Baltimore City Historic District Ordinance 1078 12/1/83
Certified Historic District for Tax Incentives 4/84
Located directly west of the Inner Harbor, the Otterbein area includes approximately three city blocks primarily of renovated rowhousing and compatible new infill housing. The rehabilitation of the area has been complimented with brick sidewalks, period streetlights and small, public open-space areas. The houses ranged from early gabled roof houses featuring dormers and pronounced chimneys to shallow gabled houses to Victorian-era three story high houses with ornate cornices.
The houses of Otterbein are built in the traditional Baltimore rowhouse style with flat brick facades and decoration used only to highlight doors, windows and the roofline. Many of the buildings display noteworthy architectural details, such as original cornices, period light fixtures, bracketed storefronts and traditional marble steps. Most of the new infill housing in the area relates to the older housing in materials, scale, changing rooflines and diversification within groupings, if not in style. A few of the new residential buildings are direct attempts at reproducing early rowhouse designs with varying degrees of success. Besides the housing, there are two extant church structures in the area. These churches and the remaining storefront buildings represent the early diversity of land use in the Otterbein area, although all but one church has been converted into housing.
Otterbein is one of the few surviving residential neighborhoods located near the original founding of Baltimore City. It is one of Baltimore's best preserved neighborhoods featuring architecture primarily from the early to mid-nineteenth century. The buildings are excellent examples of Baltimore's earliest housing types, and they retain many distinctive characteristics of nineteenth century houses, such as Flemish bond brickwork, original cornices and original storefronts. The style and character of extant buildings is reflective of the diversity of the neighborhood which has played an important role in local history.
With its location near the waterfront, the early residents of Otterbein were directly involved with the port-related activities that influenced Baltimore's growth and development. They included wealthy merchants and industrialists, as well as laborers in maritime trade and mechanics. This was a radically and economically integrated area, as were most nineteenth century Baltimore neighborhoods with upper and middle class whites living on the main streets and blacks and poor whites living in small alley housing.
Otterbein was not only a residential neighborhood but typifies communities of the period with a variety of uses including churches, a school and businesses. Today, Otterbein is best known as one of America's most successful attempts at urban homesteading. With its renovated older housing, compatible new infill housing and a location near the Inner Harbor, Otterbein has become one of Baltimore's most desired residential neighborhoods.