Preserving Our Legacy: The Archives and Artifacts Ministry of Union Baptist Church

By Evelyn J. Chatmon and Dr. Dorothy Coleman, Co-Chairs, Archives & Artifacts Ministry, Union Baptist Church, Baltimore MD

A casual conversation between Lucretia Billups, Co-Chair Emeritus, and Evelyn Chatmon outside of church one Sunday morning, about a beautiful writing created by the then pastor, Rev. Vernon N. Dobson, blossomed into an acknowledgement of how many church documents were being accumulated in our homes.  That conversation led to our wondering if there was any unified effort to save the history of our church, which was already in the beginning stages of preparing to celebrate its 150th Anniversary.  We learned that there had never been a concerted effort to save the church’s history and were able to convince Rev. Dobson that her history needed to be preserved.  Thus was created the Archives and Artifacts Ministry of Union Baptist Church.  That was 20 years ago.  A well-known Baltimore archivist, by the name of Wayne Wiggins, gave us invaluable guidance, explaining at the outset of our efforts that what we were doing, though unusual, was of great importance.  The effort has been well worth it. union-baptist-1928-membership-photo

Following are just a few of the reasons why Union Baptist Church is historically significant.  Located at 1219 Druid Hill Avenue, Union was organized on May 10, 1852.  In 2010, she was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior.  Moving from its North Street location, the new edifice, dedicated in 1905, became the first church in Baltimore City to be built by Negroes for Negroes.  Ten pastors have served her over 165 years of existence.  The congregation, presently led by Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr., has had the distinction of also being led by two nationally recognized pastors.   Rev. Dr. Harvey Johnson was her fourth pastor from 1872-1923 and Rev. Vernon N. Dobson her ninth from 1967-2007. During the tenure of Dr. Johnson, the congregation grew to 3,000 members.  Dr. Johnson won the first case in the United States striking down the identification of Negroes as cargo in interstate commerce in the case of “Stewart v s The Sue”.  Among other numerous civil rights accomplishments, Dr. Johnson led the litigation to get colored teachers pay equal to that of whites and to allow colored lawyers to practice in the state of Maryland. The tenure of Rev. Dobson saw a continuation of the work of the civil rights movement. Rev. Dobson began working with Dr. Martin Luther King and Union became one of the major sponsors of the March on Washington in the Poor People’s Campaign.  Union also was a staging ground for many civil rights meetings; a major achievement was the integration of Gwynn Oak Amusement Park.  Under Dobson’s leadership, a pilot Head Start program was tested in 1968, a full time program was established two years later, and a child care center was built to house the program in 1995 at a cost of $3.2 million. Union was a co-founder of BUILD in the 1970s, under Rev. Dobson’ s leadership.

Over these twenty years, we have been fortunate to collect from many nooks and crannies in the church, from church safes, from file cabinets and from the homes of many members, documents of great worth.  Examples of what we have collected include original deeds, celebratory programs, minutes of meetings, photographs, numerous artifacts, and the ledgers of the giving of members, which include the monetary gifts of Dr. Johnson as well as documentation of his salary.  Probably most valuable are the hundreds of funeral programs of our members, even dating back to that of Dr. Francis Wood, the first black superintendent of Baltimore City Public Schools in the late 1920s.  In addition, we have a copy of the program for the 50th Anniversary Celebration given for Rev. Dr. Harvey Johnson.

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Our current Pastor, Rev. Dr. Alvin C. Hathaway, Sr., whose dissertation was on the work of Dr. Harvey Johnson, and who is also a member of the archives ministry, is keenly aware of the importance of maintaining Union’s history.  It was at his urging that we sought an African American Heritage Preservation Program (AAHPP) grant from the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and the Maryland Historical Trust to create an environment to house and safeguard our collection.  Thanks to the grant, we have a separate, climate-controlled space that was dedicated this past October.

