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june 2010 issue no. 72

SURPRISE INSIDE The unexpected truth behind Baltimore’s gritty façade






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june 2010 issue no. 72

features 34

keynote: the urbanist

architect witold rybczynski on what happens in cities while the “experts” are busy making other plans interview by marc steiner


magnet schools

a unique partnership seeks to draw kids back into baltimore’s neighborhood schools— and boost communities at the same time. by joan jacobson

44 25

breaking the silence

druid hill park, baltimore’s “crown jewel,” has remained largely underused for decades. what’s the secret to reviving abandoned urban green spaces? by rebecca messner


summer in the city

a guide to the serene, the strenuous, and the downright strange in baltimore’s wide open spaces by evan balkan



editor’s note


urban legends


what you’re saying


what you’re writing


setting the record straight

into the wild: adventures in antarctica, texas, and high school


this month: summer festivals, baltimore pride, and the stoop live radio show


the goods: gluten-free sweets. plus: hot couture, scooter fever, and the pampered man


baltimore observed the third rail

waiting for the baltimore-washington bullet train by rona kobell

this month online at recipe: more mexican eats


best defense

baltimore heritage marks fifty years of saving endangered buildings. by david dudley


space back of the house

blending indoors and out in an oakenshawe rehab by brennen jensen

on the air: urbanite on the marc steiner show, weaa 88.9 fm june 10: photographer martha cooper on her sowebo project


eat/drink run for the border

a culinary tour of upper fells point by martha thomas


reviewed: milan and petit louis bistro

june 17: the full “keynote” interview with witold rybczynski

69 71

wine & sprits: following the wine trail

june 30: the relationship between city parks and neighborhoods


art/culture shot through the heart

the feed: this month in eating

photographer martha cooper captures daily life in sowebo. by deborah rudacille

plus: absurdist drama, maryland traditions, and this month’s cultural highlights

on the cover:

illustration by emily c-d and urbanite staff


eye to eye

urbanite’s creative director, alex castro, on photographer anne nielsen

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0


issu e 72 : ju n e 2 0 10 p ub lish er Tracy Ward c r e ativ e d ir ec tor Alex Castro gener al m anager Jean Meconi e d i t o r -i n -c h i e f Greg Hanscom m a naging ed ito r Marianne K. Amoss e d i t o r -a t -l a r g e David Dudley liter a r y ed ito r Susan McCallum-Smith proofr eader Robin T. Reid

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urbanite june 10

c o n tr ib uting w r iter s Michael Anft, Scott Carlson, Charles Cohen, Michael Corbin, Mat Edelson, Lionel Foster, Brennen Jensen, Clinton Macsherry, Tracey Middlekauff, Richard O’Mara, Andrew Reiner, Martha Thomas, Sharon Tregaskis, Michael Yockel, Mary K. Zajac ed ito r ia l in ter ns Maria-Pia Negro, Maren Tarro d e s i g n /p r o d u c t i o n m a n a g e r Lisa Van Horn t r a f fi c p r o d u c t i o n c o o r d i n a t o r Belle Gossett d e sig n e r Kristian Bjørnard p r o d uc t io n in t e r n s Tyler Fitzpatrick, John Miskimon, Kelly Wise v i d e o g r a p h e r /w e b s i t e c o o r d i n a t o r Chris Rebbert se n io r a c c o u n t e x e c u t iv e s Catherine Bowen Susan Econ Susan R. Levy account ex ecutiv e Rachel Bloom a d v e r t i s i n g s a l e s /e v e n t s c o o r d i n a t o r Erin Albright b o o k k e e p i n g /m a r k e t i n g a s s i s t a n t Iris Goldstein founder Laurel Harris Durenberger Advertising/Editorial/Business Offi ces 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211 Phone: 410-243-2050 ; Fax: 410-243-2115 w w Editorial inquiries: Send queries to (no phone calls, please). The magazine is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts or artwork. Urbanite does not necessarily support the opinions of its authors. To subscribe or obtain assistance with a current subscription, call 410-243-2050. Subscription price: $18 per year. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission by Urbanite is prohibited. Copyright 2010, Urbanite LLC. All rights reserved. Urbanite (ISSN 1556-8105) is a free publication distributed widely in the Baltimore metropolitan area. To suggest a drop location for the magazine, please contact us at 410-243-2050. Postmaster: Send address changes to Urbanite Subscriptions, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211. Urbanite is a certifi ed Minority Business Enterprise.

