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A Short History of Hoes Heights

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This story first appeared in Underbelly

Ever wonder about Hoes Heights? The hidden and oft-overlooked north Baltimore neighborhood bears the name of Grandison Hoe, a freed slave in Antebellum Baltimore who once owned and operated a farm on the location. Nestled between its more renowned neighbors—Hampden to the south and Roland Park to the north—this neighborhood remained entirely African-American until the last few decades. Hoes Heights, bound by Cold Spring Lane to the north, 41st Street to the south, Falls Road to the west and Evans Chapel Road to the east, became part of Baltimore City under the 1918 Annexation Act. It is an architecturally diverse community consisting of 19th century stick style houses, turn of the century single-family homes, and brick rowhouses. Many are probably familiar with this neighborhood’s most prominent feature—the 148 foot tall water tower located on Roland Avenue near the intersection of University Parkway.

The earliest reference to the Hoe property is found in an 1857 map of Hampden and its surrounding regions by J. Morris Wampler. The property’s boundaries terminated to the north at what is now Roland Heights Avenue and to the west along the crest of the hill that descends to Falls Road. In the 1860 census of Baltimore County, Grandison is listed as being 40 years of age with property worth $3,600 and an estate worth $200—a modest house on valuable land. Also listed as residents of the farm are his 38-year-old wife Lucy, their five children, and a man named Augustus Green. All are identified as farmers.

The history of Hoes Heights prior to 1857 is somewhat murky. Who deeded Grandison Hoe, a freed slave, this coveted piece of land? Eliza Hoe, who may have been a sister or close relative of Grandison, shows up in the 1870 census as a housekeeper for a branch of the Fendall family in Bolton Hill. This same family also owned property adjacent to Hoes Heights, which was once part of Charles Ridgley’s massive North Baltimore estate. This Hoe-Fendall connection could possibly explain how Grandison ended up with the land.

Hiram Woods (1826-1901), a local sugar refining magnate who owned land north of Cold Spring Lane, so desired Hoe’s Hill (as it was then known) that he offered several times to buy the land and resettle the Hoes in Cross Keys, a small African-American village just to the north. Woods even suggested relocating the family burial ground. The Hoes rejected the offer. (Woods’s parcel later became part of Roland Park.)

As the Hoe family grew older the need for more living quarters arose. Grandison’s two sons, William and Richard, built their own houses adjacent to their father’s. Relatives, possibly from Charles County, moved to the Hoe farm and built homes. As the 20th century approached, the occupants of Hoes Heights began shifting from farm to domestic work, earning their livings in Roland Park and other exclusive neighborhoods. The harsh circumstances of the Great Depression forced the Hoes to sell portions of their land in order to pay delinquent tax bills. As a result, several blocks of small brick rowhouses were built on 43rd Street, 42nd Street, Evans Chapel and Providence Road during the 1930s and 1940s. Around 70 houses were built with most sold to African-American veterans returning from World War II.

By 1876, Grandison Hoe was most likely deceased—the 1877 Atlas of Baltimore and its Environs, Vol. 1 by G. M. Hopkins shows the name Lucy Hoe on the parcel. The map also depicts a P. Solvine as the property owner of a small piece of land above Roland Heights Avenue terminating at Cold Spring Lane. The Solvine parcel (now part of Hoes Heights) eventually came to be known as Heathbrook. A mid-1970s census report states that Heathbrook was 100 percent white, while Hoes Heights was 100 percent African-American. Historically the two communities have maintained close ties—the Heathbrook Community Organization has worked closely with the Hoes Heights Improvement Association, but the two have remained separate entities.*

Today, Hoes Heights continues to feel more like a rural village than a city neighborhood. The amicable neighbors and tranquil setting gives the impression of simpler times and a real connection between past and present is evident. I may stay awhile.

Sources:

  • 1860 Baltimore County census
  • Hoes Heights: A Neighborhood Plan (Hampden Pratt Library vertical file)
  • Passano File, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Maryland Historical Society
  • Atlas of Baltimore and its Environs, Vol. 1, G. M. Hopkins, 1877
  • Hampden Improvement Association map, J. Morris Wampler, 1857
  • Sanborn Fire Insurance maps
  • Baltimore Evening Sun, May 8, 1934
  • New York Times, Dec. 8, 1901
  • Baltimore’s Two Cross Keys Villages

Written by monumentcity

March 5th, 2013 at 6:52 am

Saint Mary’s Episcopal Church & Cemetery in Hampden

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At the Diocesan Convention of 1855 a petition was granted to create a new parish in the village of Hampden. The first church building was erected that year in present day Roosevelt Park. In 1859 the city bought the land and created the Hampden Reservoir, displacing the church. The reservoir was filled in a hundred years later.

The Saint Mary’s episcopal congregation moved in 1860, one year before the Civil War began, to a few acres of land in north Hampden donated by Henry Mankin, a developer and landowner in the area. The parcel was later expanded in 1900 through a gift from local businessman Robert Poole. The churchyard extends from Roland Avenue down the hill to Hickory Avenue and is bounded to the north by 41st Street and to the south by Rectory Lane.

The second church, built on the new property, was made out of wood and subsequently burned down before 1873. Northern troops may have used the timber for firewood. A wooden fence that once surrounded the property was taken down piece by piece and used at a nearby Civil War soldier camp. The southern sympathizing Hampdenites were apparently treated with contempt by the Union battalions.

The third church building was built in 1873 and still stands today. The parish was decommissioned in 2002 and the building was turned into an outreach center for the Hampden community. In 1964 the congregation tore down its rectory, which stood just south of the 1873 church, and the Roland towers assisted living complex was erected. The chapel at the northern boundary of the parcel is still standing but is vacant. The building was previously occupied by a separate congregation.

