Thursday, February 15, 2007

Edmondson Village: This Could Get Worse Before it Gets Better

The Buzzards are starting to circle around this one. First lets start off with a history of the neighborhood. The Edmondson Avenue area was basically nothing until the bridge over the Gwynns Falls was widened and replaced in 1910. The decades following World War I Baltimore saw a surge in new housing along Edmondson Avenue in the today's neighborhoods of Edmondson Village, Rognel Heights, Uplands, Allendale, Hunting Ridge and Ten Hills. The Great Depression did however slow the development in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
After World War II the development of Edmondson Village was a complete white middle class row house suburb. Further into downtown however the African American neighborhoods were grow tighter and congested by the day because the segregated housing market only allowed them to live in certain places. In the 1950s some unconventional real estate agents all across the country sought to make a buck by using a technique now known as "blockbusting" putting a black family into an all white block and using their fears to spur white flight. The real estate agents then bought the homes from whites at below market rate and then sold them to black buyers at inflated prices. This made Edmondson Village's population switch from completely white to completely black from 1955-1965.
Fast forward to 2007 Edmonson Village still has a lot of original residents who bought their homes in the blockbusting era. They have grown old and are having a tough time with the upkeep of their ever aging row homes. Crime has reared its ugly head in the neighborhood and home ownership is decreasing. Signs are appearing that say "we will buy your house for cash." Problem is many of these "buyers" are companies who go to into the house, do minimal work on them, and rent it out.
To make Edmondson Village the stable community it's always been it needs to remain a neighborhood with a healthy housing stock and a high rate of home ownership as does any neighborhood. A good way to do this would be for the city to use programs that it already has like "project 5000" and "healthy neighborhoods." "Project 5000" can sell homes for next to nothing under the condition that the buyer does a full rehab and can either sell it or live in it. "Healthy Neighborhoods" provides resources for existing home owners to better maintain their properties. Since urban decay hasn't set as bad as it has in other parts of the city redevelopment need only be minimal consisting primarily on buildings directly on Edmondson Avenue and the Edmondale Apartment complex.If steps like these aren't taken Edmondson Village may have a bleak future.

*Update the Baltimore City Planning Department has come with a master plan for the Edmondson Village area including Edmondson Village, Rognel Heights, Allendale, and Saint Josephs. It describes basically what I've described in this post. Maybe someone in city hall is reading this blog.


Anonymous said...

Wow - I lived in Edmdonson Village with my parents and brother, in an apartment, 1953-5 - but I cannot remember the name, nor the road - nor even the name of the all girls school I went to !
1953 was the year of the locusts - about May or June (?). We just did not believe there could be such a thing as a 17 year cycle - that the locust could live underground for 17 years, and then emerge - how wrong we were !
There was a path overhung with trees along which we walked the quicker way from the apartment into the Village to the shops, cinema or library - but not with locusts dropping on our heads !
Such things are unknown in UK !!!
I suppose it must still happen - did it happen in 2004 ? Only the 3rd time since 1953 - yet I was 15 then and now I am 69 !!!
Sad to learn Edmonson Village is no longer what it was.
lavendershrub, Britain

Anonymous said...

My family moved into Edmondson village in the 60s, I guess we were one of the Black family that out grow the city, When we moved there the community was very well kept and the Shopping center was wonderful with the better stores. Now in the year 2008, it is very sad to drive down Edmondson Ave and see how many of the houses have fallen on hard times. The street my family lives on is still will kept and the majority of my neighbors have been there since the sixtys and are still keeping their property up. Unfortunity we can not control some of the problems that are occuring like the older people leaving their homes to children and the children rent them out or sell to individual who fix them up and rent them out and the people come with many children and no idea how to keep up there home. I keep praying that something good can come out of this. The homes on the side streets are still so beautiful and some are still kept up very well. I plan to remain in my beloved community and I'm hoping when the Upland Apartment development start renovating that area it will help the other areas beef up their streets as well.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Edmondmonson Village from 1950 to 1963, I was 3 when ny father a Wrold War II vetrian purchased the home and moved the family there at 4110 Mt. Wood Road. I had many fond memories growing up there. The hide and seek games in the hot summer evenings. Hicking in the woods of the park surranding the neighborhood, attending school at Lyndhurst elemetary and Hilton Park Jr. High, the school that my father went to as well.

I now live in Florida but have many times wondered what has happened to my boyhood home; has it been taken care of, is it still the beautiful green yard that I use to mow and the peach tree in the back yard that my grand father planted.

I have not been back to Maryland in many years but someday I hope to return and I would just like to stand in front of my boyhood home and remember the past.

Stevie said...

