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Bolton Hill History
by Fred Shoken, March,2000,Revised February 2003
Residential Development
Churches & Institutions
Parks & Monuments
From Street Car to Light Rail
The People of Bolton Hill:
Decline and Struggle
Renewal and Preservation
Bolton Hill Today

CLICK HERE to view vintage postcard images of Bolton Hill

Located directly northwest of downtown Baltimore, Bolton Hill is one of Baltimore's premier neighborhoods. Elegant homes, landscaped boulevards, decorative civic monuments, and lovely religious buildings are distinctive characteristics of this community.  Major development took place in Bolton Hill between 1850 and 1900. Primarily a row house neighborhood, Bolton Hill architecture ranges from traditionally styled row houses with refined details to elaborately decorated Queen Anne designs. Other historic housing types include huge mansions, early brick cottages, alley houses, duplexes with small front yards, early 20th century apartment buildings, and carriage houses converted into residences.

Among the prominent residents of Bolton Hill were noted writer F. Scott Fitzgerald, art collectors Dr. Claribel and Etta Cone; Johns Hopkins PhD. candidate and later U.S. President Woodrow Wilson; first Johns Hopkins president Daniel Coit Gilman; department store owners Thomas O'Neill and David Hutzler; and philanthropist Jacob Epstein. In the nineteenth century, Bolton Hill was also home to many Confederate Civil War veterans, German Jews, and a few African-Americans who lived in small alley houses or within large houses as servants of wealthy homeowners.

The community experienced a brief period of decline in the mid-20th century, followed by a period of stabilization. Urban renewal efforts replaced deteriorated housing with new townhouses and private preservation activities restored magnificent Victorian-era houses to their original splendor. At the turn of the 21st century, Bolton Hill is a bastion of in-town living. As one long time resident stated, "Bolton Hill is more than a neighborhood. It is a state of mind."

Historic Residential Development: Those Old Placid Rows

The name Bolton Hill is derived from "Bolton-le-Moors," the English property after which the Baltimore merchant, George Grundy, named his original estate house. Bolton stood on the current site of the Fifth Regiment Armory. Rose Hill and Mount Royal were other early estates in this vicinity.

Although estate houses were built in the area as early as the Revolutionary War era, the major development in Bolton Hill took place between 1850 and 1900. Two of the earliest individual brick cottages survive: 204 W. Lanvale Street, now home to the Family and Children's Services of Central Maryland, and 232 W. Lanvale Street, a private residence. By 1870, the neighborhood extended from Eutaw Place to John Street and from Dolphin Street to roughly Mosher Street. Unlike most Baltimore neighborhoods that were built along a north-south grid, Bolton Hill’s traditional brick row houses were built along a diagonal orientation first laid out in 1821 by Thomas Poppleton, a surveyor. Poppleton departed from the norm in the northwest section of Baltimore, following instead the alignment of the old Reisterstown Road (Pennsylvania Avenue) and the Jones Falls.oldmap.jpg (439209 bytes)

The early stately row houses of Bolton Hill feature plain brick facades with refined ornamentation, primarily to define front entrances, windows, and rooflines. The only decorations on these austere facades are bracketed cornices, decorative door surrounds, and the occasional ornate window lintel. These traditional red brick row houses express simplicity and elegance. Other early housing types include:  unified row houses and duplexes.  Beethoven Terrace in the 1500 block of Park Avenue is an early example of a unified block front of row houses faced with stucco and designed in the Second Empire style. In addition to the rows of houses, duplexes were built in the 1300 block of John Street and 100 block of West Lafayette Avenue. These houses are set back from the street with small front yards. Some have entrances on the side, rather than on the front facade.

Later 19th century row houses were influenced by popular architectural styles of the era, most notably Queen Anne. These later houses are more highly ornamented than the traditional row house. Red brick gives way to stone and other materials. Projecting bay windows and balconies break the plane of front walls. Terra cotta decoration, corner towers, rusticated stonework, stained glass, and distinctive rooflines replace the tradition of simplicity and elegance. Huge mansions were built along Eutaw Place, taking advantage of the landscaped setting.