The collection will be of great value to those who want to find information about their ancestors or to note the contributions of those in Union’s leadership who came before.  The ministry has mounted displays of documents and artifacts of historical significance. Various members of the public have used our documents to do research for books and papers.  We have received requests for access to our new archives space to learn about what we are doing and why we are doing it.  We encourage other churches to be inspired by our work, and to find similar ways to preserve their legacies – not only buildings, but also photographs, papers, and records – for future generations.

 

Preparing for Future Floods

By Nell Ziehl, Chief, Office of Planning, Education and Outreach

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Hoopers Island

As we turn from Ellicott City’s disaster response to recovery, and watch hurricanes threaten Florida and Hawaii, it’s hard not to think about all the places throughout Maryland that are prone to flooding. We built our earliest towns, cities, roads and rail lines along the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. As ports and fishing industries boomed, we developed more. And let’s be honest: we all love to live and play near water.

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Westernport, located on the Potomac

With support from the National Park Service and the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Fund,the Maryland Historical Trust has hired Preservation Design Partnership, LLC to help us think about how to plan for and adapt historic buildings and districts threatened by flooding from tides, coastal surges, flash floods and sea level rise. Earlier this summer, we accompanied Dominique Hawkins and her team to riverine and coastal communities in western Maryland, Cecil County, Prince George’s County, Baltimore City, Anne Arundel County, and the Eastern Shore, to try to get a handle on what property owners and local governments face when preparing for floods.

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Mill No. 1 on the Jones Falls in Baltimore City

Before the end of the year, we hope to release a paper to help guide our agency, local governments and partner organizations as we consider how to maintain the integrity of our irreplaceable historic sites while preparing for increased flooding and precipitation. I’m sure we won’t have all the answers, but it will, we hope, be a starting point for a conversation that we look forward to continuing with all of you.

A Summer with the Maryland Historical Trust – by Andrew Chase

The Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) enjoys hosting interns during the summer months. This year, we asked our interns to share their experiences with all of you! If you enjoy these blogs, please consider applying for an internship with MHT in 2017. 

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The author on a site visit to Crimea, Baltimore City

I am a rising senior at Severna Park High School, and ever since I was young, I have had a profoundly great interest in history. I enjoy reading all sorts of histories, from political to economic to art and architecture. This summer, I spent two months completing an internship with the Maryland Historical Trust, Maryland’s State Historic Preservation Office. During my internship, I was able to get a closer look at Maryland’s history and see how we preserve our past.

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Learning about records management

Within the Office of Research, Survey, and Registration, I worked with MHT’s Inventory Registrar and Librarian on records management, including various projects involving the architectural survey files which comprise the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties, housed in MHT’s Library. In addition, I updated records on the database “Medusa”, combed through rediscovered binders of records to find information on historic properties that had been lost over time, and matched unidentified slides of bridges to their inventory numbers. I also had great experiences, ranging from discovering new (to me) technologies, such as the typewriter, and even visiting Crimea (a property in Baltimore), along with the MHT Easement Committee.

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Experimenting with historic technology

With all the material I have worked with from across the state, I have seen the great deal of work that goes into preserving Maryland’s historical resources. To me, what is interesting about historic preservation is that one of the most common ways to preserve a historic site is to survey and document the property. MHT’s Library preserves documentation on the entire spectrum of historic sites in Maryland.

2016 Cultural Resources Hazard Mitigation Planning Grants Awarded

With funding from the National Park Service Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Fund, the Maryland Historical Trust has awarded seven grants throughout the state to help protect historic places and archeological sites from future storms. These grants will be supported by the Trust’s Cultural Resources Hazard Mitigation Planning Program, which was created to assist local governments to better plan and prepare for the effects of coastal storms and other hazards that impact historic places and properties. The grant projects are described below.

Anne Arundel

Early 20th century vernacular home common to Shady Side

Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation, Inc., Phase I Hazard Mitigation Planning for Anne Arundel’s Cultural Resources: $32,000
Three areas in the county (Shady Side and Deale; Pasadena; and Maryland City, Laurel, and Jessup) face the highest risk to flooding and contain the most undocumented historic structures, as well as unsurveyed potential archeological resources. To remedy this, the Anne Arundel County Trust for Preservation will conduct a study to identify historic structures and archeological sites and evaluate the potential damages caused by flooding.