The Victorian graveyard is one of a few remaining in the city that is still physically connected to the church of its origin. Founded around the same time as the episcopal parish, Saint Mary’s Cemetery has graves dating back to the late 19th Century. The park is open from from dawn until dusk and is worth visiting for the view alone. A tour of Hampden is not complete without a trip to Saint Mary’s.

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Written by monumentcity

December 28th, 2012 at 6:53 am

Abolitionist Elisha Tyson’s Summer Home on Stone Hill

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Quaker abolitionist Elisha Tyson established a successful milling business along the Jones Falls during Baltimore’s early stages as an American town. In the 1790s his Woodberry Flour Mill was rapidly turning grain to flour, providing a conduit between the regions farmers and the city’s burgeoning port. The radical Tyson embraced philanthropic ideals, using his acquired wealth to give back to the city’s less fortunate.

Tyson was an advocate of African-Americans, fighting for their freedom as well as providing institutions to better their welfare. In 1801 Tyson and Archbishop John Carroll founded the Baltimore Dispensary, the city’s first free health clinic for all citizens regardless of race or gender. Three years later he and Mayor Edward Johnson helped open the Baltimore House of Industry to provide vocational training and housing for the disadvantaged. That same year Tyson, along with Robert Goodloe Harper, John McKim, Andrew Ellicott and other Baltimore business men, successfully lobbied local government to pipe sufficient and sanitary water to the town’s growing residents.

Along with fellow business associates, Tyson helped fund and organize the Falls Road Turnpike (once a Native American trail and now Falls Road) that connected his and other Jones Falls mills to the harbor. He may have used the route as part of an Underground Railroad system operating in the area. Hideouts are rumored to still exist under the Greenway Cottages on 40th Street. He even directly challenged City Council on several occasions, successfully influencing legislation on the out-of-state sale of slaves. Legend claims that no less than 3000 blacks joined his grand funeral procession in 1824. Tyson was buried at Friends Aisquith Street Cemetery until 1906, when his remains were moved to Green Mount.

Elisha Tyson built his summer home on the east bank of the Jones Falls sometime between 1790 and 1804. The Quaker incorporated the Woodberry Flour Mill in 1790 and eventually erected his residence directly above the enterprise. The house faces the former estate of Colonel Nicholas Rogers IV, now known as Druid Hill Park. The Tyson gristmill stood where the Mount Vernon Mill No. 1 and No. 2 buildings stand today.

In 2005 local preservationists Robyn Lyles and Mark Thistle purchased the Stone Hill, Hampden property. The two diligently restored the Tyson house to its original form. Materials were removed, restored and reused when possible and previous alterations, though minimal, were undone. The entire process took four years and around a half million dollars. Completed in 2009, the address won the 2010 Baltimore Heritage Preservation Award.

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Written by monumentcity

July 9th, 2011 at 10:12 pm

Roland Water Tower

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The Roland Water Tower is located in north Baltimore between Hampden, Roland Park and the Hoes Heights neighborhoods. It stands in a small park at the intersection of West University Parkway and Roland Avenue. The structure was built by John Stack & Sons following the design of local architect William J. Fizone. Completed in 1905, the tower only served its intended purpose for twenty-five years, but over one hundred years later it continues to draw attention.

In the past year a fence has been put up around the tower. Pieces of terra cotta have fallen from the 148-foot tall spire marking the area below as a hazard. The Roland Park community has initiated a plan to restore the water tower and surrounding park. Renovation is estimated to cost two million dollars.

Written by monumentcity

December 13th, 2009 at 8:03 am

WWII Servicemen Memorial in Hampden

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This WWII Servicemen Memorial sits at the corner of Keswick Road and 33rd Street in Hampden. The stone monument resides in a small community park a block south of the historic Northern District Police Station building.

Written by monumentcity

June 10th, 2009 at 9:46 am

WWII Servicemen Memorial in Medfield

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This WWII Servicemen Memorial stands near Weldon Circle in the Medfield Community of Baltimore. The inscription on the back reads: “freedom of worship and speech, freedom from fear and want,” while the front states: “to the men and women of this community who served during the second world war, that freedom and justice might prevail.”

Written by monumentcity

June 6th, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Boy Scout Statue in Hampden

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Sisson Street & Wyman Park Drive (Street View)

GPS: 39° 19′ 17.54″ N 76° 37′ 40.88″ W

History

Dating back to 1937, this sculpture is by R. Tait McKenzie and is also known as the Ideal Boy Scout. It stands outside the Morris and John D. Schapiro Scout Service Center, headquarters of the Baltimore Area Council. McKenzie’s sculpture has been duplicated for more than thirty Boy Scout centers across the nation. A small version of this sculpture was originally crafted as a desktop statuette by McKenzie in 1914. Between 1914 and 1937, a total of five scouts served as models for the completion of the life-sized statue which is a composite of these individuals. The Boy Scouts are one arm of the worldwide scouting movement which was formed in 1907.

Notes

The re-purposed Stieff Silver building is across the street to the north, and it houses the Scout Shop of Baltimore City, along with other businesses and non-profits. Across from Stieff Silver is a section of the Jones Falls Trailhead, an excellent bike path which drops down a switchback to follow the Jones Falls along Old Falls Road. Or, you can cross the bridge to the west into Druid Hill Park, home of many monuments, sights and some great under-used bike paths.

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Written by monumentcity

May 19th, 2009 at 10:50 am