My family movee to Edmondson Village just after I was born (1963-1964). By the time I was old enough to discern the neighborhood was pretty much African-American, with a few holdovers; a Jewish corner store owner amongst them.
Homes left to children who had no idea how to maintain them or no interest in the community were part of the problem. The profileration of out of wedlock mothers was a second problem; welfare programs bandaged some of the symptoms, but did not halt the disease. Another problem is the scourge of house rentals. The abundance of part-time residents makes money for owners, but oftentimes adds little, or damages the fabric of the neighborhood.
I miss the old shopping cener with the movies, Tommy Tuckers, and the monkeys in the window.

Spence said...

Stevie do you or your family still live there? Since the publishing of this post, A Master Plan for the Community was put in place and has hit the ground running, I see a much brighter future for Edmondson Village.

Anonymous said...

I bought my home in Edmondson Village about 4 years ago and am moving next month. I must say that as much trouble there is in the neighborhood there are still good people and I think I lucked out in having some of the best neighbors one can have. The challenge I'm facing now is that I really can't sell my property without taking a hit so I have to rent out my home until I can afford to sell it. I do want to make sure that the tenants take care of the property and help keep the block I'm in a nice one. I hope the future projects for the neighborhood revive what I've heard many of times from my neighbors how great it once was.

Anonymous said...

I can.t beleieve what has happen to "The Vilage" I and the now present Mayor's Uncle grew here and among some the firts African American families in the area. I now live in California and my sisters all move to Baltimore and Howard counties. I have not been to Baltimore in 10 years. All I can say is DRUGS DRUGS DRUGS. Little Melvin, look what your Legacy has left.

David said...

There's a soft spot in my heart for the Edmondson Avenue area from Poplar Grove St. all the way out to "The Village" as we called it. I was born in 1950 at Lutheran Hospital, then called West Baltimore General, and my family lived a few blocks away at 1034 Poplar Grove. The house actually belonged to my grandmother, and between her health condition and my father's, it was too much for my mom to keep the place up. So, in Summer of 1955 we moved to the Edmondale Apts. at 1107 N. Woodington Rd. It was like you really weren't living in a city there with HUGE Leakin Park right across the street which my sisters and I explored a lot as kids.

I attended Lyndhurst Elementary from 1955 to 1962. Then onto Gwynns Falls and Rock Glen Junior High until 1965. By 1964, the Edmondale Apts. were getting in bad shape. The management had practiced segregation up until 1963 even though the majority of the units were empty by that year. Without the rental income, maintenance was sharply cut and many times we relied on gas stove burners for heat in the Winter as the boiler supplying heat constantly broke down. There were barely any lights on in the hallways which made my mother, who worked a 4 to 12 shift, very uneasy coming home late at night. We finally moved over to Yale Heights in May of 1964, but I still lived in the Irvington area up until 1979.

A walk up Colbourne Rd. and through a small community picnic area led you to an opening in the brick wall surrounding the rear parking lot of The Village. It was a regular trip for my mom and I on Saturday afternoon to do groceries at Food Fair after getting other shopping done. Food Fair had cubbies at the front office where you could check shopping bags and pick them up when leaving the store. I still remember when the Hecht Co. was being built shortly after we moved in the area.

The name "Edmondson Village" brings back a flood of precious childhood memories for me as a little boy. It's a crying shame the blockbusters did to the area. They were no friend to either the Black or White familes back in the '50s and '60s, but were only out to help there greedy selves. To put it bluntly - they Raped West Baltimore(!!!) and other areas of Baltimore as well, with everyone left as their victims.

I was happy to see the Pratt Library at Edmondson have a grand re-opening. I sincerely hope it's a harbinger of better times to come. The area deserves a better shake than what it got in the past. Even though my work has taken me to another part of MD, I still consider West Baltimore, and the Edmondson Ave. area in particular, my true home and I wish for it the best outcome for all it's residents.


susan said...

I lived at 1207 Woodington from 50 to 62. I can't believe the layout of the street is still the same. Even the plot where I used to swing all the time in the "Little Playground" is still there. Does anyone remember the name of the corner store? Maybe Flowerton Market - I think it was on the corner of Flowerton and Woodington, or maybe it was on Colborne. Many good memories of neighbors who took care of us. I wish you great success in reviving the place!

David said...

Susan, there were four local stores along Woodington. At Colborne, on the SW corner was Scotty's market. Scotty also owned the two stores on the SE corner - the Bus Stop confectionary store and a barber shop beside it. At Woodridge and Woodington, on the NE corner was Will's Woodington market. My mother always liked getting her meats there instead of at Food Fair in The Village because they were always fresh. At Cranston Av. and Woodington, on the NE corner was Kresson's market run by an elderly gentleman. The only thing I recall at Flowerton was a man who set up a snowball stand out of his side garage on the SW corner for a couple years. I'd frequently stop at one of the markets on the way home from school to get a snack or bottle of coke.

