Baltimore World War I memorial is falling apart

Nearly 100 years after World War One, a Baltimore World War I memorial is badly deteriorated, and going ignored. As of now, nobody has plans to fix it.


Grove of Remembrance

Grove of Remembrance with pavilion in background. All images from author.


The National Service Star Legion planted the Grove of Remembrance on October 8, 1919. There was a tree for each state in the union, along with three for the US’ allies and Woodrow Wilson. More trees have been planted for each subsequent war. According to the Monument City Blog, it is the oldest living memorial in the United States.

Grove of Remembrance map


One other tree that went up as part of the original grove was for Baltimore. Once the United States entered the war in April of 1917, Maryland provided 50,000 troops. Most were from Baltimore, and they served largely in eastern France.

“Baltimoreans filled the ranks of an infantry regiment, the 313th of the 79th Division. Its Company A was mostly East Baltimoreans; Company F drew heavily from the old 10th Ward, a section south of Green Mount Cemetery. It was known as the Irish Fusileers. There were favorite companies from neighborhoods in South, Northwest and West Baltimore. Many never came home.”

Jacques Kelly, “Dead honored quietly, profoundly“, November 11, 1992, Baltimore Sun

The Grove of Remembrance also has a stone pavilion honoring Merill Rosenfeld, a Johns Hopkins graduate who died during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The site is next to the Maryland Zoo and adjacent to the Jones Falls Trail.

Grove of Remembrance Pavion 3

Inside the Edward L. Palmer Jr. design pavilion.


The pavilion was designed by Edward L. Palmer Jr., an 1899 graduate of Johns Hopkins. The architect was also the designer of many significant residences in Roland Park, Guilford, and Gibson Island. With his partner, William D. Lamdin they designed over 200 houses and dozens of buildings including the Second Presbyterian Church in Guilford and the twin-domed Saint Casimir Church in Canton. Using old world charm, Palmer and Lamdin are credited with building some of the most graceful and distinctive homes and buildings in Baltimore.

The Grove of Remembrance pavilion is in bad shape, and it’s unclear who should fix it

At Palmer’s pavilion, wood beams are rotting, rain gutters are falling over, the iron work is rusting, the benches have been destroyed, the mortar supporting the stone structure needs repointing, and the signature slate roof needs repaired. There also aren’t any flags on the flag poles, which need a fresh coat of paint.

And while the tree grove itself has glorious nearly century old oaks, there’s quit

e a bit of trash scattered around the memorial site.

Fixing these problems won’t cost millions of dollars, but it will mean needing some money, and a capable project leader, which isn’t all that easy to come by.



Grove of Remembrance Pavilion 2

Years of neglect are taking their toll on the memorial site.

The Grove of Remembrance is in Druid Hill Park, but Baltimore’s Park and Recreation Department is woefully short of money.

“There are no plans in place,” said Deputy Director Bill Vondrasek recently. “We would welcome outside funds to help renovate the structure.”

Friends of Druid Hill Park is an organization comprised of volunteers that are mostly engaged with programming events, so capital project fundraising is probably beyond their current scope. Billionaire David M. Rubenstein, the son of a Baltimore postal worker, is interested in historical sites and has donated millions to sites around Washington, including 7.5 million toward fixing Washington’s Washington Monument. Maybe he has interest in being a benefactor for historical sites in Baltimore? Governor Hogan recently appointed a World War One Centennial Commission to develop activities and events for the war’s 100th anniversary. Maybe that group could lead the project. One other option might be having the Maryland Zoo helping with day-to-day upkeep.

Maryland Oak

The plaque in front of the Oak honoring the sacrifice of troops from Maryland


Nearly a hundred years after one of America’s bloodiest wars, this memorial site is forgotten and neglected. Now that we’ve arrived at World World I’s centennial, perhaps we’ll find a way to restore the site and honor those who sacrificed.

A similar article is cross-posted on Greater Greater Washington


2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 28,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

US Rust Belt Revitalization Strategies Off Course

Asiatown Cleveland

Asia Town in Cleveland

Chinatown Detroit

What’s left of China Town in Detroit

Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, St. Louis, Dayton, Toledo and kindred cities continue to say goodbye to more people than come in. It is time to look at revitalization differently and it is not managed decline.