By the end of the 19th century, row house development was complete. A few large apartment buildings, most notably the Marlborough Apartments, were constructed in the neighborhood in the first decade of the 20th century.

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Historic Churches and Institutions: Lofty Spires and Stately Domes

Several historic churches and synagogues built in the second half of the 19th century, served the residents of Bolton Hill. The earliest, Memorial Episcopal Church, built between 1861 and 1864, was a memorial to clergymen Henry Van Dyke Johns and Charles Ridgely Howard. Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church, dating from 1861, features Tiffany windows. The high Victorian-styled Strawbridge United Methodist Church was built in 1882 at Park Avenue and Wilson Street. Architect Patrick Charles Keely designed Corpus Christi Catholic Church in 1886, although its signature corner spire dates from the early 20th century. The Friends Meeting House on Park Avenue, built in 1889, expanded into Friends School, and now houses Old Friends Apartments.

pc_oshalom.jpg (160133 bytes)Local architect Joseph Evans Sperry designed two synagogues in the area, Temple Oheb Shalom (1892) on Eutaw Place and the Har Sinai Congregation (1894) on Bolton Street. The dome of the Eutaw Place temple can be seen from many points in and around the neighborhood. The Har Sinai building, later occupied by the Cornerstone Baptist Church, was by destroyed by fire in 1969.  Fitzgerald Park replaced the fire ruins. Many of Bolton Hill's religious institutions also built related community buildings, schools, and rectories in the neighborhood.

Several notable institutions became part of the Bolton Hill community. The Baltimore Female college once stood at the northeast corner of Park Avenue and Wilson Street.  The Maryland Institute College of Art's main building, dates from 1905. The school moved to Mount Royal Avenue after its former home on Market Place was destroyed in the Baltimore Fire of 1904. The New York architectural firm of Pell and Corbett won an architectural competition for the building design.

The first public school in Bolton Hill, the Sidney Lanier School, built at Linden Avenue and Wilson Street in 1882, was razed for construction of a shopping center. The former Women's Hospital at John Street and West Lafayette Avenue, was built in several stages from the 1880s through the 1930s. It later housed a nursing home and was recently converted into Meyerhoff Hall, a dormitory for Maryland Institute students.

Other non-residential development in Bolton Hill includes a few commercial storefronts, primarily at street corners, that provided basic conveniences to residents. Among the few surviving storefronts are two at Bolton and Mosher streets, the Park Avenue Pharmacy at Park Avenue and McMechen Street, the On the Hill Cafe & Market at John and Mosher streets, and three on Dolphin Lane near Bolton Street. 

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Historic Parks and Monuments: The Artistic Neighborhood

Early landscape features distinguish Bolton Hill from other in-town communities. Elaborate plantings, fountains, and flowering urns make Eutaw Place, created in the 1850s, one of Baltimore's best landscaped residential boulevards. Mount Royal Avenue and the 1600 and 1700 blocks of Park Avenue (originally known as Park Place) feature landscaped medians. The 1896 Bromley Atlas of Baltimore identifies small inner-block pocket parks within the community. This park tradition continues in Bolton Hill today with common spaces in the newer townhouse developments and small parks created by closing streets to traffic in the 1300 block of John Street and 1700 block of Linden Avenue.

fsk_mon.jpg (193743 bytes)Bolton Hill’s landscaped boulevards became the ideal setting for public monuments. The Francis Scott Key Monument, designed by French sculptor Jean Marius Antonin Mercie, was added to Eutaw Place in 1911. War memorials sprung up along the tree-lined median of Mount Royal Avenue. F. W. Ruckstuhl designed the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument in 1903. In the same year, Edward Berge unveiled the Watson Monument, commemorating the Mexican American War. Later this sculpture was moved from Mt. Royal Avenue at Lanvale Street to Mount Royal Terrace just north of Bolton Hill. The Maryland Line Monument, dedicated to Maryland veterans of the Revolutionary War, also stands on Mount Royal Avenue just south of Bolton Hill across from the Lyric Theatre.

pc_confed.jpg (79452 bytes)A monument honoring two winners of the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War I stands on Dolphin Street and Park Avenue. Stone lions that had decorated the Calvert Street Bridge over the Jones Falls now reside in the small park in Park Purchase, a townhouse development within Bolton Hill. The park is now known affectionately as "Lion Park." The sculpture tradition continues in Bolton Hill with the modern artwork in and around the buildings of the Maryland Institute College of Art. 

