Bolton Hill Neighborhood Association
- Baltimore City Historic District Ordinance 10465 6/15/67, 99-1143, 12/06/99
- National Register of Historic Places 9/17/71
Bolton Hill retains a strong Victorian-era, traditional rowhouse character with relatively intact blocks of structures from the middle- to- late- 19th Century. This residential community encompasses approximately 170 acres in the central northwest section of the city. Two streets, Eutaw Place and sections of Park Avenue, provide broad park-like medians. The character of the streetscape is set by the groups of three story red brick houses (eight to fifteen buildings per group) with white marble steps, and traditional flat facades accentuated by ornamentation around doors and windows and at the roofline.
The rows of townhouses are interspersed with larger, more elaborate, eclectic houses built in the late 1890s and apartment buildings in the early 1900s. Beginning in the mid- 20th Century, urban renewal strategies led to demolitions of entire blocks of early housing and replacement with parks and with buildings of contemporary styles.
Seven churches, a few schools and institutional buildings, and some monuments make up the remainder of the built environment. The neighborhood has been the home of a diverse group of academic, business, literary, and social leaders throughout its history.
Through the first half of the 20th Century the entire area south of Druid Hill Park to Dolphin and between Mount Royal Avenue and Madison was known as Mount Royal. In 1955, drawing inspiration both from Bolton Mansion and from Boston’s Beacon Hill, a local group christened the section below North Avenue Bolton Hill.
The bulk of today’s Bolton Hill was developed from the lands of merchant William Gibson’s 18th century country estate Rose Hill. Two other estates bracketing the area also contributed to its history and development—Dr. Solomon Burkhead’s Mount Royal to the north and George Grundy’s Bolton on the south.
Toward the southern end of the district, development began with the construction of three villas in the 1850s, two of which survive at 204 and 232 W. Lanvale. Rose Hill mansion (situated where today the Francis Scott Key monument is located) gave way for the development of Eutaw Place, a boulevard with garden squares stretching for nine blocks along the western edge of the district. Two blocks of Park Avenue between McMechan and Laurens Streets also were treated with wide park-like medians. Mount Royal Avenue on the district’s eastern edge at one time also had park-like medians leading up to Druid Hill Park along with terraced gardens on Mt. Royal Place.
The increased efficiency of public transportation drove the growth and development of the new neighborhood. A streetcar line along Madison Avenue connected the new neighborhood both to downtown, and to Druid Hill Park. While the majority of the development was in the form of three- or four-story rowhouses, there were also semi-detached houses, mansion houses and larger apartment buildings, which were coming into fashion for the elite in the late 19thto early 20th century. The adjacent Bolton (Mount Royal) B & O Train Station (1896) provided convenient access to and from the neighborhood.
The appearance and plan of Bolton Hill remained relatively unchanged through the late 19th and into the 20th Century, despite some population shifts as some wealthier residents moved to suburban areas. World War II and the resultant influx of workers to support the war effort caused a housing shortage. In Bolton Hill, housing became denser as landlords divided their properties into smaller and smaller units. These substandard conversions and the lack of tenant or landlord maintenance caused building deterioration. In response, by the 1950s, slum clearance and urban renewal plans began to alter several blocks within the neighborhood, replacing 19th century housing with contemporary townhouses, high rise apartment buildings, schools and parks, and altering street configurations. Nevertheless, Bolton Hill retains a recognizable character, combining rhythmic blocks of three story rowhouses, large mansions and historic apartment buildings, institutions, parks and green vistas.
Social and Cultural History
Bolton Hill is a neighborhood that has always drawn residents from varied spheres of the city’s religious, business, and cultural communities. Quakers, who were an early colonial presence in Maryland, found a home in Bolton Hill when they constructed the Park Avenue Meeting House and Friends School (1889). The founding of Johns Hopkins University and Hospital in the vicinity of Howard and Centre Streets, made Bolton Hill an attractive home for many of its doctors, faculty and leadership—including the university’s first president and hospital director, Daniel Coit Gilman. Dr. Clarabel Cone and Etta Cone housed their ground-breaking art collection in their apartments at Marlborough Apartments (1904) on Eutaw Place. Lillie Carroll Jackson, national civil rights leader and head of Baltimore’s NAACP chapter for 35 years resided at 1320 Eutaw Place for 22 years until her death in 1975. Noted author Zora Neale Hurston called Bolton Hill home for a time, living on West Lafayette. F. Scott Fitzgerald resided in Bolton Hill on Park Avenue during the time that the writer published “Tender is the Night.” He is honored today by a park in his name at Wilson and Bolton Street, the former site of the Har Sinai Synagogue.
The Jewish community was served by three synagogues, two of which survive. The striking Temple Oheb Shalom (1892 ) on Eutaw Place designed by Joseph Evans Sperry is today the home of the Prince Hall Masons. Retailers Albert Hutzler and Thomas O’Neill lived in Bolton Hill.