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The River Farm site inundated by high tide

Archeological Society of Maryland, Inc., Sustainable Models for Sites Endangered by Natural Hazards: $32,000
The Archeological Society of Maryland will gather information about several archeological sites in Anne Arundel County, Calvert County and St. Mary’s County that are slowly being destroyed due to eroding shorelines and water intrusion from coastal storms and increased tidal flooding. In St. Mary’s County, at the possible location of the Native American village known as Secowocomoco, testing will inform future decisions about excavation and protection from ongoing erosion. Studies in the Battle Creek watershed (Calvert County) will help researchers understand the foodways and lifeways practiced by the Native Americans who lived there. At River Farm, a large Native American settlement along the Patuxent River, investigations will locate site boundaries, determine eligibility for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, and inform planning against future erosion and flooding. The Society will develop a series of case studies to provide guidance for public-private partnerships engaged in survey, assessment, and protection of archeological resources threatened by natural hazards and climate change.

Baltimore

Historic Fells Point, a waterfront neighborhood

City of Baltimore, Integrating Historic and Cultural Considerations into Baltimore’s All Hazards Plan: $30,390
The City of Baltimore contains more than 80,000 historic properties and many of its oldest neighborhoods, such as Fells Point and Jonestown, are located on or near waterways, making them vulnerable to the impacts of sea level rise, storm surge and flooding. With this grant, the City will identify high-priority historic areas and buildings that are significantly impacted by flooding, evaluate the impacts of flooding, and incorporate the results of evaluation into their Disaster and Preparedness Project and Plan (DP3), which is the City’s climate adaptation and hazard mitigation plan. The City will also identify methods for protecting vulnerable historic structures that are in accordance with the DP3 and amenable to the City’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation.

Dorchester

Flooding on Elliotts Island Road (credit: K. Clendaniel)

Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area, Hazard Mitigation Planning Project for Dorchester County: $44,000
Beginning in the mid-seventeenth century, Dorchester County has a long history of occupation first by Native Americans and later by English settlement along its waterways. One of the greatest periods of historic significance for the county is 1825 to 1900, during which the agricultural economy shifted to towards the canning industry. There are many properties constructed during that period of significance that are at risk to flooding due to coastal storms, sea level rise, and tidal flooding, but have not been identified and studied to understand their contribution to history. Dorchester County will conduct a survey to identify areas with historic structures vulnerable to flooding and evaluate their vulnerability to flood hazards.

Port Deposit

Flooding from Hurricane Irene (credit: Town of Port Deposit)

Town of Port Deposit, Cultural Resources Inventory and Risk Assessment for Cecil Towns: $40,000
This project encompasses hazard mitigation planning efforts in two Cecil County historic towns: Port Deposit and Elkton. The Town of Port Deposit is located adjacent to the Susquehanna River, which makes the town’s historic district susceptible to flood damage by heavy rain events, coastal storms and ice jams. An updated historic and architectural investigation will be undertaken to re-evaluate and update the National Register of Historic Places nomination as the first step in planning to protect Port Deposit’s buildings from further flood damage. Situated along Big Elk Creek, the Town of Elkton’s Main Street and Historic District has a history of flooding that dates back to the nineteenth century. Elkton’s historic properties are vulnerable to flooding from coastal storms, large rain events and snow melt. To address this, a survey will identify historic structures vulnerable to flooding and assess the potential damages that could occur.

Smith Island

Crab shanty in Ewell

Smith Island United, Inc., Smith Island Cultural Resources Hazard Mitigation Planning Initiative: $9,000
Situated in the Chesapeake Bay and accessible only by water, Smith Island is comprised of three communities — Ewell, Rhodes Point and Tylerton — which have a history of experiencing coastal storms. The historic occupation of the island dates back to the seventeenth century, although the majority of buildings on the island date to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Under this grant, an evaluation of flood mitigation measures for representative historic house types in each of the three villages will be conducted. The results will be used to develop preservation-sensitive models for flood protection for historic houses of similar construction.