Nice to read an account from another former Edmondale Apts. resident. I'm sure my older sisters and I probably crossed paths with you more than once at school or in the neighborhood. I think of my old school days at Lyndhurst often lately and sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and relive those fun times for just a day. :)


susan said...

right David - Scotty's - it just popped into my head a few minutes ago - i remember that rear entrance to the Village - thought it was the prettiest place on earth - would love to swap stories, if you want -

Shirley Pindell Wissmann said...

Hi Fellow Edmonson Heighters. My family moved about 1966, to Beechfield. There are 2 pages on Facebook that I think many of you would be interested in, "Edmondson Village in the 1950's" and "YaleHeights/Beechfield". I was surprised at the amount of people that knew me or one of my siblings. I'm an administrator on the YaleHeights/Beechfield page. I encourage you to check these pages out. I betcha you'll find someone you recognize. My name is Shirley. Stop by and say "Howdy". Have a great day.

Anonymous said...

My family lived at 824 N.Woodington rd.1972 to 1984 and that playground was our life.It had six basketball courts,A giant log house and swing sets,monkey bars and sandboxes.I have just relocated back to Baltimore from Philly and when I saw the condition of what we use to call the first playground I was shocked.Back in the day if we broke a rim from dunking to hard all we had to do was call the beureau of recreation and parks and they would come fix the rims.What happened,they used to paint the court.If you go up to the top of Kevin rd.that basketball court is what ours used look like.That playground prepared us to be champions in football and lacrosse at Edmondson High School.My name is Timmy Massey.

David said...

Shirley, no doubt we, or other family members, probably crossed paths either in the Edmondson or Beechfield areas. We didn't have a car, so I mainly walked anywhere I wanted to go - Westview, Ingleside, Catonsville, Arbutus - it was no big deal to walk where I needed to go.

You probably remember the train that used to run out to Catonsville, passing on the side of Big Valu supermarket at Beechfield Ave. I got to know the train crew and they let me ride out with them on Saturday mornings during the Summer of 1968. They had to stop and flag busy Beechfield Ave. and I'd be there waiting for them to show up. That Fall a different crew was assigned the run which ended my train rides. The last train ran to Catonsville in April, 1972. I heard the horn, but I lived about 5 blocks away on Eldone Rd., and couldn't get to Beechfield in time to see it pass. I'll have to check out your Yale Heights/Beechfield pages.

QT said...

I too miss the old Edmondson Village days, when you parents could send you to the store and there were no thugs and drug dealers on every other corner. I moved in the Village in 1965. Yes, I moved there straight from Bon Secure Hospital. To this day, I still live in the family house. I attened Thomas Jefferson and Rock Glen. I ventured out of the neighborhood, to continue my education at Western High School.

I miss the days of going to the candy lady on Rokery Road, behind the shopping center, before heading off to Rock Glen. Do you remember going to Tommy Tuckers and they would only let in a certain amount of student at a time? Do you remember going down the steps to the bowling alley, across from Rite Aid? I will never forget the monkeys in the window.

These were the days when people had respect for themselves, others and property. These were the days when we could truly embrassed the saying, "it takes a village to raise a child!" I am still holding out for change. I would not mind moving, but the Village is my heart and soul.

I found this site by accident, but I want to say, "THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES!!!" QT

Ms. Weston said...

My family moved to Rokeby Road the year I was born, 1965. I was one of the first students enrolled at Rognel Heights Elementary School with Mr. Matthews as the principal. We lived directly across from "The Woods" (Leakin Park) when it was lush and full of trees and streams and frogs. We walked to Uplands Apts. every summer day to swim in the pool off Athol Street. The "lifeguard" charged us a quarter to get in and we swam for hours. I'm not even sure if he was an actual lifeguard. I remember walking through the "giddy-cut" behind the shopping center to get to Read's Drug and go to Arundel's to get sherbert and ice cream. I loved-loved-loved growing up there. The problem began with cocain and crack which proliferated the neighborhoods and hit like 80% of the population. I think they thought smoking that stuff was as "harmless" as smoking reefer and they got hooked. Crime peaked, people were hit with the AIDs epidemic and the neighhborhood was in peril. Then you had the flight to the county for those who could and wanted to get out. What a shame. I now own my family home and my mother lives there. I miss seeing children play at the playgrounds and ball games at the ball fields. I wish my children could experience the wonderful times we had. Oh, I remembe the locusts in 1970 (I think) that was incredible.