Among the notable churches are Corpus Christi (1891), Brown Memorial (1869-70), Strawbridge Methodist Church (1884), Memorial Episcopal (1860), and Eutaw Place Baptist (1871), now City Temple Baptist.
In the 20th century, housing pressures brought on by an influx of workers attracted to the City’s burgeoning industries and World War II-related industries were accommodated in Bolton Hill by converting many of the single family dwellings into numerous small apartments. At the end of World War II, with the creation of the Baltimore Redevelopment Commission to deal with blight eradication as one driving force, code enforcement and slum clearance led to the improvement of some housing conditions, but also to the demolition of 19th century housing for schools, a shopping center and high rise apartment buildings. Stretches of streets were eliminated to create larger blocks. A stretch of Linden Avenue disappeared from Wilson to just south of W. Lafayette, and along with it, the three blocks of mostly rowhouses that had lined the streets. A block of three-story row houses on John Street made way for the construction of a school. A row of two-story houses was removed to create the pocket park at Rutter Street between West Lafayette Mosher Streets. By this time the neighborhood was seeing a new wave of younger families, students and professionals who worked to balance the needs of renters and home owners and to bring more diversity to Bolton Hill. Today’s Bolton Hill continues to be a highly significant, intact historic district.
The rowhouse building type predominates in Bolton Hill, but it is treated in a variety of ways. Early rows are relatively simple three story three-bay buildings of red brick, but united with a continuous wooden cornice line, rhythmic door and window openings with simple surrounds, marble stairs, and iron railings. These can be in groups of eight to as many as eighteen in one block. Later treatments include use of stone for the façade, carved stone or more elaborate brickwork around openings, and small ornamental iron balconies at the first floors. Setbacks from the street vary in different blocks, with some rows at the sidewalk and others set back along wider sidewalks or placed back behind small garden spaces.
The contemporary treatment of the rowhouse is exemplified by the groups in Bolton Square, where the essential form is retained, but the groups of two story buildings are in a crescent configuration facing into a private courtyard.
Detached houses in various styles characterize Bolton Hill as well. They include Gothic Revival and Renaissance Revival styles.
Notable among the larger individual structures are the former Temple Oheb Shalom, the Hawley-Hutzler House, Maryland Institute of Art, Mount Royal Station, Corpus Christi Church, Brown Memorial Church, Rolando-Thom Mansion (Family and Children's Society), and the Marlborough Apartments. Significant monuments include the Francis Scott Key Monument on Eutaw Place and the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Mount Royal Ave.
Many of the larger structures have been designed by important local and national architects including Baldwin & Pennington; Joseph Evans Sperry; Edmund Lind; Parker, Thomas & Rice; Pell & Corbett; and Patrick Charles Keely.
Beginning in the 20th century, urban renewal strategies led to demolitions of entire block of early housing and replacement with parks and buildings of contemporary style. Some designs were successful and have achieved their own significance, such as the city-landmarked Bolton Square. Others, such as the later high-rise towers that punctuate the district, do not contribute to the scale and character of Bolton Hill.
Period of Significance
Bolton Hill’s history is rich with associations related to the city’s development, its institutions, and its cultural and social history. Its significant architecture—spanning a period from about the mid 19th century to include some examples in the mid-20th century—ranges from Gothic revival cottages to elegant high-style rowhouses, mansion houses, large churches and synagogues, and modern interpretations of the rowhouse form and configuration. Throughout its history, Bolton Hill was home to notable academic and business leaders, literary figures, and social and religious leaders.
The Bolton Hill local historic district is generally bounded by Dolphin Street, the rear property lines of properties fronting on Eutaw Place, North Avenue, and Mount Royal Avenue. The boundaries encompass a distinctive collection of building types and styles on a plan that reflects 150 years of urban development.
Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation. Baltimore City’s Historic Districts, Department of Planning, 2005.
Hayward, Mary Ellen and Frank R. Shivers, Jr. The Architecture of Baltimore: An Illustrated History, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004.
Maryland Historical Trust. National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form – Bolton Hill Historic District, 1971.
Millspaugh, Martin and Gurney Breckenfeld. The Human Side of Urban Renewal, Ives Washburn, Inc., 1960.
Sanborn Map Company, Baltimore, Maryland: Vol. 2, 1914, Republished 1952, “Digital Sanborn Maps 1867-1970” <http://sanborn.umi.com/md/3573/dateid-000036.htm?CCSI=2043n> (Accessed May 20, 2016).
Shivers, Frank R. Jr. Bolton Hill: Classic Baltimore Neighborhood, Maryland Historical Society, 2008.
Shivers, Frank R. Jr. Walking in Baltimore: An Intimate Guide to the Old City, The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.