Heart felt city policies, resources, and attention are about getting natives to stay in depopulating cities.  Initiatives from local hiring, contracting, and procurement, to work force training, to casinos may be worthwhile, but they are not going make an outgoing tide come in.   I will get to what will shortly. Sandra Pianalto, President and CEO of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, in her Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial “Fixing Cleveland’s housing problem: Sandra Pianalto”, gets the analysis right, but the solution wrong. Sandra says Cleveland has too great a housing supply for the demand for houses.  (true) Sandra continues in the right direction…, she says “we need to focus on the demand side of the market” (absolutely) and then  unfortunately soon after goes off course. Sandra steers the “turn Cleveland around ship” right into a school reform detour.

I am not against better schools, but Cleveland is not going to reverse its population exodus by tweaking , overhauling,  you pick the verb ….its school system.  No underfunded or overfunded US school system has ever led to reversing a city’s population decline. In fact, if Cleveland’s school system performs better, more beneficiaries are likely to leave Cleveland.  Higher educated people are more mobile than less educated people.

Political and civic leaders are in place to serve the people that are there, or remain, as is the case.  Nativism, and native boosting projects, have a strong heartfelt pull and cast votes at the ballot box. However, nativist projects should not be confused with policies that are going to drastically change the trajectory of the city’s population. If a city wants to reverse its decline, it needs to turn its attention toward attraction.  Cleveland and Detroit are not going to self-breed or educate their population to growth and prosperity.  The only way they will come back is by attracting new people from other places.

New York is the great example.  It hemorrhages talented people and families to other parts of the country. In this way, it is just like the rust belt population losers, but alas, here is the big difference.  New York City is constantly refreshing its population.  Aaron Wrenn of the Urbanophile in his article Migration Matters says it beautifully.

“If you think again about New York, it takes in immigrants-raw recruits if you will-and spits out Americans. It takes in young singles-more raw recruits-and spits out up skilled people with families. There is huge value added in this. In a sense, New York City is a gigantic refinery for human capital. It’s a smelter for people. Perhaps we shouldn’t be any more sad about New York exporting people than we are about it exporting financial services. Taking in people, adding value, then exporting them is one of New York’s core competencies. Maybe we should be thanking it for providing a valuable service.”

All of our cities need some of this quality. Cities should be both exporters and importers of people.  Cities need churn. The good news is that attracting new people is actually probably easier than making Cleveland schools top notch or other lofty city initiatives that have a nativist bent. The answer can be found in a once little hamlet one lake away from Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit.  This not-so-little anymore frosty boomlet has gained more people since 1950 than Buffalo, Cleveland, and Detroit have lost in that same time period.  In fact, this frost belter has added a net 111,000 people in the last five years and just surpassed Chicago as North America’s 4th largest city.

Attracting people can come in three forms. In migration can come from your region (you can define region), your country, or from distant lands.  The Rust Belt’s cold struggling cities are going to have a hard time achieving a net domestic US migration population explosion for the time being, especially from places south and west.  Toronto- the great lake, frost belt, rust belt, boomlet town shows that foreign born immigration is a lay-up that they keep converting over and over, while nearby American cities keep shooting long jump shots. Natives can go along for the immigration ride and watch their schools, services, and opportunities improve along the way.

In Little India in Toronto commerce spills onto the street

In Little India in Toronto, commerce spills onto the street

Hogtown, yes, that is Toronto’s nickname from its frontier days, is comprised of (just a shade under) 50 % foreign born. This 49+percent immigrant population comprises half of Toronto’s 2.6 million people and a metro area now over 5.6 million. In 1950, Toronto was just slightly larger than Cleveland and about 700,000 warm bodies less than Detroit’s population. Today there are more foreign born Torontonians than the combined populations of Detroit and Cleveland.  Toronto attracts Asians. Cleveland’s Asia Town strategy is a streetscape project!  I am not exactly sure if it involves actually adding Asians.  Toronto does not have better weather, natural resources, or geographic advantages than probably any of America’s big city population losers.  It’s booming economy relies on “innovation and the development of ideas to create wealth”  according to Invest Toronto. Toronto understands immigrants are a central ingredient to their success.  It starts with a friendly immigrant portal for getting started in Toronto!