Ms. Weston said...

My family moved to Rokeby Road the year I was born, 1965. I was one of the first students enrolled at Rognel Heights Elementary School with Mr. Matthews as the principal. We lived directly across from "The Woods" (Leakin Park) when it was lush and full of trees and streams and frogs. We walked to Uplands Apts. every summer day to swim in the pool off Athol Street. The "lifeguard" charged us a quarter to get in and we swam for hours. I'm not even sure if he was an actual lifeguard. Brown's and Bus Stop corner stores. I remember walking through the "giddy-cut" behind the shopping center to get to Read's Drug and go to Arundel's to get sherbert and ice cream. I loved-loved-loved growing up there. The problem began with cocaine and crack which proliferated the neighborhoods and hit like 80% of the population. I think they thought smoking that stuff was as "harmless" as smoking reefer and they got hooked. Crime peaked, people were hit with the AIDs epidemic and the neighhborhood was in peril. Then you had the flight to the county for those who could and wanted to get out. What a shame. I now own my family home and my mother lives there. I miss seeing children play at the playgrounds and ball games at the ball fields. I wish my children could experience the wonderful times we had. Oh, I remembe the locusts in 1970 (I think) that was incredible.

Anonymous said...

Folks there is a edmondson village site on facebook with lots of great memories

McFalls said...

Are you David E. with twin sisters?

Anonymous said...


Paula said...

My family & I lived at the end of Allendale Street. I was the last of 6 children, born Dec.1950. My siblings & I attended St. Bernardine's. We moved after I graduated in 1963; graduating class was < 20 students. My sister attends Mass at St. Bernardine's from time to time; I join her when I'm in town; SBS celebrated their 80th anniversary not too long ago.
My very first job was at Tommy Tucker, $0.75/hour; my Mom worked at Hecht's, an Aunt worked at Hochield's. I too remember the monkeys in front of the barber shop. Remember getting new shoes, having your feet x-rayed for fit? Haven't met anyone familiar with "duck pin" bowling.
There is an Edmondson Village reunion held periodically; most recent was this past May. Sorry I don't have contact info, you may be able to Google.

Kirk Bready said...

My Grandparents, Edward & Nina Bready, lived at 4008 Cranston Ave. when I was born in 1942. As I grew up I often lived with or near them so I have vivid memories of the area.
From my recollections, family reports and recent gleanings from the internet:

> Most of row housing in the area was developed by the James Keelty Co. They also built and donated St. Bernadine Catholic Church to the Baltimore Archdiocese. It was named for their daughter, Nora Bernadine who died in '22, age 6. Many of my friends attended school there. One neighbor who went there, Brian Rafferty, is now pastor of Our Lady Of the Chesapeake in Pasadena (Anne Arundel Co.).

> Another anchor church was Rognel Heights Methodist at Wildwood & Gelston where Grandma was a member from 1940 until she passed in 1992. We last attended services with her in at Easter, 1987. We were the only white folks there but were very warmly welcomed.

> Electric streetcars were still running out Edmondson Ave. in 1951. (They didn't last much longer - too bad!)

> The first Thanksgiving ceremony at Edmondson Village in the late 1940's - the extensive holiday lighting was a real spectacular at the time. "The Village" brought the magical Christmas atmosphere of the great downtown department stores to our western community.
I brought my wife from Memphis for her first visit to Baltimore at Thanksgiving, 1965 - she loved what had become the traditional Village lighting ceremony.

> Post WWII: Housing development resumed along Wildwood Parkway and points west.

> Many homes were still heated with coal into the early 50s. The ashes were put in separate cans, picked up by the City and trucked to a dump site at the edge of the Gwynns Falls ravine near Gelston Drive. That eyesore has since been nicely reclaimed. It may now be the site of Lyndhurst Park.

> I attended grades 2/3 at "PS#88" (now Lyndhurst Elementary). The hill at the back of the playground overlooking Lyndhurst St. provided great sledding in the winter.

> My Grandparents grew uneasy with the changes in the neighborhood that began in the late 1950s. Before racial blockbusting began, many stable homeowners were being replaced by what they called "transients" who rented for a time & moved on, leaving structural and social deterioration in their wake. When I returned from the Navy in 1963, all their neighbors were black - and my grandparents were delighted! The new residents were mostly church-going, hard-working people who took good care of their kids and their homes. My Grandmother told me, "We're a community again!"