Talbot

W-shaped Victorian house in Tilghman

Talbot County, Documentation and Assessment of Historic Resources in Western Water-Oriented Villages: $60,000
Talbot County contains thirteen unincorporated water-oriented villages, many of which have historic structures dating back to the eighteenth century. The four villages of Tilghman, Neavitt, Newcomb, and Royal Oak have a large number of unrecorded historic structures at high risk of flooding due to tidal events and coastal storms like Hurricane Sandy. This project will identify key historic properties that convey the history and heritage of each village, conduct a study to determine those properties’ vulnerability to coastal storms, and estimate the potential damages that could occur.

 

Documenting the Civil Rights Movement in Baltimore

By Eli Pousson, Director of Preservation and Outreach, Baltimore Heritage

Over the past year, Baltimore Heritage, the Maryland Historical Trust and the Baltimore National Heritage Area have been hard at work researching and documenting the history of Baltimore’s African American Civil Rights movement. Our long-term goal is to identify and designate historic places associated with the Civil Rights movement in and around Baltimore City. From the start, we recognized this project as a unique opportunity to get Baltimore residents interested and involved in the search for the city’s Civil Rights history.

In the spring, we put together a comprehensive bibliography with journal articles, books, government reports, and more—using Zotero to publish the bibliography online as a resource for local historians and educators. In the fall, we launched our project website featuring an interactive timeline of Civil Rights history and an inventory map showing all of the sites and buildings we have found so far. If you think we missed any important events or places, please get in touch or you can comment directly on the timeline or inventory as Google Spreadsheets.

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Rally to Save Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage, November 2015. Photo by Eli Pousson.

In addition to these online resources, we’ve organized several tours and programs for Baltimore residents and local students. In November we led a bike tour with stops at the segregated Pool No. 2 in Druid Hill Park, the home of activists Juanita Jackson and Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. on Druid Hill Avenue, and the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge on Eutaw Place where Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke in 1964. We also led a tour for a group of students from Digital Harbor High School with stops at the Ebenezer AME Church and Leadenhall Baptist—two of the oldest African American churches in Baltimore with long histories of fighting for justice.

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Juanita Jackson and Clarence Mitchell House on Druid Hill Avenue. Photo by Eli Pousson.

Our research has uncovered powerful stories from fight against residential housing segregation in the 1910s, the campaign desegregate downtown lunch counters in the 1950s, and activism around economic empowerment and urban renewal in the 1970s. But we know there are many more stories and places that we still need to learn more about. We look forward to continuing our research and working with community residents (and veteran activists) to make sure we preserve these important places from Maryland’s Civil Rights history.

If you are interested in learning more Baltimore’s Civil Rights Heritage: Looking for Landmarks from the Movement, please sign up for updates through the Baltimore Heritage website or get in touch with Eli Pousson, Director of Preservation and Outreach at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org.

2016 Sustainable Communities Tax Credits Awarded

On November 16, 2015, the Maryland Historical Trust announced the recipients of the latest round of Sustainable Communities Tax Credits. State funds provided by this program will help create over 650 construction jobs in projects designed to revitalize communities and promote green building practices.

The Sustainable Communities Tax Credit Program and its predecessor, the Heritage Structure Rehabilitation Tax Credit, has invested more than $370 million in Maryland revitalization projects since it began in 1996. The investments have helped restore more than 4,198 homeowner and 638 commercial historic structures, preserving buildings that contribute to the distinct character of Maryland’s towns, cities and rural areas. According to a study by the Abell Foundation, the program has helped to create more than 27,000 jobs through construction and new uses of these significant historic resources.

The six recipients are described below.