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Transportation: From Street Car to Light Rail

Bolton Hill has benefited from its location between downtown and Druid Hill Park. Convenient street car lines provided easy access for residents to travel downtown for employment, shopping, and entertainment. Druid Hill Park, an important 19th century destination for city residents, provided an impetus for the construction of streetcar lines to the northwest. In fact, Baltimore’s park system was largely financed by a penny tax on streetcar fares. Although Baltimore’s streetcars disappeared in 1963, tracks are still visible in Bolton Hill in the 1700 block of Linden Avenue, now a park closed to automobile traffic.

Railroads have also been a part of the Bolton Hill landscape since its origins. The Bolton Depot became Mount Royal Station in 1896, and is now part of the Maryland Institute. As a major railroad passenger terminal for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, Mount Royal Station provided quick interstate transportation for the community. Trains also travel underground through Bolton Hill below Wilson Street. A small section of this tunnel is visible at the corner of Mount Royal Avenue and North Avenue.

After World War II, when the automobile began to dominate urban transportation, traffic volume in Bolton Hill remained lower than other city neighborhoods. Bolton Hill streets did not become commuter routes because they end either at Druid Hill Park to the north or at the Jones Falls Valley to the east. Construction of the Jones Falls Expressway in the 1960s, while providing quick interstate highway access at two nearby locations, resulted in the demise of the historic row houses on the east side of Mount Royal Avenue.

Today no other city neighborhood has as many transportation options as Bolton Hill. Both the Metro and Light Rail have stations on the edges of the community. The Metro provides quick access to the northwest suburbs, downtown, and the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Light rail travels north to Mount Washington and Hunt Valley and south to downtown, Camden Yards, and BWI Airport. Penn Station, with Amtrak service, is a short walk from Bolton Hill. One can also walk downtown in one-half hour, or bicycle along marked bike route posted on Eutaw Place. 

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The People of Bolton Hill: A Diverse Neighborhood

Since its earliest days, Bolton Hill was home to prominent business people, professionals, and old Baltimore families. There was a distinctly Southern character with many Confederate Civil War veterans living in the community. Hence the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument located on Mount Royal Avenue.

When the Johns Hopkins University and Hospital were established, many prominent doctors and university officials moved to Bolton Hill. They had a short walk to the University, originally located in the vicinity of what is now Howard and Centre streets.

Many German Jews settled along the western edge of the neighborhood and in the late 1890s the major German Jewish institutions of Baltimore moved en masse to this area. In addition to the Har Sinai and Oheb Shalom temples, the Baltimore Hebrew, Chizuk Amuno, and Shearith Israel congregations moved to McCullough Street and Madison Avenue, just west of Bolton Hill. This larger area including Bolton Hill, Madison Park, Reservoir Hill, and Marble Hill dominated Jewish social directories of the early 20th century.

Wealthy homeowners in the large houses and mansions of Bolton Hill often required live-in servants, many of whom were African-Americans. In the nineteenth century, African-Americans also lived in alley housing within Bolton Hill. One such group of houses survives in the 1300 block of Rutter Street. Bolton Hill, therefore, was never entirely racially segregated. However, there was a definite social segregation of blacks and whites living in close proximity.

The following is a list of famous Bolton Hill residents and where they lived compiled by Frank Shivers (Please see the "Blue Plaque History Project", organized by Frank Shivers and Polly Duke for a complete list)

Dr. John J. Abel - JHU. America's greatest early pharmacologist noted for discoveries with adrenelin and insulin; first pharmacology department head; * 1604 Bolton St.

