Christine Ladd-Franklin, a Scientist from Bolton Hill

Christine Ladd-Franklin
Christine Ladd-Franklin. Acc. 90-105 – Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archive

By Jean Lee Cole

Bolton Hill has a charming tradition of placing round blue plaques on the façades of homes that were once graced by historic figures. Right now, only two of the 22 plaques honor women: one for Bryn Mawr founder Edith Hamilton, and another honoring Claribel and Etta Cone. But that doesn’t mean that other historically significant women did not live in the neighborhood.

Take Christine Ladd-Franklin, for example.

I have been researching a group of ambitious and accomplished Baltimore women with an undergraduate class at Loyola: the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore. The Club, which was founded in 1890, was the intellectual home for a number of literary women from the area, some of whom published dozens of stories and novels in national magazines and with major publishers. (You can see the website we are creating about these women here.)

Christine Ladd-Franklin was a founding member of the Club and belonged for nearly twenty years. But it turns out she was neither a poet nor a novelist. She was a scientist. And she lived in Bolton Hill, at 1507 Park Ave.

Though she did not write literature, she did publish—a lot. Her work straddled the disciplines of mathematics, logic, and psychology. One of my students, Sydney Johnson, discovered over thirty publications, many in major scientific journals, including the American Journal of Mathematics, Science, the Journal of Philosophy, Mind, and the Nation.

Her ideas about color vision were revolutionary, and her books on vision, perception, and logic are still on the shelves of university libraries.

Ladd-Franklin was not a born-and-bred Baltimorean, but one could say, following the old saw, that she got here as fast as she could.

Born Christine Ladd in Connecticut in 1847, she discovered her interest in science while a student at the newly opened Vassar College, the first college to grant degrees to women, in the years after the Civil War. She was accepted to the graduate program at Johns Hopkins under the name “C. Ladd.” But when the university discovered that the C stood for Christine, her admittance was revoked.

Christine Ladd-Franklin home
1507 Park Ave., former residence of Christine Ladd-Franklin.

Luckily, Professor James J. Sylvester stepped in and took her under his wing, allowing her to attend classes. She later studied with renowned psychologist C. S. Peirce, who advised her dissertation, “On the Algebra of Logic.” And she became the first woman in the US to complete the requirements for a PhD in math and logic. Unfortunately, Hopkins refused to grant her degree until over forty years later, in 1927, only a few years before her death in 1930.

Even if Hopkins refused to give Ladd-Franklin a degree, they were willing to give her a job. She taught math and logic classes at Johns Hopkins from 1904 until 1909, after which she moved to New York City and taught at Columbia University—through unpaid lectureships—until her death.

Our research into Ladd-Franklin’s activities in the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore reveal a strong and at times iconoclastic personality. At the Club’s March 14, 1893 meeting, she presented a paper titled “The Sensation of Color.” Because the meeting was directed by the Club’s Committee on Fiction, we expected this paper to be a short story or perhaps an excerpt of a novel. Instead, my student Marina Fazio discovered that “The Sensation of Color” was actually a scientific treatise that presented different ways of thinking about the perception of light and color. 

The secretary who recorded minutes of the meeting wrote this about Ladd-Franklin’s presentation: “Mrs. Franklin advanced . . .  a new theory of her own, differing from those mentioned,– and supported it with skill and ability.” This statement, short as it is, is astonishing in its import. The last thing we expected to find was that women in a literary club were presenting their own original scientific theories.

Marina also found the brevity of the secretary’s statement striking in that it contrasted with the in-depth summaries and quotations from the work presented by other women in the Club. Perhaps Ladd-Franklin’s theories were “beyond her comprehension,” she hypothesized. The journal Science published an article titled “Color Vision” in August of that year, which likely was based on the research that Ladd-Franklin presented at this Club meeting.

People today may find it galling that despite Ladd-Franklin’s accomplishments, she is referred to as “Mrs. Fabian Franklin” throughout the minutes and other documents pertaining to the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore. It took some months of research before we ran across her full name, Christine Ladd Franklin, signed on a Club election document.

