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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Pigtown:All Things Baltimore

Baltimore call itself a City of Neighborhoods. Each and every one of these neighborhoods contributes to Baltimore as a whole. Some things about Baltimore are good while others aren't so good. One thing about Baltimore is that despite the bad press, it's trying harder than ever to become a world class self sustained American City.
Now what makes Baltimore Baltimore? The following list of is a combination of Baltimore's assets and challenges in no particular order. Gentrification, redevelopment, crabs, Babe Ruth, John Waters, Bee Hive Hairdos, Ethnic Population, Black Population, narrow row homes, vacant lots and buildings, crime, sanitation, drugs, prostitution, Corner Stores, Underground Punk Rock Scene, Proud of its quirky history, low High School Enrollment, rotting industrial buildings, Population influx, Population living in the same place for generations, and Marble front steps. Good or bad, this is Baltimore, home to 640,000 residents from Violetville to Lauraville. Now what if there were a neighborhood that was a micro organism for Baltimore as a whole? Well guess what? I've found one; for better or worse it's Pigtown: All Things Baltimore.
Pigtown got its name from the Pigs who ran the streets from the B&O Railroad Station to the many Slaughter Houses that graced the neighborhood. Not all Pigs made it there though, residents were known to snatch one up for dinner. Lately gentrification has de emphasized Pigtown's history thinking its name would turn perspective residents away. They thought "Washington Village" was more fitting. A true Baltimoron, would turn their nose at such a notion and embrace their quirky and proud to call Pigtown Home. Residents still celebrate their history with their annual "running of the pigs" it's exactly what it sounds like.The Corner Store and Watering Hole once was the principal source of neighborhood retail for Baltimore. Baltimore has largely abandoned this but Pigtown, with a few scattered exceptions has kept this tradition alive. If you look and listen closely in Pigtown, you may stumble upon an Underground Punk Rock Scene. This is a little known fact about Charm City but lots of Baltimore's diverse working class neighborhoods house some of tomorrow's budding Punk Rockers. Although born in Ridgley's Delight, Babe Ruth roamed the streets of Pigtown before being forced into St. Marys. John Waters credits Pigtown for keeping its quirky spirit alive and can be seen at SoWeBohemian Arts Festival where the number of BeeHive Hairdos give Hampden's "Hunfest" a run for its money.
Baltimore's housing stock is diverse however, the narrow 2 bedroom 1 bath row home reigns king. This is especially true in Pigtown. If you go to Baltimore and all you see are luxury condos, step away from the Harbor into Pigtown, and pretty much any other neighborhood that isn't "on the water." Although some have been demolished due to extreme blight and neglect Pigtown has vacant row homes that are in much better structural shape than its peers. Could this be your new home? You'd be surprised what a little elbow grease can amcomplish, just any Pigtown resident who's done a complete row house rehab they're easy to find.
Not all Pigs fly in Pigtown. It still struggles with Vacant Buildings, Homicides, Public Health, and low High School Enrollment. This mirrors Baltimore's largest struggles and is not being taken lightly. In an effort to deter crime Pigtown has organized "nights out", neighborhood watch, and Citizens on Patrol. Public Health and Low High School haven't been as successful with drug use and prostitution still rampant on the streets of Pigtown. The two go hand and hand unfortunately. Baltimore has been phasing out traditional High Schools including Southwestern where Pigtown was in the attendance area of. The City is banking on the fact that "Smaller Learning Communities" that emphasize Career finding and Magnet Programs that appeal to students will curb the City's high drop out rate. So far Baltimore's dropout rate is falling which menas that its graduation rate is climbing. Pigtown's drawing power is slowly solving the problem of vacant homes and store fronts.The racial makeup of Pigtown is one Baltimore's most diverse. According to the 2000 Census Pigtown was 49% White, 45% Black 4% Asian 1% Hispanic. Today, I beileve Pigtown to be 43% White 51% Black 5% Asian 2% Hispanic It's more White than and less Black than Baltimore as a whole but boasts one of Baltimore's largest Asian Populations. It's right in line with Baltimore as far as the Hispanic population goes. Pigtown is not a victim of White Flight. Pigtown's Population influx includes new White residents. On the flip side Pigtown has Black residents who have lived there for generations.In the form of gentrification in Pigtown, it came with the development of the Camden Crossing town home development. Although successful, it doesn't quite coincide with the traditional row home development of Pigtown. Camden Crossing however, is graced with tree lined streets, the homes are wider, many with two car garages. Camden Crossing is known as a "Brownfields" redevelopment site as it was built on former industrial land.
Gentrification isn't confined to Camden Crossing alone. Washington Bulevard has been designated as a "Main Street" which has brought new businesses into Pigtown. The above photo shows how close Pigtown is to Downtown. This proximity shows that Pigtown can capture potential Harbor Dwellers who prefer a traditional Urban Neighborhood like Pigtown.
This post shows how Pigtown has made amazing strides in the past several years and how Baltimore, the City of Neighborhoods has a microorganism known as Pigtown whose attributes mirror that of the City and 640,000 of its residents. Pigtown is truly All Things Baltimore.