photo by Matt Godffrey

Rona Kobell makes her Urbanite debut with a story about the super-fast Maglev train that may someday connect Baltimore and Washington, D.C. (“The Third Rail,” p. 25). Kobell’s introduction to Maglev came about nine years ago when, as a young Baltimore Sun reporter, she encountered scores of Linthicum residents who were livid about the prospect of a high-speed train running through their neck of the woods. She has worked at the St. Joseph, Missouri, News-Press, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Jerusalem Post. Today, she writes for the nonprofit Bay Journal (www.bayjournal. com).

Colin M. Lenton is a freelance commercial and editorial photographer based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He enjoys shooting portraits and documentary work, and his work has appeared in such publications as Adweek, the Wall Street Journal, and the London Financial Times. He also teaches in Temple University’s journalism department. Lenton has a beagle named Franklin, season tickets to the Phillies, and a love for great microbrews and burritos. When he’s not shooting photos, he can be found running, cycling, skiing, or backpacking. For this issue, he photographed Keynote interviewee Witold Rybczynski (p. 34).

editor’s note

In his memoir, Mount Pleasant: My Journey from

Creating a Billion-Dollar Company to Teaching at a Struggling Public High School, dot-com gazillionaire Steve Poizner chronicles his experience teaching uncooperative kids in an impoverished, gang-infested part of San Jose, California. Poizner, who is a Republican frontrunner in the California governor’s race, is making great hay with the tale. But there’s one problem: His description of Mount Pleasant High School and the surrounding neighborhood is, by all accounts but his own, complete hokum. Where Poizner saw violent streets and darkened lives, locals proclaim (and statistics reveal) a peaceful, if painfully average, neighborhood. Intentionally or not, Poisner got the place wrong. That, in a nutshell, is what this issue of Urbanite is about. We all have our notions about this city—which neighborhoods are “good” and which ones are “bad.” But what we see and what is really there may turn out to be quite different. In “Magnet Schools” (p. 38), Joan Jacobson writes about a staffer for a local foundation who decided to test the common knowledge that Baltimore’s public schools were foundering, even in decent neighborhoods. In “Breaking the Silence” (p. 44), Rebecca Messner dares to look beyond the rumored dangers of Druid Hill Park, which turns 150 this year. What they learn may surprise you. Dispelling such urban legends is about more than simple boosterism. For half a century, developers have snatched up farmland outside city limits and put in a school, some parks, a few model homes, and a sign that says, “Get your piece of the good life.” Urbanites have flocked there by the thousands, and the results have been devastating for cities and the environment. But a growing number of efforts in Baltimore seek to turn the very tools that have killed cities into mechanisms of urban revival. They are rehabbing urban parks, overhauling neighborhood schools, rebuilding local business districts. They’re trying to draw people back into the core. People have been attempting this for decades, of course, but the new efforts represent something different. Unlike government and philanthropic efforts aimed at saving the most blighted blocks, these efforts harness private capital by jump-starting real estate markets in “middle neighborhoods”—neighborhoods that are already in decent shape. “As a country, we have rightly focused on very poor people. But that takes us to very difficult places,” says Mark Sissman, president of the nonprofit Healthy Neighborhoods. In contrast, he says of his organization, “we go to some of the best neighborhoods, where problems tend to be less expensive and complicated to solve. Then we move on to the next block and the next block.” There is a danger in this approach. By focusing on these “middle neighborhoods,” we risk pushing the most underserved areas farther to the fringe, where they are easier to dismiss as lifeless, hopeless. But that may be the most insidious myth of all. In the back of this issue is a story by Deborah Rudacille (“Shot Through the Heart,” p. 73) about photographer Martha Cooper, who captures scenes of the vibrant street life in some of the most downtrodden blocks of southwest Baltimore. These images are reminders that we can’t write off any piece of this city as dead—and of the power of human perseverance, even where our markets have failed. Thanks to the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, a group of family foundations that seeks to bolster the middle class in Baltimore and Israel, for partnering with Urbanite on this issue. The resources provided by the Funds allowed us to explore the theme of this issue in greater depth than we could have otherwise, and the partnership also gave us insight into the shifting strategies within the philanthropic world.

