Festival on the Hill Shines in the Rain

Photos predominantly by Kellie Wellborn, with a few from Kendra Parlock and Peter Van Buren

Bolton Hill doesn’t let a little rain dampen its spirits.

In spite of a less than perfect Saturday, the 63rd Annual Festival on the Hill had a great turnout.

Bolton Hill Nursery organized a veritable army of volunteers from the nursery school and the neighborhood to build, stock, staff and patronize booths of all kinds. The amazing kids’ area included many new activities, including hair braiding and fortune telling.

Kristine Smets deserves special mention for taking over the book sale and pushing its revenues to new heights. She collected over 2,000 books and, when rain threatened, displayed them in her home, creating a booklover’s paradise for a day.

The festival’s finale was an hysterical pie-in-the-face contest, which will definitely become an annual event! Enjoy the slideshow below that includes some great photos of the contest.

BHN director Louie Wilder reported that “although the overall total gross for the festival was slightly down from last year, net revenue was up, thanks to our generous sponsors.” She noted particularly those at the Diamond level, William G. Kolodner, attorney at law, C & H Restoration & Renovation, On the Hill Cafe, and Dorie Fain of & Wealth.

The Festival Program includes an entire list of all the sponsors, who deserve a big thank you and ongoing support from the neighborhood.

As always, the profits from Festival on the Hill will be shared between Bolton Hill Nursery and other nonprofit organizations that serve the 21217 zip code. Last year, Festival grants were awarded to 11 neighborhood organizations. Look for details on next year’s grant cycle in December’s Bulletin.

Although financial success and revenue generation are important goals, they are not the best benefit of the Festival. This fall tradition gives all neighbors a chance to come together and celebrate our community. Louie noted, “It takes over a hundred volunteers and many, many hours to make the festival a success. We really do live in a special place.”

Madison Park North Redevelopment Announced

On September 26, the Coalition for the Redevelopment of Madison Park North announced that the redevelopment of the subsidized housing complex at the southern end of Reservoir Hill would move forward with two longtime Baltimore developers.

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

The developers, Mark Renbaum of MLR Partners and David Bramble of MCB Real Estate, have communicated to representatives of the Friends of Reservoir Hill that they intend to work with the community to provide buildings that will be sensitive to residents’ needs and desires, as well as the style of the neighborhood. They envision the redevelopment serving as a gateway to West Baltimore and consisting of apartments, retail, and an Innovation Center to be used by MICA and Coppin State University.

Madison Park North redevelopment rendering
Architects’ rendering of Madison Park North redevelopment.

Demolition of Madison Park North is slated to begin within the next couple months. Market analysis will inform the rebuilding plans that will follow. The redevelopment will encompass the one and a half blocks that was the site of the former housing complex, the liquor store at the corner of Linden and North Avenues, and a new three-story building next door to Total Health Care.

The Coalition for the Redevelopment of Madison Park North meets on the fourth Monday of every month at 7 pm at the St. Francis Neighborhood Center in Reservoir Hill.

Memorial Players’ “Romulus,” Nov. 11–20

The Memorial Players fall production, the political satire Romulus, by Gore Vidal, begins its run on Friday, Nov. 11, playing Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 pm and Sunday matinees at 3:30 pm through Sunday, Nov. 20.

As always, Romulus is admission-free, though good-will donations are always welcome. Performances take place at Memorial Church at the corner of Lafayette and Bolton streets.

To support the show and make a fine night of it, consider attending a pre-show receptions ($40/person). Before each performance, neighbors host receptions in their homes. Guests will enjoy a variety of refreshments and receive a VIP card that guarantees them a reserved seat in the front rows of the theater.

The play is set in 467 A.D. Emperor Romulus seems content do to nothing while Rome comes under siege. Meanwhile, his wife and courtiers scramble and conspire to find a way to save Rome—and their own necks.

A treatise on historical morality, which is at times absurd, sad and hysterical, Romulus casts a critical eye on the legitimacy of an empire whose noble roots have been corrupted by endless bloodshed and the abuse of power. Can money save the day? Or will the barbarians at the gates be the saving grace of civilization?

The play is directed by Rina Steinhauer and produced by Kristine Smets, with set design by John Seeley, costumes by Christine Calderon, and poster by Lynne Mennefee.

Find more information at the Memorial Players website and on the Memorial Players Facebook page.

Mt. Royal Streetscaping to Begin Spring 2017

bike-lanesBy Steve Howard

As many of you may recall, the city has long planned to install bicycle lanes along Mt. Royal Avenue. Almost three years ago, after a public meeting in February 2014, and discussion at the April 2014 MRIA board meeting, John Kyle, then-president of MRIA, wrote a letter to the Director of Transportation, explaining a number of our concerns. After another public meeting on August 1, 2016 at University of Baltimore and several more meetings, many of those concerns have been addressed, and the plan is moving forward.