Cleveland, Detroit, etc.  would be forever changed if they made their primary revitalization strategy to be a top American “port of entry.”  (The Feds would have to approve and cooperate)  Cities need new people and immigrants to America have a centuries long tradition of creating or finding opportunity.

Toronto China Town

Toronto’s Vibrant China Town

Even better, many immigrants would be excited to come if it came with an expedited US green card (even if it required a start out in a Rust Belt City provision) .  Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit boomed with the help of immigrants from eastern Europe before WWI, and African-american migrants from the American South in WWII.  It is time to avoid native protectionism and tailor a policy to bring new waves of immigrants that would be eager to call themselves Clevelanders et al. Looking across the lake to Toronto is the first step.


MLB Attendance During “Rivalry Week”

In Part I, I argue that there should be more “rivalry” games in Major League Baseball based mostly geographic proximity. In Part II, I share some humorous baseball rivalry videos.  Here in Part III, I  pull attendance data from the one weekend of the baseball season that MLB does “allow” interleague geographic rivals and see if there is anything cooking.

I will start with a quote from a May 31 article by the Baltimore Orioles beat writer Dan Connolly“I’m not a big fan of this whole “regional rivalry” stuff, because I think it’s a creation and not a reality. Good teams battling for supremacy is what builds rivalries.

That said, there’s no question that the past four games between the Orioles and Nationals were energized.  The four games series (two in DC, two in Baltimore) drew 146,708, an average of 36,777. That particularly impressive when you factor in the games were played Monday through Thursday before most schools let out (although Monday was a holiday and a sellout at Nationals Park)”

Dan is right that two good teams going after each other can make a rivalry.  It is also true that attendance on weekends and opening day goes up regardless of the opponent.  My point is that adding a regional rivalry is like adding an extra really good topping on your pizza. It adds to the flavor whether the team is good or bad and games against bad teams are not going away.

So let’s jump into the data and see if there is anything to “rival” games between franchises in the same state or neighboring states.  Here’s how the analysis was done:

Attendance was gathered from all games May 27 through May 30. Many of these games featured matchups between teams from the same city, state, or neighboring states.  (Regional rival games) Another set of games was played between franchises much further apart geographically.  (Non-regional games)  The data was set up to compare regional rival games vs. non-regional rival games on the basis of how these games stacked up against their average home attendance.

Regional rivalry games beat their average home attendance by 18% on May 27 and 28 and 7.5% on May 29 and May 30. On the same set of days, non-regional games performed about average on May 27 and May 28 with their normal attendance and were 18.8% below average May 29 and May 30.  In summary, on the same set of days, regional rivals performed 18 to 25 percent better than their non-regional games.

Here is the data and the tables will show the findings.

Monday May 27 and Tuesday May 28

May 27 and 28

Wed May 29 and Thursday May 30

May 29 and 30

Here are some specific take- aways.

  • Collectively, regional rivals games performed much better against their home average than non-regional games whether teams were winners or not.
  • It is not about interleague, it is about geography.
  • Kansas City’s Kauffman stadium will be red when St. Louis plays. There will be bay bridge traffic for games in Oakland when they host the Giants. Mets Citi field fills up for the Yanks. St. Louis, San Francisco, and New York generally do well at home no matter who they play.
  • Cincinnati and Cleveland’s battle of Ohio does not make a super-hot ticket, but it helps.
  • Minnesota/ Milwaukee and even the cross town Chicago match up did not pack their parks. The Chi-town attendance data is not compelling of a strong rivalry  this year.
  • The Orioles/Nationals and Dodgers/Angels fill up the house.
  • Beach beats baseball in Florida no matter who is playing.  A major league team in Vermont would probably draw better than Tampa and Miami. One of these teams could move to Mexico City and I don’t think anyone will get off their beach towel.
  • There is no evidence of any interest in long distance interleague games between May 27 and May 30, 2013.

How a Few LED Lights Can Change Your Whole City

The Ravens’ journey to the 2013 Super Bowl has cast a purple glow on Baltimore.  Building owners and facilities personnel have found creative ways to illuminate facades, windows, and trees in shades of purple. Regular playoff trips and this year’s Super Bowl compete with Christmas for festive supremacy.