12 comments:

Michael Lantz said...

I grew up in this neighborhood.I lived in Pigtown from 1967 to 1993.Those pictures are very recognizable.I remember Sappes Pharmacy(my father used to work there as a boy back in the early 1950's),the American Store,Andy & Julies(the best pizzas on the planet).I had alot of childhood memories of pigtown especially shining shoes in the bars like: the Pleasure club,Sids Tavern,Millers Tavern,Dannys Downunder,Petes Bar(now Rainbows Tavern)and etc

Michael Lantz said...

I am glad that there are some people who are trying to clean up the Pigtown area of the drugs and prostitution.

Michael Lantz said...

They need to do some fixing up there and get rid of all the drug dealers and prostitutes and Pigtown will once again will shine.

Celina said...

"Pigtown is not a victim of White Flight. Pigtown's Population influx includes new White residents. On the flip side Pigtown has Black residents who have lived there for generations."

Well, not only does Pigtown's population influx include new White residents, it includes new middle-income professional Black residents too. So, not only is Pigtown ethnically/racially diverse, it's more intellectually and economically diverse amongst its Black population.


--Celina

http://pigtownperspective.blogspot.com/

Spence said...

Celina, You're right that was a theme of this post however, there was at one point White Flight most notably during the 1990s but that has sinced stopped. I think the increased diversity in Pigtown is a good thing. I grew up in Columbia, where everyone was and is a minority.

DB said...

Sometimes what people call "white flight" is really "Baltimore City School Flight." (Blacks can do this kind of flight too). Cheers
Dorian

Spence said...

DB, that is a VERY good point. Dozens of City Schools are draining out their buildings for closure in all neighborhoods across the City. However, the census tracts in some of these areas including Pigtown and the rest of SoWeBo show a decrease in White Population from 1990-2000 but the 2010 census I predict will show a slight white increase and a black increase in these same neighborhoods seeing as they're regaining population across the board. This new population is mostly young singles or UMB Grad Students. Those with kids probably won't send their kids to City Schools. Then again in a bad economy paying for a private school might be out of reach for some Baltimorons who would have done so otherwise. Thanks for the great comment DB! New posts coming soon.

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bld 35956 said...

Hi, I stumbled across this site during a search for photos from Pigtown in 1950-60. I have had very little success with that search. I grew up in Pigtown. I am 63and 1 of 6 kids. We lived in the block where Pickles is today between Pratt and Greene Streets. My grandmother had a boarding house where Camden Yards is today. We hung out at the Camden Street-B&O Station and Carrol Park. Our house is the only one still there at 510 Washington Blvd. I can tell you that blacks are not new to Pigtown. I went to school with them and many of them were my friends.

Anonymous said...

As I was gowing up in the 40's and 50's in the country I got to spend many summers in Baltimore city around the area of Hamburgand Cross Sts. I had relatives on Denver street in that area and have been looking for pictures or info about what happened to that street.

Justin said...

I just bought a rowhome at the cross of James and South Carey street (aka jim carey place) This home had been foreclosed on, but a lot of effort and money was spent in the rehab process, the torch has been passed to me and i'm hoping to get my property cleaned up nicely, especially one the outside. Hoping i can get everyone withing eye shot to want to "keep up with the jones" Nobody wants to be that eyesore of the street. I'm looking forward to really digging into the community.. I'm a county boy, but always been close by.

Does the blog writer live in pigtown? or just have his history skills up :) Great blog btw :)

Spence Lean said...

@Justin, nope I'm from Columbia and currently live in Glen Burnie. I've actually never lived in the City. Baltimore has always been a hobby of mine and in 2007 I began writing my ideas down as a blog and it quickly grew into what you see today. Thank you for your interest.