Neelix, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The detective work can be both insightful and humbling. A big part of Kristine’s mission is to highlight the diversity found in family histories, and in doing so “promote acceptance and fight prejudice within our society.” Her work also helps give lonely or isolated people a sense of community and belonging.

Kristine plans to become a certified genealogist and expand her services to include DNA analysis. Read examples of her past and current research projects here, and—if you would like to dive a little deeper into your own “roots”—you can contact her directly at kristine@chainlines.com.

See an example of Kristine’s research work in her article about a neighborhood church in this issue.

Each month, “Meet Our Sponsors” highlights one or two of the businesses and organizations that provide financial support for the Bulletin. We hope this will help readers learn more about the neighborhood, as well as encourage them to support the people who make this newsletter possible. See the list of our sponsors here, including our two new sponsors, Jon Alder Kaplan and Unique Resources.

Help Trees Help Us

This tree says, “Help! Get me out of this tiny tree pit!”

by Sarah Lord, Baltimore City Forestry Board

Spring is the season to rededicate ourselves to one of Bolton Hill’s best features: our trees.

Our city is underpopulated by trees. Although the City is working hard to reverse these numbers, only 27% of our city is under the tree canopy, well below the desirable goal of 40%.

Our neighborhood is better off than most, but let’s not rest on our laurels (no pun intended).

Get involved with annual neighborhood tree events by joining neighbors for Tree Pruning on Saturday, March 18 and Tree Planting on Saturday, April 15.

If you’re a do-it-yourself type, you can adopt a tree pit to help our neighborhood trees thrive.

Studies have shown that tree pits should be 4′ x 8’ or larger, allowing trees to grow to maturity and cool not just pavement, but rooftops where possible. Many of our older tree pits are much smaller, resulting in cramped, less healthy trees. If your tree pit is too small, hire a contractor to make yours longer and wider if necessary. 

The ideal tree pit has no fencing around it, not even bricks, so that rainwater runoff can flow into the tree wells rather than bypassing them. The soil or mulch in these pits should be just below the pavement grade. When properly graded, you can watch with delight when rainwater flows into the pits to be soaked up by tree roots, nourishing the tree while diminishing storm water runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.

Or, plant a new shade tree, being sure to leave the trunk flare at its base above the soil line. It’s not a flagpole, so don’t plant it too deep and kill it. Never heap soil or mulch against the tree trunk, and remember to keep the soil level a tad lower than the surrounding sidewalk.

Most of all, help our street trees by watering all the tree pits your hose can reach once the hot dry days of summer are upon us. Do it about once a week, if we have not had a good rain. If conditions have been dry, watering in the fall can be critical to a tree’s survival over winter.

Need advice on how properly to plant, trim, or care for trees? Contact Bolton Hill tree expert Sarah Lord at fennofarm@mac.com or check out fun, free TreeKeepers classes.

MICA Photography Exhibits: Mickalene Thomas: Muse and tête-à-tête

The Meyerhoff Gallery in MICA’s Fox Building (1303 W Mount Royal Avenue) currently features a photography exhibit by New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas titled “Muse“, running through March 12.

Best known for her elaborate paintings composed of rhinestones, acrylic and enamel, Ms. Thomas introduces a complex vision of what it means to be a woman and expands common definitions of beauty.

This exhibit focuses on the personal act of deconstruction and reappropriation—both of images she has created herself and those she has singled out as influences—as she grapples with and asserts new definitions of beauty and inspiration.

An accompanying exhibition, “tête-à-tête,” features work by photographers by who have inspired Thomas, including Derrick Adams, Renée Cox, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, Zanele Muholi, Malick Sidibé, Xaviera Simmons, Hank Willis Thomas and Carrie Mae Weems.

This exhibition is organized by the Aperture Foundation, New York, with support, in part, by The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, Inc.

Both exhibits end on Sunday, March 12. Visit mica.edu/mickalene_thomas for more information

March Events

Here’s a brief overview of some of the local happenings in March (with one final February happening.)

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

March 3 – With Love, From Cuba Exhibit at Jubilee Arts

March 4 & 5 – MICA International Film Festival, featuring films from Korea, China and Mali

March 5 – March’s SATF meeting Help plan upcoming events, May’s Stoop Party and June’s Boltonstock.

March 7 – MRIA Monthly Board Meeting

March 8, 22, 29 and April 5 – Bolton Hill Tri-Church Education Series, focusing on the Christian response to the current political environment

March 8 – Movie: The Night of the Hunter, at MICA’s Falvey Hall.

March 10 – Silent Film and Organ Concert, with a screening of The Three Musketeers at Brown Memorial

March 18 – Tree Pruning to help spruce up the neighborhood.

March 25 – Sandtown Visions Help artist Malaika Aminata Clements create the vision for her Spread Light Sandtown installation as part of the Light City “Neighborhood Lights” program.

March 26 – Tiffany Series Panel on Sexuality and Religion at Brown Memorial