photo by John Miskimon

photo by Jesse Walker


—Greg Hanscom

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urbanite june 10

illustration by Chris Rebbert

what you’re saying

a matter of context I appreciate Michael Corbin’s review of my book Brown in Baltimore: School Desegregation and the Limits of Liberalism, along with Antero Pietila’s Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City (“Past Imperfect,” May 2010). I think the two books offer Baltimoreans a look at how we have thought (and avoided thinking) about race in shaping our relations with other citizens and creating our city. We haven’t done very well, but the contribution of the books is twofold: to clarify what we (and those who have preceded us) have done and what our motivations have been. It is tempting to single out heroes and, especially, villains, but doing so can make it harder to recognize broader social responsibility and the ways that institutional systems operate. In my analysis of the actions of the mid-20th-century Baltimore school board, I argue that school officials’ culturally normal American liberal thinking encouraged and enabled them to develop a policy that made desegregation voluntary and ignored students’ race. With a prism that perceives society as composed of independent individuals, liberalism avoids seeing race. And those who don’t want to deal with racial confl ict and anxiety find that liberal thinking and policy serve their political and emotional needs. The book offers an analysis of the relations between American culture, our social and political institutions, and our emotional needs. In this context, it is inaccurate to characterize, as the review did, an individual such as Walter Sondheim as “well-meaning but unrealistic” or to postulate that Thurgood Marshall “knew that Sondheim’s liberalism had its limits.” The point of the book is that we need to examine individual thinking and acting in the context of our cultural

difficulties grasping race. Sondheim wrestled with these problems. I look forward to additional discussion of these issues. —Howell Baum is a professor of urban studies and planning at the University of Maryland, College Park. remember the five ws It may be the “golden age” for young artists in Baltimore (“State of the Arts,” May 2010), but until they develop a smattering of communication skills, their brilliance will never find the audience it deserves. And I’m not just talking about young artists, either. For years I’ve published a neighborhood calendar as a community service. It’s strictly a hobby, and there are no plans to turn it into anything more. One of the major difficulties I face each month is locating the most basic information. I challenge anyone to discover the contact phone number for the Memorial Day weekend Sowebo Festival. I can also show you theater flyers that provide nothing as to where they are located. In the May article, J. Buck Jabaily states, “Cultural institutions have to go out and show they want people to come in the door,” but unless you tell folks where that door is, they’ll stay away. Please, “emerging artists,” study basic communication skills along with your cutting-edge artistic expressions! —Rosalind Nester Ellis, Baltimore don’t forget about us Congratulations on your “State of the Arts” issue (May). The ignition of Baltimore’s arts scene in the last fifteen years is wholly worth exploring and celebrating.

In 1995 Baltimore was rich with artists. But they had almost no support, often didn’t know of each other’s work, and were cut off from collectors, arts lovers, and the nonarts community. The Creative Alliance was founded that year, believing that if artists were promoted, supported, and connected to each other and the broader community, the impact would be transformative. It has been. Over these fifteen years, we’ve hosted thousands of visual, performing, and fi lm artists and offered critiques, salons, countless workshops, services, and resources. Located in Highlandtown, we’ve taken a leadership role in revitalizing our neighborhood. CA is digging deep in our community, offering programs in Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, and Mai-Mai; presenting the work of immigrants and refugees from Iraq, El Salvador, Somalia, Burundi, Bhutan, Mexico, Honduras, and Russia; and introducing Lumbee Indians to Huicholes and cloggers to hip-hop artists. The Creative Alliance works with intention to overcome Baltimore’s de facto segregation, using the arts to both spotlight and bridge barriers and divides. Reaching out to schools, libraries, and teen centers, we educate a thousand kids a year in high-quality, free programs. It’s all we can do to meet the demand for our youth programs. Baltimore is very lucky to have funders committed to arts access and incubation. That’s had a huge impact on the scene. With fun and friendly egalitarianism flavoring our work, along with a profound appreciation for the richness of Baltimore’s cultures, we’ve enjoyed seeing our progressive approach to programming adopted by others. Artists are now at the table addressing our city’s economic and social issues. The entrepreneurial ingenuity, tenacity, and courage of Baltimore’s arts community is awe-inspiring! —Margaret Footner and Megan Hamilton are cofounders of the Creative Alliance at the Patterson. you call that underground? “A whirlwind tour of Baltimore’s underground arts spaces brings together the creators and the collectors.” (“Brushes with Greatness,” May 2010) Let’s try: “Innovative marketing ploy by artists wishing to leave any form of underground behind and empty the pockets of