Once we learned her name, we were able to find out much more about her life, including all of those publications, a Wikipedia page (which, however, only lists eight of her published works), and the house where she lived.

Neighborhood historian Frank Shivers was quoted as saying that the Blue Plaque program commemorates Bolton Hill residents who have attained “national significance.” While women have historically have had fewer avenues to nationally recognized achievement, it still, occasionally, happened.

Christine Ladd-Franklin is one of these women brought back into the light. How many others might there be?

Read more about the Woman’s Literary Club of Baltimore at the website Ms. Cole’s Loyola class created to share their research.

Reconciling the Truth About Bolton Hill’s Monumental Past

From Just Us to Justice

By Grey Maggiano

On 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.

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.

Honor Black History Month by Feeding Your Brain

By Peter Van Buren

With its origins dating back over a hundred years, February has been officially declared Black History Month by every U.S. president since President Ford in 1976.

The theme of Black History Month changes yearly. This year’s theme is The Crisis in Black Education. We need not look any further than Baltimore’s own schools to witness this crisis. But, where do we start in solving it?

Why not start by educating yourself? Here are a few ideas to consider for your education program. 

  • Volunteer at one of our neighborhood schools. Consult the Youth/Schools section of Bolton Hill’s Community Asset List to see where you might be needed. The children love having visitors, even if you just go once. You might find that once is not enough.
  • Attend this month’s Party with a Purpose organized by the Social Action Task Force, where guests will be asked to read a passage from a black author of their choosing. Donations raised at the party will support local youth organizations. The Party with a Purpose takes place Sunday, Feb. 26 from 2-5 pm at 1308 Bolton Street; more details here.
  • Lillie Carroll Jackson

    Learn about Lillie CarrolJackson, renowned civil rights activist who lived at 1320 Eutaw Place. To honor her legacy, Morgan State University completed a major renovation of her beautiful home in 2012, transforming it into the state-of-the-art the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. Unfortunately, due to the lack of funds to support its administration, the museum remains closed except by appointment (email or call 443-885-3895 if you’d like to visit).

    You can help make this valuable educational resource available to regular visitors by writing a check payable to the Morgan State University Foundation (note “Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum” in the memo line), and send to Mr. Gabriel Tenabe, James E. Lewis Museum, 1700 E. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21251.

  • Be inspired by the courageous and groundbreaking legacy of the many other famous black residents of the 21217 neighborhood by walking the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail, whose 2 mile path winds from the State Center to the Upton Metro. Brochures for the Trail (and delicious baked goods) are available at The Avenue Bakery, 2229 Pennsylvania Avenue. You can also take an audiovisual tour of Pennsylvania Avenue using the izi.Travel app or on your computer.
  • Expand your musical knowledge by listening to a black artist that’s new to you. Amazing black musicians are too numerous to count, but one I recommend is Gil Scott Heron. Try his hard-hitting The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, or the beautiful, but painfully sad Winter in America. Or if you want to go farther back, check out izi.Travel’s Eubie Blake’s Ragtime Riffs musical tour. 
  • Celebrate the rich contributions of black poets to American poetry by contemplating Twelve Poems at the Academy of American Poets website. Twelve contemporary black poets from across the country chose one poem each that should be read this month and then explain why.
  • Start down the path to social justice by learning about the critically important concept of white privilege. I’m learning a lot from Waking up White, by Debby Irving, while next up on my reading list is the National Book Award winner Between the World and Me, by West Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates. 
  • Learn about the separate but unequal legacy of Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education by reading Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools.

Knowledge is power and it’s also cathartic. We welcome your suggestions about other ways to learn about black history or the crisis in black education. Leave a reply or comment below, or email us at

The Home Weekly, continued


The Home Weekly, Dec. 26, 1908, p. 2 listing the gifts given by students at Boys' Latin to their teachers.
The Home Weekly, Dec. 26, 1908, p. 2 listing the gifts given by students at Boys’ Latin to their teachers.