Baltimore harbor

Baltimore harbor glowing in purple preceding the 2013 Superbowl

Photograph source: Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore

In 1828, Paris lit the Champs-Elysees with gas lamps becoming the first European city to widely adopt street lamps. In addition to being the center of education and ideas, the lighting of Parisian streets helped give Paris the nickname “La Ville-Lumiere.”  In describing the lighting of Paris, Nicholas Green in the Spectacle of Nature writes “what a magnificent spectacle this boulevard presents when at dusk the café waiters light the gas lamps and torrents of light instantly flood forth, pure and white as the moon.” Gas lights allowed socialization and the economy out into the open and into the night.

Victorian paris-at-night

Photo source: Victorian Paris

Hundreds of years later, cities are again using lighting in new strategic ways.    Light displays are credited for a big reason in downtown Philadelphia’s resurgence, particularly their “Avenue of the Arts.”  Even in non-playoff times, Baltimore uplights City Hall, The Bromo Seltzer Tower, Penn Station, the 37 story art deco Bank of America Tower and others. Should Baltimore and other cities do more?  When attending an art gallery or museum, lighting will be carefully directed to highlight each piece. Shouldn’t lighting do the same for our best buildings or their architectural details?  Modern buildings can highlight their geometries whereas historic buildings can focus on domes, spires, columns, or façade details. Street trees also add festivity when illuminated.

lighting historic buildings

Historic building features illuminated
Church in Bath, England Photograph source: Enlightened Lighting Ltd

Why let our best buildings be enshrouded in darkness when the sun goes down?  Lighting is more than design. It is about vibrancy. Light is energy and provides energy.  It can help to resuscitate places that may be tired and disinvested.  It can highlight craftsmanship and prideful work. More people might invest, spend money, and appreciate buildings that are newly energized with light. High tech illumination can help invigorate older beautiful churches, traditional downtowns, and main streets.

Kelley Bell, a graphic designer and professor at UMBC, uses a projector to showcase her art by beaming projections onto buildings in Baltimore. Recently, she has created an exhibit that illuminates blue bubbles onto the clock faces of the iconic Bromo Seltzer Tower.

Can lighting be overdone? Yes.  In an age when the world should be reducing our carbon footprints, lighting takes energy. However, LED lighting is significantly more efficient than earlier types of lighting. If lighting helps to “reuse and recycle” the embedded energy of our existing cities, its trade-off is worthwhile.

Do you have an urban feature or building that is a good candidate for illumination?  or have a picture of a strategically lighted building? If yes, send a jpeg less than 1MB to  Please include an address for the building.


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Naming the blog-Comeback City

Post #1

Almost all cities that have been around a long time have had boom years and troughs. Very few have been wiped away for good and some have been decimated by fire, war, or famine, and come back.

New York City lost the world’s largest textile industry completely. It suffered a crack epidemic and a very dark decade in the eighties. New York City has come roaring back.

Many of America’s cities and neighborhoods are not and have not been in a boom. They are in need of a comeback.  This platform is not about dwelling on decay or labeling places as down and out. It is about sharing ideas from different places and building on strength.

Being a throwaway society is not America’s strength.  Some economists suggest people move where the jobs are.  The emptying of some cities in favor of others or distant suburbs, leaves a wake of human distress. Abandoning legions of buildings wastes embedded energy and cultural history.  Jobs can be any place there is human ingenuity. Sun and sand contribute to some jobs, but other human factors are far more important and are not bound by climate or geography.

Throw away cities should not be an American value.  Americans are very generous about helping US cities that have been hit by hurricane, earthquake, or terrorism, (until Sandy) However, Americans can become dismissive when discussing the slower decline of a city. Buildings were falling down and poverty was prevalent before Katrina hit New Orleans, but national focus on the city’s problems only rushed in with the storm. Some cities are poorly managed and its leaders have had misplaced priorities.  They should not be bailed out or rewarded for this.  However, as an American society, we do not win overall, when there is such disparity in the health and opportunity between our cities.

I hope as a reader you will enjoy Comeback City and it will provide content to think about and maybe even spark specific projects.  Much of the future content will be Baltimore centric.  Other content will draw from other places. Baltimore is a city that might be on the precipice of recovery. There are positive sprouts in many places. Its momentum is fragile and the pace of rebound is slow.

America and the world have witnessed comeback cities.  We have a role in helping some of the cities we care about rebound. Thanks for reading!


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