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the wealthy.” Come on. I know what underground means, and that is not it. I am a visionary outsider artist, and we are out there where these people are no longer. I am not “underground,” but we delight thousands daily for NOTHING! Enough with the marketing ploys. I can’t afford a gallery and don’t want one. Nor do I want bunches of wealthy people drinking champagne trying to buy my stuff. Donations accepted, but there is no commercial effort here nor will there ever be. There is importance in leaving the underground and outside as such. We preserve the vision on the high ground looking down on the capitalist marketing world. Happy to do so! —Conrad Bladey, North Linthicum what’s in there? I was very interested in Clinton Macsherry’s article about homemade liqueurs/cordials (“Cordially Yours,” April 2010). For several years I have been making my own lemon drink, using brandy as a base, lemon juice and zest, and other aromatics. To date, no one has been able to identify the secret

ingredient from tasting it. The idea seems to run in the family: My great-uncle Arnold used to make homebrewed beer many years ago. None of these recipes is very complicated. I’d be interested to know what goes into strega. —David M. Shea, Ellicott City From Clinton Macsherry, wine & spirits columnist: The Liquore Strega brand dates to 1860, according to its producer’s website (, mostly in Italian), and the recipe consists of approximately seventy ingredients. The few listed include cinnamon, iris, juniper, mint, and saffron. Other sources suggest that fennel is a key component but note that the complete formulation remains a secret known to only two people at a given time. My wife’s family isn’t quite that secretive. Aunt Theresa might have gladly shared her bootleg strega recipe—if she liked you. Sad to say, we’ll never know.

what you’re saying of Detroit’s manufacturing heyday in the ’50s. I would love to hear the story from an African American point of view, because blacks were by and large limited to the lowest-paying jobs at the steel mills and excluded from many unions because of color bars. My dad worked for Chrysler in the Motor City until he was laid off in 1958 and always talked about the racial discrimination in the plants.  —Samuel Augustus Jennings, Washington, D.C. From the eds.: Although the excerpt didn’t include that point of view, other parts of Deborah Rudacille’s book, Roots of Steel, do.

We want to hear what you’re saying. E-mail us at or send your letter to Mail, Urbanite, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211. Please include your name, address, and steely discrimination daytime phone number. Letters may be edited What a wonderful, sad story about BalASI Job#: 114762 for length and clarity. timore’s lost blue-collarLive: workers (“In the Insertion Date: REI Contact: Angie Perez Trim: 8x4.875 Pub: Urbanite Shadow of Steel,” April 2010). It reminds me Date: 4-20-10


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INTO the

WILD IT WASN’T UNTIL JUNIOR YEAR that I noticed the social dynamic of high school is strikingly similar to a hostile ecosystem. At my school, we have two types of predators: those who torture their prey physically, and those who torture their prey mentally. Upperclass males tend to be the physical predators. In the quad, they chase vulnerable underclass boys, like cheetahs pursuing a gazelle. They encircle a female underclassman, much like a pack of wolves, and push her around from person to person, never allowing her to fully gain her balance. After stunning their victim, the cluster disperses, meeting again only when new prey is apprehended. The girls serve as the mental predators, befriending their prey and gaining her trust before making the kill. Their typical prey is the insecure girl who desires to be in their social standing: They spread vicious rumors and damage the girl’s reputation, leaving her isolated; they win without ever being identified as the attackers. These girls demand your attention in the hallways and draw you in with their smiles; you never suspect them because you admire and idolize them. The only consistent characteristic of the female predator is that she is never alone. She travels with a posse of equally dangerous and seemingly innocent girls. Every student is prey. Subconsciously, we begin to travel in groups, believing there is safety in numbers. But these high school predators are real and are out to get us. On the fi rst day of high school, all children will soon realize that they too have been thrown into the wild.