The 1908 Christmas issue of the Weekly was published on Dec. 19. It contained several Christmas-related pieces, though it’s not clear which, if any, received a prize from the editors. Gideon Stieff related “The Trials and Tribulations of a Santa Claus,” while Allan Davis penned a cautionary tale for naughty children determined to be “Seein’ Santa.” In this story, little Will, who hides under the sofa in an attempt to catch a glimpse of Santa, is discovered, at which point Santa “did not say anything but went over to the stockings and emptied poor Will’s of the toys and filled it with switches and coal.” Needless to say, Will never tried to catch Santa in the act again.

The issue also contains several regular features, including jokes—

A hug—a roundabout way of expressing affection.
A stitch in time often saves an embarrassing exposure.
People who live in glass houses should dress in the dark.

—and sports news. Boys’ Latin, we are told, decimated Loyola Blakefield in basketball, 41-5, while “the Friends School strengthened its hold on last place by losing to Deichmanns by 1 to 0.” (Deichmann’s School was one of several bilingual German-English schools in the Baltimore area that flourished between the end of the Civil War and World War I, after which anti-German sentiment resulted in their demise.) The editors continue, with more than a hint of irony, “We are pleased to note that the Friends School has not scored a single point since the league started.”

The issue also contained additional pieces of fiction, an editorial, and a new feature, the “Children’s Corner,” which Francis Davis instituted as a result of complaints from “the young folks” about being “neglected” by the editors.

In their opening editorial, the editors write, “we have tried in every way to make it as nearly as possible a success and if we say so ourselves, it is a pretty good number.” We think you will agree.

The Weekly was discontinued a few years later, perhaps because Francis left home for work or college. The Davis family also left Bolton Hill, relocating to Roland Park in the early 1920s. As is true of many childhood efforts, the Home Weekly was tragically forgotten, even by the Davis family. Only recently did John Davis rediscover his father’s early attempts at authorship, when he found nearly 300 pages of the Weekly preserved, in pristine condition, in the family safe. We are grateful to him and to his daughter Jenny for sharing these family treasures with the readers of the Bulletin.

Happy Holidays to all from all of us at the Bolton Hill Bulletin and MRIA!

Back to the December issue

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 …

Walking Through History with Baltimore Heritage

Tour guides Johns Hopkins & Doris Sharkey
Bolton Hill tour guides Johns Hopkins and Doris Sharkey

Each year for the past 30, Baltimore Heritage has led walking tours in Baltimore neighborhoods ranging from winding sylvan communities like Roland Park and Guilford, to tucked away urban enclaves like Seton Hill and Brewers Hill.

And, this May, they led two sold-out tours in our area.

On April 30, Baltimore Heritage director Johns Hopkins and Lanvale St. neighbor Doris Sharkey led a tour through Bolton Hill.

Then, on May 14, Baltimore Heritage staffer Eli Pousson and Druid Hill Ave. neighbor Marti Pitrelli guided a group through Marble Hill.

The Bolton Hill tour started at Corpus Christi church and wound its way down Lanvale to Eutaw, before circling back across Lafayette and then Mosher to Park Avenue. Along the way, Doris covered a wide swath of neighborhood history, from its earliest days as George Grundy’s estate to the addition of the Maryland Institute College of Art in 1904.

Doris told of the area’s Civil War connections, both Union and Confederate. In a city that had leanings towards both sides of the conflict, it’s not surprising that famous supporters for each side lived side-by-side in Bolton Hill.

Tour participants learned that the name of our neighborhood comes from the Grundy’s manor house, Bolton-Le-Moors, which was later demolished and replaced with the Fifth Regiment Armory. When Bolton Street was first built, it served as the “driveway” north from this grand mansion.

Leaders Eli Pousson & Marti Pitrelli (on right in photo)
Baltimore Heritage tour leaders Eli Pousson & Marti Pitrelli (at right)

On the Marble Hill walk, Eli and Martha focused on the key role the neighborhood played in the civil rights movement, both locally and nationally. They spoke of Pastor Bascome of the Douglas Memorial Community Church (built in 1857 at Lafayette and Madison, it’s the oldest church in Marble Hill), who stood up to then-governor Spiro Agnew.