Gen. Felix Agnus - French-born Union general; owner of The American and The Star; 1813 Eutaw PI.

Russell Baker - Pulitzer Prize columnist and writer (Growing Up); 1501 Park Ave.

Henry Berge - sculptor; 217 W. Lanvale St..

Dr. Claribel Cone and Etta Cone - internationally known art collectors and early patrons of Picasso and Matisse and other Moderns; benefactors of Baltimore Museum of Art;* 1711 Eutaw Pl.

Jacob Epstein -- from Lithuanian peddler to 'Prince of Trade' (as innovative wholesaler, the first with set prices, and major supplier to Southern retailers ); inaugurator of matching grants in philanthropy; donor of Rodin and Barye works and Old Masters to the new Baltimore Museum of Art; * 1729 Park Ave.

F. Scott Fitzgerald - Novelist who published his classic novel Tender Is the Night while living here and also endured what he wrote about as "The Crack Up, a low point of morale";* 1307 Park Ave.

Leon Fleisher - pianist and conductor; 1723 Park Ave. 

Dr. Harry Friedenwald - early Zionist leader and collaborator with Henrietta Szold; creator of the Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat Hospital next door at 1214; 1212 Eutaw Pl.

Hans Froelicher Jr. - Quaker headmaster of Park School; founder of Citizens Planning and Housing Association; co-founder of Strawberry Hill Nature Center, Adams County, Pennsylvania; 1402 Bolton St.

Daniel Coit Gilman - JHU. The raiser of standards in American graduate education; first president of Johns Hopkins University; first director of Johns Hopkins Hospital;* 1300 Eutaw Pl.

Col. Harry Gilmor - Baltimorean who as a Confederate cavalry officer led raids through Baltimore County; after the Civil War, Baltimore City police commissioner; 150 W. Lanvale St.

Dr. William Stewart Halsted - JHU. "Father of American surgery"; one of the "Big Four" founders of clinical services; innovator in surgery (e.g. use of rubber gloves; "new methods in operations for goitre, cancer of the breast and gall-bladder infections"{French's history of Johns Hopkins University]);* 1201 Eutaw Pl.

Edward H. Hanlon – Baseball Hall of Fame manager of the old Baltimore Orioles; 1401 Mt. Royal Ave.

Alger Hiss - secretary of San Francisco conference where the United Nations was organized in 1945; later, at the height of the Communist scare, the accused in a controversial espionage case of aiding the Soviet (convicted of perjury); 1427 Linden Ave.

Albert D. Hutzler - merchant; JHU trustee; 1801 Eutaw Pl. 

Lillie Carroll Jackson - civil rights leader in Baltimore's desegregation; for 35 years head of this city's NAACP chapter (largest in America); 1320 Eutaw PI. (plaqued already) 

Gerald W. Johnson --"Disturber of the peace"; eloquent voice for America's adversary culture as journalist (the Baltimore Evening Sun) and author of 40 popular books on American history and politics]; television commentator; * 1310 Bolton St. and 217 Bolton Pl.

Reuben Kramer - artist; 121 Mosher St.

Otto F. Kraushaar - president of Goucher College - 1606 Park Ave.

Sidney Lanier -: ex-Confederate POW who found Baltimore congenial for teaching inn this house, for playing flute in the Peabody Orchestra, and for writing exquisite verse;* 1402 Eutaw Pl.

William Manchester - prize-winning biographer; 1411 Eutaw Pl. William L. Marbury Sr. - U.S. Attorney General for Maryland; political reformer - 159 W. Lanvale St.

William L. Marbury Jr. - member of the Harvard's governing body of six for 22 years - 159 W. Lanvale St.

Ottmar Mergenthaler - inventor of the linotype that revolutionized printing; 159 W. Lanvale St. (already placqued by CHAP)

Garry Moore [born Thomas Garrison Morfit] - entertainer;* 221 W. Lafayette Ave.

