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When John and I walked into our wood home that was built in 1880, with robin’s egg blue German-lap siding and a white wrap-around porch, we lucked out big time—like, win-the-lottery, jump-for-joy lucked out. The only non-row house on the block, it stands on a double lot with a stone patio and an incredible garden. Every day we thank the previous owner, Paul, who lost his battle with oral cancer last year, for taking such amazing care of the house and gardens. With three stories, our new home has ample room for my basement painting studio and a man cave in the attic for John’s guy time. Despite many updates and renovations, the house still harkens back to the golden age of Hampden and its adjacent neighborhood, Woodberry. In the early nineteenth century, this region of Baltimore, right along the Jones Falls valley, was littered with mills that manufactured cotton duck—the material used to make sails—for ships in our own harbor and around the world. In fact, the Hampden-Woodberry mills made the majority of the world’s cotton duck, and by the twentieth century, this area had the largest workforce in the country. Mill workers came in droves from Appalachia beginning in 1802, shaping the neighborhood and establishing strong ties to the area, ties that are still evident in the current residents—many of which are descendants from these West Virginian mill workers. Hampden’s time of great prosperity took a hit after union strikes in the 1920s pushed the shipping industry towards cheaper mills in the Deep South. The low demand for the sailing cloth in the sixties and seventies shut the mills down for good. While the economy was flailing in the late seventies and early eighties, drug and alcohol abuse, crime, and prostitution were thriving in Hampden, some of which is still prevalent today. I love the history of this area: from the old stone houses to the mills themselves—some refurbished, some in ruins, some redeveloped into high-priced condos for a new generation of workers. But despite the area’s rich history, like any place, Hampden has some not-so-fine moments. I’ve heard horror stories from my black friends whose parents remember a very different Hampden—one to avoid. As a completely white working-class neighborhood, it was known as the marshmallow in a sea of hot chocolate. There’s a strange racial history here; from the twenties through the seventies, the Ku Klux Klan were present on The Avenue. I can’t attest to what it’s like to be black in Hampden, but I can say there is definitely a sense of “old” and “new” Hampden, where the old blood refers to everyone who moved here in the last 20 years as “yuppies.” Gentrification is a double-edged sword, but there’s no doubt that today’s Hampden-Woodberry is a wonderful place to call home. There’s a small-town charm here I’ve never felt living in other parts of Baltimore—Charles Village, Waverly, or even in Homeland where I grew up. There’s a family-owned general store a block away, Chuck’s Market. It has been in the family for more than 30 years, and the owners know all the goings-on and are sincerely interested in her customers’ lives. They keep the bread prices down and stock vegetarian foods because 28

Profile for DomiCile Magazine

DomiCile Winter 2013/2014  

The Winter 2013/2014 Issue is the premiere issue of DomiCile Magazine. It highlights the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland and sho...

DomiCile Winter 2013/2014  

The Winter 2013/2014 Issue is the premiere issue of DomiCile Magazine. It highlights the Hampden neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland and sho...

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