Thet also stopped at the Elks Lodge at McMechen and Madison, which has provided a platform for black empowerment since its founding in 1900. Since the Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE) would not allow black members, creative brothers added an “I” for “Improved” at the start, and a “W” for “of the World” at the end, creating the IBOPEW.

Marcus Garvey made his only Baltimore speech at the Trinity Baptist Church (McMechen and Druid Hill), and the first march on Annapolis protesting Baltimore police violence against blacks was organized by the Sharp Street Memorial Church (Dolphin and Etting).

The tour emphasized the important role our area has played in these struggles, but also highlighted how this history itself is disappearing, leading walkers past the burnt remains of Thurgood Marshall’s elementary school (Henry Highland Garnet School, 1315 Division) and the rubble that once was “Freedom House” (Lanvale & Druid Hill).

Decades ago, the NAACP dubbed the place “Freedom House” for the crucial role it played in the civil rights movement. This three-story rowhouse was the home of the city’s first black City Council member, and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt and Clarence Mitchell, Jr. all attended meetings there.

The remains of Freedom House are a sobering reminder that we need to do more to honor, cherish and protect what is in our own backyard.

Find out more about upcoming Baltimore Heritage Tours, and you can purchase tickets online. Groups are often limited in size to make them manageable in the spaces visited, and some tours sell-out.

Rutter’s Mill Park Gets a Makeover

Rutter Park 2
Finished wall at Rutter’s Mill Park

By Coleen McCarty and Susan Badder

A quiet oasis of mature trees and lush greenery, Rutter’s Mill Park is a reminder of the natural landscape that once existed there. In the late-18th century, Bolton Hill was open land, drained by streams that fed into the Jones Falls. One, Spicer’s Run, ran down from Reservoir Hill, emptying into the falls just south of where the North Avenue bridge stands today.

Just downstream was a water-powered grist mill owned by John Rutter, whose family owned property in the neighborhood along the banks of a Spicer’s Run tributary. That body of water became known as Rutter’s Run.

By the late-19th century, rowhouses had been built on John Street, Lafayette Street and Mount Royal Avenue, and Rutter’s Run had been channeled and covered over. On quiet nights, those waters can still be heard running beneath us.

Demolition of old wall
Demolition of old wall

For the first half of the 20th century, a row of two-story alley houses stood on the site of the park. As a part of mid-1960s urban renewal, these houses were demolished, and Rutter’s Mill Park was created. Designed by Constantine (Gus) Courpas, the plan took into account the building on the Mosher Street side of the plot, the studio of sculptor Ruben Kramer and his wife Perna, who were patrons and caretakers of the park for many years. Gas lamps now light the park and the sounds of water trickling from a fountain now provide an ambient reminder of the site’s history.

Over the years, Rutter’s Mill Park has been maintained by its neighbors, the 40+ households that back onto it and collectively form the Rutter’s Mill Park Association. Routine repairs and plantings have been funded through grants from MRIA, the Bolton Hill Garden Club, Festival on the Hill and the Parks and People Foundation.

New wall is built better
New wall is built better

As Rutter’s Mill Park approached the half-century mark, it began to show its age. By 2009, the brick wall surrounding the park began to list, suffering the effects of time, weather and the growing tree roots. The wall had to be removed before it fell. A proposal submitted by the Baltimore City Bureau of Parks suggested replacing the brick wall with a chain-link fence.

Claudia Sennett and Susan Badder led a group of advocates who formulated a counter-proposal to replace the wall with a design appropriate for our historic community. MRIA past president John Kyle and then–City Councilman Bill Cole took up the cause.

With the assistance of Valarie Ruppert, Director of Community Greening at Parks and People, and the leadership of Walley Stephenson of Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks, the Rutter’s Mill Park Association solicited bids from private contractors. The project was completely funded by Recreation and Parks, in large part through the efforts of the office’s director, Ernest Burkeen, Jr.