Thomas O'Neil - merchant; donor of the Cathedral of Mary our Queen 1731 Park Ave.

Isidor Raynor - The first Jewish U.S. Senator from Maryland ("The blank page between the Old Testament and the New" (Severn Teackle Wallis]; 1412 Eutaw Pl.

Archibald Rogers - A founder of RTKL, an international architecture firm; president of American Institute of Architects; first executive director, Greater Baltimore Committee, who killed planners' routing I-95 through Federal Hill, Fells Point and Canton and bridging the Inner Harbor; 119 W. Lanvale St.

Louis Rukeyser - creator and host of PBS's "Wall Street Week"; 1224 Bolton St.

Paul Sarbanes -- current senior U.S. Senator from Maryland; 1708 Bolton St. 

Walter Sondheim Jr. - department store executive; civic leader; C.E.O. Charles Center-Inner Harbor; 1631 Bolton St. and Bolton Pl.

Bernard Christian Steiner - second and long-time head of the Enoch Pratt Free Library; creator of 20 branch libraries; author and scholar of Maryland history; 1631 Eutaw Pl.

Grace Hill Turnbull - sculptor; 1530 Park Ave.

Woodrow Wilson - JHU. a Ph.D. student, a vital first step toward his becoming president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey, and president of the United States;* 1210 Eutaw Pl.

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Decline and Struggle: White Flight and Defense Worker Crowding

The growing African-American community, which first settled along Druid Hill Avenue in the 1890s, expanded along the western edge of Bolton Hill leading to "white flight". In 1928, the Mount Royal Improvement Association was founded to stem the tide of suburban flight and the trend of subdividing houses into apartments with absentee ownership. While the association undertook many activities to promote the area, such as garden clubs and house tours, their primary motive reflected the racial intolerance of the times. An early pamphlet calls the "Mount Royal District" (which encompassed both Bolton Hill and Reservoir Hill) a "protected area." It states, "The greatest achievement of the Mount Royal Improvement Association has been the subjecting of the property in its area to a restriction for white occupancy only." The Supreme Court later overthrew real estate covenants placing racial restrictions on home sales.

Bolton Hill underwent a period of decline in the mid-20th century. People divided large single-family houses into apartment units to meet a housing shortage for defense workers during World War II. After the war, many residents left Bolton Hill’s "old-fashioned" houses in this tightly built-up neighborhood, preferring suburban modern homes surrounded by yards. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Jewish social and religious institutions left the Bolton Hill area for the northwest suburbs. The former synagogues became churches and lodges for the African-American community.

Although most of Bolton Hill remained stable, the western edge defined by Eutaw Place and Linden Avenue deteriorated. Individual families could no longer afford to maintain enormous Eutaw Place mansions, many of which were converted into apartment houses. Many considered Linden Avenue a slum. Federal urban renewal programs, often defined as "urban removal" programs, targeted this western edge for "stabilization." New developments replaced large portions of Bolton Hill that were demolished. 

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Renewal and Preservation: Building Anew and Restoring the Old

Public urban renewal funding used for slum clearance in the early 1960s, spawned major changes in the community. Three new townhouse developments – Linden Green, Bolton Common, and Park Purchase – replaced the buildings in the 1200 through 1600 blocks of Linden Avenue. The Memorial Apartments for senior citizens and the Bolton Hill Plaza shopping center were built on either side of McMechen Street. New apartments, a school, and an office building replaced several blocks of houses along Eutaw Place. Other new structures included Sutton Place, a multi-story apartment building constructed in 1969 to anchor the southern edge of the community, Mount Royal Elementary School, on McMechen Street, and Bolton North, a high-rise apartment building for the elderly anchoring the northwestern corner of the neighborhood.

While public efforts often centered on demolition and new construction, private preservation activities focused on restoring original houses. Preservation activities ran the gamut from restoring mansion houses to the adaptive reuse of carriage houses for homes. Some buildings were meticulously restored while other were preserved on the exterior but completely remodeled inside. Alley houses on Rutter Street became an artist colony.

