Baltimore City Historic District Ordinance 00-108 12/20/00


Railroad MapThese two story plus attic Greek Revival inspired alley houses were built in 1848 for the workers of the B&O Railroad yard. This district represents some of Baltimore's earliest row houses built in the two-story plus attic style, a vernacular version of the expensive Greek Revival Townhouses, which were being built in the Cathedral Hill area of Baltimore. As this style began to be adopted by vernacular builders, the earliest examples were built with single-sash short three lighted windows, and corbelled brick cornices. These houses are particularly significant because they are rare survivors of the first phase of the vernacular translation of the Greek Revival style row house construction. In the interior they had a Doric mantel surround, wide kitchen fireplaces, built-in shelves, simple wood trim and tightly wound staircases. These simple rare row house survivors reveal to us a mid 19th Century building tradition seldom studied.


The rarity of this example and style of alley house is complimented greatly by the significant history of the lives of Baltimore's working class. In response to the growing B&O yards just two blocks south, Lemmon Street was built by carpenter Charles Shipley on land leased to him by John Howard McHenry. By September 1849 all the houses had been sold to individuals of Irish decent who were working in the nearby railroad yards. The following owners paid four hundred dollars for the houses: Thomas McNew, a watchman; Thomas Medcalfe, a fireman; Dennis McFadden, a laborer; and Cornelius McLaughlin, a laborer. At the time these houses were built, the number of dwellings in the Poppleton area was few.

Baltimore Town was some distance away, separated by open country dotted with private estates, the new St. Peter's Church, built by the archdiocese to serve the rapidly growing Irish Catholic population in the "western precincts" was nearly completed. A few years later the Sisters of Mercy, an Irish order brought to Baltimore by a Granddaughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, would establish a local mission at the church to teach and tend to the needs of the newly arrived immigrants. It was these small alley houses either bought or rented that many of the immigrants lived. Although the Irish were the first ethnic group to occupy these houses, they were not the last. German, Jewish and African American people had all lived in these houses. They help to tell the story of Baltimore's industrial and social history.