The new wall is a substantially improvement over the one it replaced. Built to accommodate the continued growth of trees, the gates are now open, and Rutter’s Mill Park once again welcomes all sorts of visitors. Intimate enough for a single reader, this “backyard” for 40+ residences, two elementary schools and a college can also host a church luncheon, a wedding reception, or even a nursery school graduation. And, of course, the annual Easter Egg hunt.

The newly refurbished Rutter’s Mill Park extends a warm welcome to the entire Bolton Hill community.

(Editors’ Note: the Rutter’s Mill Park Association is a 501c3 nonprofit organization and also accepts tax-deductible donations from businesses and individuals. Donors should contact Claudia Sennett, 1415 John Street, 410-523-3156.)


Walking Tour of Bolton Hill

Walking tour led by Charlie Duff
Walking tour led by Charlie Duff

Baltimore Heritage will be leading a walking tour of Bolton Hill on Saturday, April 30.

Founded in 1960, Baltimore Heritage is the city’s nonprofit historic and architectural preservation organization. Managed since 2003 by executive director and Bolton Hill neighbor Johns Hopkins, they work to preserve and promote Baltimore’s historic buildings and neighborhoods.

Their historic tours help raise funds for the organization and also allows them to share their love for the buildings and places they hope to preserve. Led by volunteer tour guides (including nuns, architects, scholars and activists), participants ride bikes, climb scaffolding, and walk up and down hilly streets as they tour historic buildings and neighborhoods all across the city.

Their spring tour schedule hits many other Baltimore neighborhoods, including Mt. Vernon, Paterson Park, Seton Hill, and Marble Hill, as well as a whiskey distillery, the Maryland Zoo’s Rogers Mansion, Pimlico, and more.

Join a Baltimore Heritage tour and discover the stories and people behind our city’s great historic places. Learn more about the Bolton Hill tour and register here.

From Year One: News and Views from Baltimore’s “tight little island,” 1972-1973

By Jean Lee Cole

The first issue of the Bolton Hill Bulletin appeared in April 1972, a large tri-fold newsletter that would undergo surprisingly few changes over the next 45 years.

From the start, editor Nancie Verkerke established the Bulletin as a staunch advocate for urban living and chatty proponent of neighborhood values—a much-needed tonic for a community that had weathered decades of transformation dating back to the post-World War II industrial boom. During Nancie’s long tenure as editor of the Bulletin, her vision of Bolton Hill never wavered: it was an embodiment of the best that Baltimore had to offer.

By the late 1960s, the building of I-83 as well as urban renewal had resulted in the demolition of entire blocks of houses, leaving swaths of vacant land east of Mount Royal, along North Ave., and between Mason and Eutaw Streets, from North Ave. all the way down to Dolphin St. The neighborhood had literally embodied its sense of itself as “a tight little island,” as longtime resident Ed Howard described it.

The Mount Royal Improvement Association established the Bulletin to cultivate cohesion within the several thousand occupants of this island, while also promoting it as a tool to bring in new residents. David Maulsby of the 1400 block of Park Ave. was an MRIA board member at the time and remembers the establishment of the Bulletin as a “common-sense step” to strengthen the community. The Bulletin, he said, “made people proud to live in Bolton Hill.”

Click to continue

From Year One, continued

Read the first part of the story here.

The impetus to begin publication may have been spurred by the neighborhood’s official designation as a Baltimore historic district in 1969, and its inclusion as the first Baltimore area on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP), in 1971. The Bulletin became a key way to spread word of these designations and to explain their significance to residents and non-residents alike.

NRHP plaque
Story from Feb. 23, 1973 updating readers on Frank Shivers’ fundraising campaign to install a plaque commemorating Bolton Hill’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. The plaque was installed in the Lafayette St. garden at Brown Memorial Church on Oct. 7.

In the third issue of the Bulletin, keeper of the NRHP William Murtagh described the list, established by federal legislation in 1966, as “a way to combat visual and cultural pollution, which can be just as depressing as air and water pollution.” Throughout the first year of the Bulletin’s existence, Verkerke consistently emphasized beautification, cleanliness, and appreciation of the neighborhood’s historic significance.