Hoen LithographHoen Lithograph, East Biddle Street Baltimore City
($3,000,000 in tax credits awarded)

Originally built in 1898 for the Bagby Furniture Company the site is most closely associated with the Hoen Lithograph Company which operated on the property from 1902 to 1981. Hoen, which was established in 1835, was the oldest continuously operating lithographer in the United States when it closed in 1981. The historic complex is being restored and converted to house a lively mixed use development featuring a food production kitchen, a brewery, office space for start-ups and non-profits and market rate apartments targeting healthcare workers.

Footer's Dye WorksFooter’s Dye Works, Howard Street, Cumberland, Allegany County
($1,875,000 in tax credits awarded)

Built in 1905, this building is an important remnant of the city’s industrial heritage. The Footer’s Dye Works functioned as one of the dominant cleaning and dyeing facilities in the mid-Atlantic region thru the first third of the 20th century. This structure will be restored and expanded to house a mix of rental housing units, a restaurant/brewery and commercial office space.

Hearn BuildingHearn Building, Race Street, Cambridge, Dorchester County
($959,034.40 in tax credits awarded)

Originally constructed as a commercial hardware store and later used as a furniture store this 1915 building is one of only a few large scale early 20th century commercial buildings surviving on the Eastern Shore. This significant building will be restored and repurposed to house rental residential apartments and retail spaces.

Saint Michael's Church ComplexSt. Michael’s Church Complex, East Lombard Street, Baltimore City
($2,861, 111.60 in tax credits awarded)

Constructed between 1850 and 1927 the St. Michael’s Church complex is a remarkably intact example of an historic urban religious campus. The church played a key role in the assimilation of German immigrants arriving in Baltimore and with its school and parish hall served as the social center of the parish. The now vacant complex will be restored with a mix of commercial uses occupying the former sanctuary building and parish hall and with other areas of the school and rectory being converted to rental residential apartments.

Academy SchoolAcademy School, Mill Street, Cambridge, Dorchester County
($287,500 in tax credits awarded)

This 1906 school building has been vacant and endangered for many years. The project will restore the exterior of the building and repurpose the historic classroom, library and office spaces for use as a senior living apartment building.

Sykesville HotelSykesville Hotel, Main Street, Sykesville, Carroll County
($58,000 in tax credits awarded)

This hotel was originally constructed in 1905 and remained in service as a hotel and restaurant until the 1920’s when it was converted to apartments. The renovation of the structure will restore the exterior of the building including the restoration of the siding, reopening of historic windows and doors and the reconstruction of the building’s missing porches.

The Two Sisters’ Houses: A tangible link to Baltimore’s African American labor history

By Tyler Anthony Smith

The author graduated from Warren Wilson College with a bachelor’s degree in history and studio art in 2010.  He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Historic Preservation from the University of Maryland College Park and working for Dell Corporation as an Assistant Preservation Technician.  He can be reached at tyleranthonysmith@gmail.com.

The "Two Sisters Houses" at 612-614 S. Wolfe Street in Fell's Point

The “Two Sisters Houses” at 612-614 S. Wolfe Street in Fell’s Point

Have you ever noticed two small, 218-year-old, wood-sided houses on South Wolfe Street in Baltimore’s Fell’s Point?  The Society for the Preservation of Federal Hill and Fell’s Point owns these buildings, often referred to as the “Two Sisters,” which likely date to 1797 – the same year that the U.S. Frigate Constellation was built in a Fell’s Point ship yard. Originally part of a building with four identical units, the remaining ”Two Sisters” each stand just twelve feet wide and fifteen feet deep, with a single room on the first floor and a half story garret above. The buildings housed many working Baltimore residents, including African American ship caulkers Richard Jones, Henry Scott and John Whittington from 1842 to 1854. As ship caulkers they are associated with a unique Baltimore story.