There will be two-directional bicycle traffic along the north/east side of Mt. Royal Avenue, separated from traffic lanes. While it is impossible at this time to extend the bike lanes all the way to North and Guilford avenues, the city hopes to add those extensions in the future.

Special pedestrian-friendly crossing signals will be implemented at the busiest intersections. These signals go to “walk” five seconds before the traffic light in the same direction goes green, which allows pedestrians to get well into the crosswalk before turning drivers usurp their right of way.

To accommodate these changes, the median of Mt. Royal Avenue will be slightly narrowed, and some trees will be removed and replaced. Although technically outside the scope of this project, the city also has committed to repairing the sidewalks in front of the houses along the 1400 and 1500 blocks of Mt. Royal.

Construction is expected to start in spring of 2017. The city intends to divert much of the northbound traffic to Charles St. and the JFX onramp at Penn Station. We hope that some of that diversion will be permanent.

The Dolphin Building disappears, as the site is readied for a new MICA building
The Dolphin Building disappears, as the site is readied for a new MICA building

In a separate project just off Mt. Royal near the Light Rail Station, the Dolphin Building has been torn down and the site is being prepared for construction of a new MICA building. Watch this space as this building project moves forward.

The Baltimore Bikeshare program will also launch soon. Residents will be able to use a bike for a small fee, allowing them to get around more easily when they don’t really need to drive. More info on proposed locations, including those in and around Bolton Hill is available at https://www.bmorebikeshare.com. A limited number of Founding Member passes were still available for purchase as of press time.

The Commuter Chronicles: The Whiskey Clutch

commchronDay 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

Today, I uncovered an interesting phenomenon on the 5:08 pm train from Union Station in DC to Baltimore’s Penn Station: the Whiskey Clutch.

The train was packed. Suits, briefcases, laptops, jackets, coats, backpacks, iPhones, iPads, books (electronic ones), more books (real ones). Executives, babies, students, grandparents, tourists, sitting, standing, sleeping. The train, with its people and devices and bags, was like a city street littered with paper after a ticker-tape parade.

I barely made the 5:08; my last valiant leap onto the train earned me the gold medal in commuting. Vaulting the large platform gap onto the steel train car steps must be exactly what an Olympic runner feels clearing that final hurdle, I thought. Except I was wearing heels, to boot. (Just saying.)

Trying to catch my breath, I strode down the aisle, dodging this bag and that. No one cared that I just won my heat and made the train, but I strutted on anyway.

An empty seat was nowhere in sight, and when the train started moving, I feared the worst. I might actually have to stand all the way to the next stop.

That’s when I spotted the empty seat amidst a quad of four, facing each other two by two. Three men sat in three of the seats, with their bags and coats piled on the fourth.

Still reeling from my recent exertions, I approached them and asked if I could sit with them.


I counted one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand. Then, in a sudden flurry of activity, all three jumped up to clear the fourth seat. It was as if no one had ever asked to sit with them before.

I took my hard-earned seat, and no one spoke for a few minutes. A curly-haired guy with gold cuff links spoke first. What he said was inconsequential. What followed, however, was not. Suddenly, the trio began to banter back and forth like an episode of the Gilmore Girls.

“The market closed up one point,” said Curly, phone in hand.

“Do you have any questions for the mayoral candidates?” asked Pink Tie Guy sitting next to him, phone in hand. “I am posting questions now.”

The third guy took a call from someone and spoke far more loudly than necessary to the person on other end. And then, without skipping a beat, while looking and laughing at a video that Pink Tie Guy was showing him, Curly put his phone down, pulled out a thermos and red solo cups, and poured a shot of whiskey into each.

I was shocked. The train conductor was approaching and they didn’t put it away. The smell of liquor was pretty strong. They urged me to have some and I declined sheepishly. The train master seemed intent on checking their tickets but not their cups. They did not offer. He did not ask. Was this the MARC version of don’t ask don’t tell?

I discovered that the Whiskey Clutch has been commuting this way for over three years. They have a shot every Friday night on their way home. Sometimes on Thursdays too. They don’t work together; they don’t live together. Connected only by their commute, these guys talk about everything.

At first I found them annoying, but soon they grew on me. Even Loud Cell Phone Talker grew on me when I realized he was talking to his adult son who had recently been married; mom and dad missed them a lot and couldn’t wait to see them.