Bolton Hill became a Baltimore City historic district in 1967, mandating the preservation of building exteriors.  The neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. A major preservation battle took place in 1978 when the Beethoven Apartments suffered a devastating fire.  The Baltimore City’s Commission for Historic and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) refused to allow its demolition. Instead, a new developer was found to renovate the building. The preservation of historic houses, parks, and monuments is now standard policy in Bolton Hill.

The 1960s innovative, adaptive reuse of Mount Royal Station for the Maryland Institute helped spearhead not only local efforts to find new uses for old buildings, but also a national movement. Railroad stations became art schools. Schools became apartment buildings. Industrial buildings were converted into offices. Power plants became entertainment centers. 

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Bolton Hill Today: A Work in Progress

The past ten years witnessed major improvements in Bolton HIll.  The Maryland Institute built dormitories for students on a large vacant parcel of land bound by North and Mount Royal avenues. Between Eutaw Place, North Avenue, Robert Street and Bolton Street, Spicer's Run, a modern market-rate townhouse development, replaced the deteriorated Eutaw Gardens apartments.  New townhouses compatible to the historic character of the neighborhood were built on a continuation of the street grid, including the first new houses on Linden Avenue after so much of that street was razed during the urban renewal era. The long vacant Women's Hospital was converted into Maryland Institute's Meyerhoff Hall taking advantage of Maryland Heritage Tax Credits.  Also noteworthy was the 1999 restoration of the Key Monument on Eutaw Place, part of a nation-wide effort to preserve America’s historic treasures.

Artscape, Baltimore’s annual major arts festival continues to attract hundreds of thousands of people from Maryland and beyond each July along Mount Royal Avenue on the eastern edge of Bolton Hill. The festival takes full advantage of the cultural institutions in and around Bolton Hill, including the Lyric Theatre, Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, and the Maryland Institute College of Art.

Bolton Hill was one of the original communities to join its neighbors in forming the Midtown Community Benefits District, created primarily to combat crime and grime in the greater midtown area. The District encompasses Bolton Hill, Charles North, Madison Park, and Mount Vernon-Belvedere.

At the turn of the the 21st century, Bolton Hill, better than any other Baltimore neighborhood, has preserved its 19th century character, while remaining a vibrant in-town community. It has a diverse population of all age groups, races, religions, ethnic backgrounds and lifestyles. The arts thrive. Parks and gardens abound. Home ownership is pervasive and on the rise as many sub-divided houses are restored to single-family dwellings.

Bolton Hill’s future will be built on its strong foundation combining a high quality physical environment with civic activism. Working together, its residents continue to improve the neighborhood’s physical character and enhance its quality of life. 

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The best place to find information on Bolton Hill is at the Maryland Room of the Enoch Pratt Central Library. Check the vertical files for specific streets, buildings, etc.

Look for these books at the Maryland Room. Some are available for sale at local bookstores or on the web.

  • Bolton Hill by Frank Shivers, Baltimore: Equitable Trust Company, 1978 47 pages. Copies available at Enoch Pratt Free Library Call # F190.7.B6S53.

  • Walking in Baltimore by Frank Shivers, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995, pages 270-293 for Bolton Hill Walking Tour. Copies available at local libraries and bookstores. Call # F185.3.S571995.

  • Human Side of Urban Renewal by Martin Millspaugh, New YorK:  Ives Washbun, 1960.  Call # HT 175.U6M55.

  • A Guide to Baltimore Architecture by John Dorsey and James Dilts, Cambridge: Tidewater Publishers, 1977, pages 286-292. Copies available at local libraries and bookstores. Call # NA735 .B3 D671997. 

  • Beyond the White Marble Steps by the Livelier Baltimore Committee of the Citizens Planning & Housing Association, 1979. Copies available at Enoch Pratt Free Library Call # F190.7.A23C62

  • The Baltimore Rowhouse by Mary Ellen Hayward and Charles Belfoure, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999 [check index for Bolton Hill streets]. Copies available at local libraries and bookstores.   Call # NA7238 .B3 H381999


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