> During the troubles of '68, hooligans tore through the Village shopping center and began trying to peddle their loot door-to-door in the surrounding area. Alarmed at first, my Grandparents were very relieved when the men on their street drove the outlaws away. When we visited in 1975, I was saddened to see how the old Village shopping center had declined. It was one of the first planned shopping centers in the nation but the prosperity and optimism it celebrated could not offset the ultimate consequences of racism and its inequities that society attempted to ignore.

I now tour the area using the aerial and street views of Google and Bing maps. I see reason for hope. Many homes have been nicely maintained - and with good reason. I saw those homes being constructed and they are far more structurally sound than a lot of the slap-dash construction that's been done since then. It may take another generation or two for their real value to be realized, but with a decent upturn the overall economy, the area could be quickly restored to its original peaceful stability.

####Kirk Bready

Anonymous said...

I grew up on Stamford Road from 1956 till I moved out and loved every minute of the close neighbors, sidewalks, playground, and bus lines. My neighbor and I walked thousands of miles growing up. We could walk up to Charing Cross and go to the fountain in the pharmecy, Korvettes, Edmondson Village and Westway movie theaters. We went to all thr CYO dances in every catholic church every weekends. All neighborhood kids were safe in any of the all parents helped watch each others kids and we answered to them "like parents". Our signal to come in at night was when the gas street lights came on. I am in the country now and miss talking to neighbors out the kitchen door or front porch. Great memories I hold close to my heart!

david hager said...

My name is Richard David Hager.I lived on mountview rd. I believe it was early 60'S my father worked at beneficial finance. My mother worked at Hecht co. I went to beechfield elementary school. My haircuts were at a barber shop that had monkeys in the front window. I remember across the street from our row house home was a possible retirement home, I want to think it was called ( the old German home) not sure. And the walk to school was a path through a possible old dump. Mostly construction rubble. I remember when Kennedy was assanitated we were sent home, and teachers were crying. Chances are no one will know of this but the world has gone to a place that is far Away from that time but will never be forgotten

Anonymous said...

Did anyone know a Scotty Darell who lived at 606 wildwood pkwy in the 1970's?

Anonymous said...

I lived at 1213 Wicklow Rd from 1956 until we moved to California in December 1968. I remember families by the name of Bowler, McDermott, Pinellas and Blaylock just to name a few. I remember when they built the playground at Leaking Park. I went to Thomas Jefferson #232 elementary school, Rock Glen junior high and Edmondson High. I reamber when they tore the houses across the street from us to build the school. I went to Rogelio Heights Methodist Church walked to the candy store on the corner that I can't remember the name of...I think it was Scottys. The preacher at church was Rev Graber. I remember the "grove" behind the village that we walked through to go to the store for mom. When our block started being bought out by African American families at first I was scared because of all the "hype" of how blacks were. Our new neighbors were a preacher and his wife. And across the alley from us a family by the name of White moved in. They became very good friends of mine...mostly Mrs White because she was so very nice to me. I miss the days when we could go out at night anywhere in the neighborhood and feel safe. We played hide and seek, caught lightning bugs in jars, played hide the belt and swam in our backyard pool until mom said it was time to come in. Life has never and sadly probably will never be like that again.

Mike B. said...

My parents lived with my grandmother in the 3500 blk. Gelston Dr. when I was born. We lived there until 1956 and moved to the 800 blk. Lyndhurst St., by Woodridge Rd. We lived there until 1966 and moved to Arbutus.

I played Little League at Leaken Park, went to St. Bernardine's and graduated from there in 1965. Mother Elizabeth was the Principal and the pastor was Monsignor Veath. We hiked "The Woods" on the weekends all the way from the end of Lyndhurst over to Weathersville Rd. in Dickyville, over to Cooks La. and down Edmondson Ave. back to home. My future wife lived on Cooks La.

We played a lot of football at "The Playground" down on Allendale St. and rode sleds down the hill at the playground. We made "go-carts" with wheels we took off shopping carts from the Food Fair and rode them from the top of Rokeby Rd. at Wildwood Pkwy. down to Lyndhurst to Colbourne and down to the park. We rode our sleds down the same track in the winter in the snow.

I grew up with the Cerniglia's, the Fritzell's, Schneider's, Clary's, Lindenmeyer's, Wright's, Liberto's and God knows who else.

My mother used to send my brother and me to the barber shop next to the "Bus Stop" and would call Mr. Dantin, the barber, to let him know we were coming. Haircuts cost a quarter.

My father grew up on Gelston Dr. and remembered when the playground was a lake. It was filled in back in the 30's or 40's.

Too many memories. I could go on forever.

Mike B.

Anonymous said...

My grandfather owned the Tommy Tucker store in Edmondson Village. It's so nice to hear all these fond memories of the store. Thanks for sharing.