Then and Now: Homes

Range farther afield and the city’s diverse architecture becomes apparent, from narrow row houses to Guilford’s stately mansions.

By Ron Cassie. Additional writing by Hilary Geisbert, Suzanne Loudermilk Haughey, Ken Iglehart, John Lewis, Jess Blumberg Mayhugh, and Amy Mulvihill

Canton Row Homes, 2014 –Photo by David Colwell

May 2014

As you trace the footsteps of Baltimore’s literary luminaries—Poe, Mencken, etc.—on the Maryland Humanities Council’s Mt. Vernon walking tour—you move from brownstone to brownstone. Range farther afield and the city’s diverse architecture becomes apparent, from narrow row houses to Guilford’s stately mansions.

Penrose Street

The classic photo of women and children scrubbing their marble steps—a trademark of Baltimore architecture made possible by the high-quality white marble quarried in Cockeysville—was shot by renowned Baltimore Sun photographer A. Aubrey Bodine. Done properly, the ritual marble stoop cleaning process included scrubbing with a pumice stone and Bon Ami powder.

Canton Row Homes

In the early 1900s, the neighborhood’s row houses were home to Irish and Eastern Europeans who worked at the port and canneries.

Guilford -Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Divisions


Each home in this old-money neighborhood possesses its own distinct charm.

Old-School Artforms

In 1913, a Czech immigrant grocer named William Oktavec painted his screen door. Soon, neighbors requested he paint their front window screens, and over time, the folk art became synonymous with Baltimore’s blue-collar, Formstone-sided row houses.

(Photo by Anna Pasqualucci)

“Painted Ladies” of Charles Village -Photo by Carmen Leitch

Charles Village

The now-ubiquitous “Painted Ladies” of Charles Village have only been around for 16 years, dating to a neighborhood painting contest inspired by the famous Victorian homes of San Francisco.

That was then, this is now

Billie Holiday's Street

At Durham and Pratt streets, there’s a new, four-story mural of Billie Holiday, who grew up on this Upper Fells Point block. Leading to her childhood home down the street is a mosaic of the blues singer in full voice——white plates forming the iconic gardenias she wore in her hair. The work, which portrays waves of sound morphing into bluebirds as the piece moves toward her former front door, is part of a larger effort to memorialize “Lady Day” in her former neighborhood.

(Photo by David Colwell)

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