I felt privileged to be visitor to their clutch. They didn’t ask me to join, and I wouldn’t have even if they had. But there is some comfort in knowing that day in and day out, these and other clutches bring people together to make a stressful commute a little less so, which is why this initial installment of the Commuter Chronicles is dedicated to them.

Fall Crime Stats and Safety Tips

The Safety and Security Committee reported at MRIA’s October meeting about crime trends in the neighborhood over the past few years, measures undertaken by Baltimore Police and MICA to respond to recent upticks in crime, and things residents can do to improve neighborhood safety.

2015 saw a 138% increase in violent crime compared to 2014. This year, violent crime is down 35% from last summer and 39% for the entire year to date. However, the violent crime rate this year to date is still up 44% this year in comparison to 2014.

Bolton Hill crime statistics for 2014-2016 compiled by MRIA's Safety Committee
Bolton Hill crime statistics for 2014-2016 compiled by MRIA’s Safety Committee

In the past year, Baltimore Police and MICA have increased patrols in the neighborhood. Baltimore Police has a car stationed in the neighborhood during the swing shift, and we can often get an overtime car. MICA now has 3 to 4 officers on duty at all times, increased from 1-2 officers, and can have up to 6 officers on duty at peak times.

Even with increased coverage, patrol can’t be everywhere at every minute. The Safety Committee would like to remind residents of common-sense steps everyone can take to promote safety in Bolton Hill.

  1. Talk to your neighbors. Keep each another informed!
  2. Call 911, not 311. Report all crimes to the police by calling 911. You can also submit a report online. If calling in a report, be sure to ask for an incident report number.
  3. Report incidents to BHEN. Send information about any incidents to BHEN@boltonhill.org. Serious incidents are crossposted on BHEN, NextDoor (https://boltonhill.nextdoor.com), and MRIA’s Facebook page.
  4. Install a security camera. If you are interested in installing security cameras on your property, check out this FAQ.
  5. Join the Citizens on Patrol (COP). COP is increasing the number of groups out 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 [at] earthlink.net), Jonathan Claiborne leads a walk every Monday evening beginning at the corner of Bolton and Lafayette (jeclaiborne10 [at] gmail.com), and Jack Brown leads a walk on Monday and Wednesday mornings (reach him at NextDoor).
  6. Get the Companion app. The popular Companion app, which alerts a friend to walk with you virtually, can be found online herebSafe is another app that also tracks your movements and shares them with selected friends; find it online here.
  7. Stay lit. Leave your front and back lights on at night, and report any dysfunctional street lights to 311.
  8. Lock things up. Keep your back gate locked and make sure all other locks on your property are working properly.

New Guide Promotes Holiday Volunteering

givingAs we round the corner and head into the last months of the year, our thoughts often turn to giving – giving thanks, and giving to others.

To help neighbors with their philanthropic efforts, MRIA’s Social Action Task Force (SATF) has produced a Holiday Volunteer Guide that features over a dozen organizations that serve the 21217 zip code. Many of these organizations have been featured at one of the SATF’s Parties with a Purpose.

The mission of Bolton Hill’s Social Action Task Force is to encourage, facilitate, and initiate personal engagement between the Bolton Hill neighborhood and the larger 21217 community. By highlighting the many great organizations serving our area, they hope to strengthen and increase our collective efforts, creating a more healthy, vibrant, just, and safe neighborhood for all.

The guide contains information about charitable events and volunteer opportunities with local non-profits during the holiday season. In this year’s season of giving, the SATF encourages you to consider supporting organizations that work within the 21217 community, and spread cheer to neighbors in need.

View and download the 2017 Holiday Volunteer Guide.

Brown Memorial Tutoring Program Supports Baltimore’s Children

brown-tutor-2By Martha Socolar

For over 50 years, the Brown Memorial Tutoring Program has helped Baltimore children learn to read. Each year 80-some students from three Baltimore City Public schools come to Brown Memorial to receive 75 minutes of one-on-one reading instruction each week with their very own volunteer tutor.

The tutoring program staff works closely with principals and teachers to identify students in grades one through five who would benefit most from individualized reading instruction. Most of these children are struggling in school and are well below grade level in reading. At Brown Memorial, we celebrate each child’s successes, whether small or large. Students make significant progress and experience the confidence and pride that comes with achievement.

Tutors come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are Brown church members, but most are not. Some have teaching experience; many have none at all.

Photos courtesy of Brown Memorial Park Avenue Presbyterian.




Each September, tutors are schooled in reading instruction based on Orton-Gillingham methodology, and workshops are also offered throughout the year. Program directors guide and support tutors, who also have access to an extensive library of teaching resources.