—Sixteen-year-old Camaree Barr attends Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and enjoys writing poetry and short stories.

THE LIGHT THROUGH the small round window is intense, blinding. Blinking away tears, I step over the rubber boots of the people that line the sides of the C-17, some reading, some

sleeping. Nothing to see out there, anyway; just featureless blue sky and frozen white ground, the horizon a razor-sharp line, the wing of the giant cargo craft flexing as we are buffeted by turbulence. The passengers are oblivious, cocooned by giant red coats, conversation stifled by the intense noise of the plane’s engines. I’ve been hours in my thoughts, confused and excited and exhausted all at once. Soon we will land on the frozen surface of the Ross Sea, and I will step out into Antarctica, the end of a journey that started months ago, and the beginning of—what? I can’t cross that line in my mind. Antarctica is sled dogs and howling winds. It is brave men struggling and racing to geographic points, some falling along the way. It’s wooden ships and fragile shacks, beards and greasy clothes. It’s nothing I know. The call comes to return to our seats, and I do. Erica, in the seat next to me, flashes an excited smile. We’ll be landing soon. I awkwardly strap myself in, straining to reach in my bulky coat, pulling off my gloves to work the buckle. It’s cold in the cargo hold and getting colder as we descend. We don’t realize we’ve landed until the engines suddenly reverse, throwing us into our restraints as the powerful engines quickly slow down the plane. The crowd cheers, smiling faces everywhere. A short taxi, and then the noise stops as the plane shuts down. The crew is in motion, and we stand, fi xing our cold-weather gear, gathering our carry-ons. Suddenly, the cargo door at the tail drops, and we are flooded with brilliant white intensity and a cold that bites with teeth. We walk down the ramp, into something else. —Charles Village resident Andre Fleuette is a contract firefighter who traveled to Antarctica to work at McMurdo Station on Ross Island. He also enjoys photography, travel, and writing.

what you’re writing IMAGINE IT’S JANUARY 1968. You’re in New York City about to graduate college and you’ve just received your newly minted 1A classification from the U.S. Army in the mail. In 1968 that can mean only one thing: You’re halfway to Vietnam. Of course, you have choices. You could go to Canada. You could have a sex-change operation, or maybe just fake one. Or you could go underground. Maybe South America, a commune in southern California. But suppose you take a more modified approach. Maybe there’s some small, noname, backwater college where you could disappear while enrolled in an MA program? Sure enough, a quick search yields dozens of schools you’ve never heard of tucked away in places you’ve never thought of going, and with hardly any thought you’re on a jet plane to Abilene, Texas, about to register for the spring semester at Hardin-Simmons University. Where? You know where it is on the map, but knowing what it is—that’s something else. Later in life, you’ll take another jet plane to Bolivia, and that won’t be half as strange. But the clues come quickly. At registration you’re asked if you don’t mind sharing room with “a colored boy.” Then you’re introduced to a suitemate whose pillow conceals a .44 magnum. Reaching for a cigarette draws instant disapproval. Beer and other spirits? That’s for way off campus—think other counties. Next, you check out the ladies. They’re all wearing dresses! Now you’re asking yourself what planet you’re on! Your fi rst day of class brings another clue: Comparative Lit is a study of the works of John Milton compared to—you guessed it—the Bible. It’s all downhill from there into more of the mysteries of religious fundamentalism in West Texas in the 1960s. Luckily, within weeks your New York draft board ends your little cat and mouse game and invites you to undergo a “physical,” where, irony of all ironies, they rule you ineligible. Thank you, stomach ulcer! —John Albertella is a new Baltimorean who commutes to his political fundraising job in Washington, D.C., from his home in Mount Vernon.

