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

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Baltimore’s problem is sprawl, not a bad economy

Baltimore City has thousands of vacant row houses that have come under increased outside scrutiny after April’s unrest and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan’s ramped up demolition program.  These lost structures fit a common, but misinformed narrative about Baltimore as a place in economic decline.

West Baltimore

Many beautiful row house shells remain in Baltimore. Photo by Jeff La Noue

 

When evaluating the city’s 20,000 plus vacant row houses, its crime, and its population loss exceeding 300,000 from its peak; pundits often paint a picture of a broken rust belt region that has never recovered from the loss of thousands of manufacturing and steel-making jobs. Washington Post Reporter, E.J. Dionne Jr.  follows this line of thought in his editorial in May of this year. He says

“The violence that has engulfed Baltimore is visible and heartbreaking evidence of a city that has been under siege for decades.

The obvious flashpoints involve race and policing. But since at least the 1970s, the economy’s invisible hand has also been diligently stripping tens of thousands of blue-collar jobs from what was once a bustling workshop where steel, cars and planes were made. Baltimore has tried to do its best in a post-industrial economy, but when work disappears, the results can be catastrophic.”

This assessment is mostly wrong. Vacant houses and neighborhoods in the city are a symptom of robust suburbanization.

Economy

Baltimore has transitioned from its former rust belt economy.  Its 2014 metropolitan GDP is higher than Portland (OR), Columbus (OH), Orlando, Austin, Charlotte, Las Vegas, Nashville, and San Antonio among many others.  The Baltimore Metro area ranks 4th in percent with a graduate or professional degree and 4th in median household income among the 25 largest metro areas. (Washington DC is number 1 in both categories)

Here’s the rub.  While Baltimore City’s population has dropped by 300,000 people since its peak census count in 1950, Baltimore County has added 550,000. Anne Arundel County over 400,000. Howard County almost 300,000.  Harford County 200,000. Carrol County has added over 100,000 people.

Owings Mills new town

Most new infrastructure has been in green fields to support outward growth not inward revitalization. Photo by Doug Kerr on Flickr.

(Shown here is Owings Mills, a suburb that has sprouted adjacent to Interstate 795, the Northwest Expressway, and a subway line constructed  in 1983-1985. I-795 extends 9 miles out from the beltway. Baltimore City lost 50,000 people, 13 percent of its population in the 1980’s.)

State spending in the suburbs sapped the city

Baltimore City’s surplus of vacant houses are not there because of a poor regional economy or because the Baltimore area population is shrinking.  It is clearly not.  They exist because the region has built lots of new roads and highways, new schools, new utilities, and new homes outside the city, without equivalent investments inside the core city.  People and businesses have flowed to the geographic shift of new investments in surrounding counties.  As this was happening, physical and social decay escalated in many of Baltimore’s older row house communities, especially African-American neighborhoods. Some of this early exodus was the result of directly racist practices such as redlining. However, shifting public investments outward, often based on theoretically race-neutral growth formulas, certainly was anti-urban and had the greatest impact on urban communities of African-Americans. Regardless, people of all races with choices, have made rational decisions to leave behind thousands of houses in poor school districts with old school buildings, with high crime, pot holed streets, inadequate transit, and leaky pipes.

A renaissance is coming for more city neighborhoods

There are new positive trends that may impact the future of some of Baltimore’s challenged row house neighborhoods. First, Baltimore City has stopped hemorrhaging net population. New city-based industries are thriving in health Sciences and technology. The Under Armour corporation is a major growth magnet with over 3 billion in annual revenues and it is growing every year. Lots of people are still moving out of the city, but there is a new crop of newcomers, often well-educated millennials and some immigrants.  However, they are not spreading across the city evenly.  They are bypassing the most challenging row house neighborhoods.

Prosperous Canton

Baltimore’s booming Canton neighborhood is mixed with new apartments, offices, and fixed-up row houses. Flickr image by Elliott Plack

 

Thousands of new upscale apartments and professional offices are being added downtown and in a ring of neighborhoods around the harbor, often on former industrial brownfield sites.   The harbor adjacent row house neighborhoods have been fixed up and growing for two decades. It shows, that when there are amenities in the neighborhood, there is demand for row house living.

Hampden

Vibrant rowhouses in Hampden, a hot neighborhood west of Johns Hopkins University. Flickr image by Lunita Lu

A sign of what may be to come, are the resurging row house neighborhoods west and south of the Johns Hopkins University several miles north of the harbor.  Where there is a neighborhood anchor institution, good retail, and reasonable transit, some old Baltimore row house neighborhoods may reverse their fortunes in the next decade. Inclusivity will be important. However, as in decades before, state and regional decisions on school, infrastructure, and transportation investments will play their part on whether some Baltimore city neighborhoods can come back. These decisions are particularly important for the most vulnerable.

A similar article is in Greater Greater Washington

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