Ship caulking – the process of strengthening and waterproofing ships’ hulls by filling the seams with cotton and oakum fiber, which is then coated with hot pitch – was an essential part of Baltimore’s booming ship building industry. Ship caulking was a trade dominated by free and enslaved African American workers, the most famous of whom was Frederick Douglass, who caulked ships in the 1830s and also lived nearby in Fell’s Point. African American laborers organized the Black Caulkers Association, which held a monopoly on the caulking industry in Baltimore for over a decade. The Caulkers Association hosted annual balls and pleasure cruises for its members and friends.

Baltimore City directories from the 1800s show the names and addresses of many African American caulkers, painting a picture of Fell’s Point as home to many African American sailors, ship carpenters, carters, washerwomen, rope makers, and small vendors as well. Individual names can be followed in the directories over the course of years, making it possible to trace the movements of individuals over time. A significant concentration of ship caulkers around the Two Sisters property appears in the late 1840s. Several caulkers lived on South Wolfe Street and many more lived behind Wolfe Street on Happy Alley (now Durham Street). Significantly, South Wolfe Street is not an alley street; the presence of African American laborers on a wider street could be interpreted as a sign of their financial stability at the time, which would correlate with the comparatively good wages secured by caulkers belonging to the Black Caulkers Association. The directories reveal that in the the 1850s and 1860s the concentration of African American ship caulkers shifted from Happy Alley and Wolfe Street westward to Bethel Street and Dallas Street. This movement correlated with a change in the labor politics.

During the later part of the 1850s the Caulkers Association became victim to gangs of “job busters” hoping to break the caulking monopoly. Newly arrived immigrants – often escaping conditions in Ireland and Germany – competed with African American laborers for wage labor jobs including ship caulking. The Baltimore Sun’s articles covering the conflicts, dubbed “The War Between the Caulkers”, create an engrossing narrative with details fit for Hollywood including political intrigue, a boat chase, and a gang of toughs called the White Tigers. (Shawn Gladden writes in more detail about this issue in his 2007 paper Emergence of Baltimore’s Free Black Caulkers.) While the Black Caulkers Association did lose economic clout in the late 1850s, its legacy continued in the work of Isaac Myers, a Baltimore ship caulker and influential leader in the creation of the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company, and the Colored National Labor Union.

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Stabilization of 1st floor of 614 S. Wolfe Street

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The “Two Sisters” houses are a physical remnant of this unique Baltimore history. A grant from the African
American Heritage Preservation Program (AAHPP), a partnership of the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture and the Maryland Historical Trust, has made it possible for the Preservation Society and the Dell Corporation to continue the stabilization of the structures over the past two years, an effort which has included weatherproofing the structure and constructing an ingenious and minimally invasive interior support system. The grant also allowed for archeology done by the Ancient Studies department at the University of Maryland Baltimore County. This AAHPP project has helped to preserve these fragile structures, the first step toward articulating and interpreting the story of Baltimore’s African American laborers.

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Stabilization of 2nd floor of 614 S. Wolfe Street

Sources:

  •  Baltimore City Directories, 1835-1868. University of Maryland College Park: Special Collections Library.
  •  Clayton, Ralph. Slaveholding, Slavery and Free Blacks in Antebellum Baltimore, (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, 1993).
  •  Dell Corporation, 612-614 Wolfe Street (Property Report, 2006).
  •  Douglass, Frederick. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, (New York, Dover Publications Inc., 1995).
  • The Baltimore Sun, Local Matters, “Highhanded Proceeding” Baltimore, MD June 28, 1859: 1.
  •  Gladden, Shawn. The Emergence of Baltimore’s Free Black Caulkers, Research Seminar topic for Dr. Jane Censer, appeared in Catonsville Courier, Vol. IV, Issue VIII, Aug. 2007.

Links for further reading:

http://baltimoreheritage.org/preservation/laser-scanning-the-two-sisters-historic-wooden-homes-in-fells-point-for-the-preservation-society/

http://explore.baltimoreheritage.org/items/show/139#.VOtaIPnF8k0

http://preservationsociety.com/about-us/two-sisters-houses.html