Brown Memorial generously supports the program. Even so, 80% of our annual budget relies on generous donations from individuals and foundations committed to advancing literacy and helping Baltimore City children succeed. Come visit us to experience the joy and magic that occurs daily at the tutoring program.

We need you! Contact director Martha Socolar (martha.socolar [at] comcast.net, 410-523-1542 x17) or browntutoring.org to become a volunteer tutor, make a donation or discover other ways to support the program.

The Midtown Missive: Fall Open House, Election, Artists

midtwon-academyBy Jennifer Devon, Executive Director of The Midtown Academy

Fall’s a busy time for all of us here at The Midtown Academy. Here’s what we’re up to:

Our Fall Open House will be held Friday, November 4 from 1:00-3:00 pm. Parents and families of prospective students are invited to come and tour The Midtown Academy and meet with teachers and staff. Light refreshments will be served. RSVP jhackett [at] themidtownacademy.com if you’d like to attend.

The Midtown Fund Annual Appeal: Thanks to everyone who has donated! Your generosity makes a big difference to each of our students.

Mock Presidential Election: Students are ready to exercise their civic duty by voting in their own mock election on Monday, November 7, 2016. Students throughout the school have been studying the various elements of our government and look forward to exercising their right to vote. A mock voting booth, ballots and election judges will be present to give our students a real voting experience. If you are interested in volunteering for the election or for other events, please contact jhackett [at] themidtownacademy.com.

Art Auction and Exhibit: We are excited to announce our third annual Uniting Diverse Artists art auction and exhibit on January 20, 2017 at the Riggs Gallery at MICA. This year’s art auction will celebrate who we are as a unique, thriving, and diverse K-8 school.

A VIP cocktail hour beginning at 5:00 pm will feature local celebrity bartender Joseph Edwardsen from Joe Squared Pizza and some amazing Midtown themed cocktails. We look forward to seeing you at this event! Tickets and sponsorships are available at www.midtownuda.org.

Baltimore Rising Exhibition at MICA


MICA will host a three-week event Baltimore Rising Exhibition that examines the aftermath of the 2015 uprising and explores the relationship between art and activism.

Open from November 2 to 23 in the Riggs Gallery, 131 North Avenue, the exhibition brings together a broad survey of works by 15 artists — with significant ties to Baltimore — who address the social, economic, political and racial issues that propelled the city to the national spotlight in 2015.

The exhibit will feature work from Derrick Adams, Lauren Adams, Devin Allen, Sonya Clark, J.M. Giordano, Logan Hicks, Jeffrey Kent, Nate Larson, Nether, Olivia Robinson, Paul Rucker, Joyce J. Scott, Tony Shore, Shinique Smith and Susan Waters-Eller.

Additionally, there are three events associated with the exhibit that a free and open to the public. Space is limited and an RSVP, via the appropriate link below, is strongly encouraged.

Opening Reception: Friday, Nov. 4, 5 – 8 pm; Lazarus Center

Community Forum: After the Baltimore Uprising: Still Waiting for Change; Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7 – 9 pm; Lazarus Center Auditorium
Panelists: Ralikh Hayes, Tawanda Jones, DeRay Mckesson, D. Watkins, moderated by Lester Spence; RSVP here.

Artists Panel: Can Artists Ignite a Revolution?; Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7 – 9 pm; Lazarus Center Auditorium
Panelists: J.M. Giordano, Paul Rucker, Joyce J. Scott, Tony Shore, moderated by Sheri Parks; RSVP here.

Find more information online here.

Lead support for Baltimore Rising is provided by the Baltimore Community Foundation, Brenda Brown-Lipitz Family Foundation, CrossCurrents Foundation, Juliet A. Eurich and Louis B. Thalheimer, Maryland State Arts Council, MICA’s Office of Graduate Studies, and MICA’s Presidential Task Force on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Globalization.

November Events

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

Go to the Bulletin Calendar for details and additional events—just click on an event to see more information.

November 1 – MRIA Board Meeting; everyone is welcome to attend.

November 3 – Wide Angle Youth Media Gala

November 4, 5 & 6 – Greek Culture & Food Festival

November 4 – Midtown Academy’s Open House

November 6 – Social Justice Coffeehouse on Immigration

November 6 – Tiffany Series Organ Concert

November 8 – Election Night Party at BMA

November 10 – Talbots Sale for The Samaritan Community

November 11 – Silent Movie & Organ Concert, Steamboat Bill, Jr.

November 11 – Opening Night of Romulus, plus more shows this weekend and the next. See related article.

November 19 – An Evening of Celebration with the No Boundaries Coalition