The “Neighbors in the News” column, a feature continuing to the present day, highlighted the accomplishments of neighborhood residents. In the first year of the newsletter’s publication, Bolton Hill residents (and their homes) were featured in local and national publications including the Baltimore Sun, Forbes, Better Homes and Gardens, and Esquire.

The Bulletin also kept residents abreast of the latest news regarding the development of the various parcels of vacant land surrounding and throughout the neighborhood, including:

  • Lot 19 and Lot 1 of the Madison Park South Redevelopment Plan at Mt. Royal and south of North Ave., resulting in the construction of the Bolton North high rise and the addition to Mt. Royal Elementary
  • the parcel that became the Linden Green condominium development
  • the site of Fitzgerald Park at the corner of Bolton and Wilson, former site of the Cornerstone Baptist Church (originally the Har Sinai Congregation synagogue), which had been destroyed by fire just three years earlier in 1969
  • the demolition of Deutsches Haus, which had housed a group of German singing societies since the 1930s and was also the former home of the Bryn Mawr School. (The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall was built on the site.)
  • the purchasing and renovation of monumental rowhouses on the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Eutaw St., once home to prominent Baltimore citizens including Daniel Coit Gilman, Sidney Lanier, and Woodrow Wilson


Most of all, however, the Bulletin advocated for membership in MRIA, touted its accomplishments, and publicized its activities. “You have a super Board, who seek, strive, bend over backward, turn handsprings, to do their best for you,” Verkerke wrote in February 1973.

Within a year, the Bulletin declared that it was instrumental in bringing 100 new members to MRIA. It also became a tool to recruit new residents. A special issue distributed at the long-running annual City Fair (1970-1991), guest-edited by Frank Shivers (1400 block Bolton St.), featured a paean to Baltimore written by neighborhood literary lion Gerald Johnson (1300 block Bolton St.) and extolled the neighborhood’s beautiful architecture, plentiful amenities, and proximity both to cultural attractions in Baltimore and to lucrative jobs in D.C.

During its first year of publication, the Bulletin provides a poignant and sometimes amusing reminder of bygone Baltimore life. When the tiny houses between Lafayette and Mosher were homes for Bolton Hill’s very own artists’ colony, the Rutter St. Art Festival was held in each May and was a major fundraiser for MRIA. The Bolton Dinner Theater, located in Sutton Place, offered shows ranging from the familiar (“Charlie Brown”) to the more adventurous (“Moose, Why Are There Walnuts in the Medicine Cabinet?”). The Doll Hospital, 102 W. North Ave., advertised “Dolls repaired and redressed”—by appointment only—while the Panos Brothers Greek deli on Preston St. reminded readers that it could provide all the necessary ingredients for the “spanakopita, dolmadakia yialandji, or tiropetis” you might be planning for dinner.

Shops advertised in the Bulletin, 1973.
Bolton Hill Bulletin, Feb. 23, 1973, p. 3.

Everything in the Bulletin emphasized the benefits of city living, almost to a fault. One of the continuing features was the “Notable Quotables,” which focused on the joys of urban life and, whenever possible, denigrated the suburbs. In March 1973, for example, she quoted Margaret Mead, who wrote that “The first thing we have to get rid of is this horrible independent little misery called the suburban home.”

While reminding us of a bygone era, perusing these issues also reminds us how much has remained the same. MRIA still meets at 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month. Block parties, though less prevalent than they used to be, still provide festive occasions for neighbors to gather together in the spring, summer, and fall. Trash, then as always, was a perennial problem: “Plastic cans and trash bags are not rat-proof and their use is illegal,” Verkerke tersely reminded residents in July 1972.

Trash-- a problem then, a problem now. Bolton Hill Bulletin, May 20, 1972.
Trash– a problem then, a problem now. Bolton Hill Bulletin, May 20, 1972.

And what to do about man’s best friend, in one of the most dog-friendly but yard-starved areas of the city? This, it seems, was the crusade Editor Verkerke took on for herself. Nearly every issue included some mention of “the dog problem,” and Verkerke implored readers to “Curb Your Dog,” devoting stories, ads, and graphics to the cause.

Ad page, May 20, 1972.
The first “advertising page” appearing in the Bulletin, with the first ad– an almost subliminal plea to “(curb your dog).” May 20, 1972.

The issues from the first year of the Bulletin provide a colorful look into a scrappy but always civilized group of people who chose to call Bolton Hill home, people who chose to live in the city despite the problems that the 1968 riots made starkly visible to the rest of the city and to the nation. In Maulsby’s view, the Bulletin helped show that it was possible to have a “densely developed urban community that wasn’t a slum.”

We’ll be featuring additional tidbits From Year One– and beyond– in future issues of the Bulletin during this 45th anniversary year. If you have ideas of things we might feature, or if you have back issues stashed somewhere that could be added to our online archive, please contact us at

A Glimpse of Bolton Hill in 1911

15-09 schlitzLocal author, Park School librarian, and Newbery Medal winner Laura Amy Schlitz has set her latest novel, The Hired Girl, in 1911 Baltimore. The book tells the story of fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, who runs away from a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania to become a hired girl for six dollars a week in a grand home on Eutaw Place.

In her diary, Joan recounts visits to Druid Hill Park and the grand department stores of Howard Street; she attends Corpus Christi Church on Mount Royal Avenue. Through Joan’s experiences, Schlitz explores feminism and housework, religion and literature, love and loyalty.

Schlitz has been lauded as a “master of children’s literature” by The New York Times Book Review. The Hired Girl, for readers 12 and up, has received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Horn Book.

The Park School has created a driving tour of the sights from The Hired Girl, which includes stops in Bolton Hill.

Here’s the video trailer for the book:

Baltimore Heritage Awards

Founded in 1960, Baltimore Heritage works hard to preserve and promote Baltimore’s historic buildings and neighborhoods. For over fifty years, their annual awards program has recognized projects that achieve excellence in the restoration or rehabilitation of Baltimore’s historic buildings. This year’s Awards Celebration on June 18 honored 16 projects, including two from our neighborhood–Bolton Hill Nursery School and MICA’s Falls Road Studio.
Before Bolton Hill became a rowhouse neighborhood, 204 West Lanvale Street was a grand free standing house on the outskirts of Baltimore. Originally a single family residence, then home to the Family and Children’s Services of Central Maryland, Bolton Hill Nursery School acquired the property in 2013. Restoring an old house with flaky paint, years of deterioration, and a preservation easement on the exterior was a challenge. Doing this to house pre-school children made it doubly so. Powered by the tireless will of Executive Director Louie Wilder, the work was completed in 2014, turning this historic building into a hive of activity and restoring it to prominence in the neighborhood.
MICA’s 33,000 square foot building at 1801 Falls Road was a warehouse with scant usage. Continuing its commitment in the Station North Arts and Entertainment District, MICA turned this unfinished warehouse into art space, including studios for programs in Illustration, Art Education, Social Design, and Sculpture. Containing state-of-the-art digital labs, workshops, and classrooms, the refurbished warehouse sparkles with vibrant colors and innovative work spaces, converting this overlooked historic building into an active component in the thriving Station North arts scene.

History of Confederate monuments in Bolton Hill

spirit-of-the-confederacy-statue-baltimore-650In the wake of the shootings in South Carolina, Baltimore has begun a review of the city’s Confederate monuments, one of which, the “Spirit of the Confederacy,” stands in our neighborhood on Mt. Royal Avenue near Mosher St. Neighbor Eli Pousson, who works for Baltimore Heritage, has posted about the history of these monuments in an effort to understand the city in which the monuments were originally erected.

He found a letter from Confederate veteran Charles T. Crane to then Baltimore Mayor Ferdinand Claiborne Latrobe, published on March 27, 1880. In the letter, Crane strongly disavowed the principle behind the Civil War and efforts to memorialize the Confederacy, writing: “I am unwilling to see erected in the public streets of this city a monument to a dead idea.”

The full letter and some great old photos are at the blog, along with many other fine articles on Baltimore history.