IT WAS UNFORGIVINGLY COLD that day in Columbia. The old leaves that remained from autumn blew through the air as the wind declared that winter had arrived. Our oversized bubble coats, a teenage fashion trend in the early ’90s, failed to keep the cold air from piercing our brown skin as my cousin and I walked to the neighborhood convenience store. Once inside, we both sighed, that robust sigh most w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0


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people give when passing from bitter cold to warmth. Not sure what we wanted—if anything at all, besides liberation from the house and refuge from that freezing day—we perused the aisles, occasionally picking up potential purchases. It was my cousin who first noticed the middle-aged white man, I assume the owner, watching us intently from behind the counter. After another minute or so the man passed by the few patrons of his fine establishment and walked over to us. He blankly asked what we wanted to buy. My cousin said that we weren’t sure. Obviously annoyed, the man told us that we had been in the store too long and suggested that we buy something quickly. As I chimed in, telling the man that we were just looking, he insisted that our intentions were suspicious and underhanded. He told us to leave. At that moment I didn’t know which environment was more savage: the blistering, frigid wind outdoors or the man’s eyes, just as frigid, in the store. The other cream-colored customers silently pitied us as we left. The walk home wasn’t much like a walk at all— more a sulking trudge, through anger and shame and discrimination and cold. A cold that stung our developing bones more than the air, more than anything had before. ■ —Marquel Melton is a recent graduate of Towson University’s professional writing master’s program. He currently works in the publications department for a government journal.

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for creative nonfiction from our readers. Each month we pick a topic. Use the topic as a springboard into your own life and send us a true story inspired by that month’s theme. Only previously unpublished, nonfiction submissions that include contact information can be considered. We reserve the right to edit heavily for space and clarity, but we will give you the opportunity to review the edits. You may submit under “name withheld” to keep your essay anonymous, but you do need to let us know how to contact you. If you’ve already changed the names of the people involved, please let us know. Only one submission per topic, please. Send your essay to Urbanite, 2002 Clipper Park Road, Fourth Floor, Baltimore, MD 21211, or e-mail it to WhatYoureWriting@urbanite Submissions should be shorter than four hundred words. Because of the number of essays we receive, we cannot respond individually to each writer. Please do not send originals; submissions cannot be returned. Topic Fact or Fiction Harvest Sunrise, Sunset

Deadline June 7, 2010 July 5, 2010 Aug 9, 2010

Publication Aug 2010 Sept 2010 Oct 2010

Elizabeth B. Spannhake, DDS, MS, MPH, Brittney A. Franklin, DMD, MS

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June 3–5

“Cool. Cruel. High School.” The Stoop Storytelling Series’s live radio show last summer was such a hit that the crew is doing it again, and this time it’s all about the joys and pains of high school. Interspersed with the true tales told live onstage will be old-time comedy skits with inventive sound effects and live music from the Egg Babies Orchestra, Victoria Vox, and the 5th L. (For those who can’t be there in person, WYPR 88.1 FM will broadcast excerpts from the show on June 11 and 18.)

Center Stage 700 N. Calvert St. $20 410-332-0033

Charles Village Festival

June 5 & 6

The crowds turn out for the annual Charles Village Festival, featuring food and drink, crafts vendors, kids’ activities, and lots of live music— from jazz and big band to Cajun and Latin. Get out into the neighborhood for the thirtieth annual Garden Walk, a $10 self-guided jaunt through yards north of 29th Street.

Wyman Park Dell Free


June 11–13

This year, HonFest—the celebration of the Baltimore “hon,” with her beehive hairdo, blue eye shadow, and leopard-print anything—is expanding. The festival launches on Friday with live music in Roosevelt Park, then continues on 36th Street Saturday and Sunday with more music, vendors, hon-themed contests, and refreshments from local restaurants.

W. 36th St. Free


June 19

The Baltimore Humane Society’s DogFest is a celebration of—you guessed it—dogs. There’s a day’s worth of activities planned: Pups can bob for bones, paint with their paws, try the agility course, or compete in the costume contest. There’s even a special area for fans of felines, who are welcome to take their kitties too. Just don’t take any retractable dog leashes; for safety reasons, they’re not allowed. Urbanite is a sponsor of this event.

Maryland State Fairgrounds 2200 York Rd. $10 410-833-8848

Baltimore Pride

June 19 & 20

Don your best rainbow gear for Baltimore Pride, billed as Maryland’s largest celebration of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (a.k.a. LGBT) culture. The weekend’s free activities include a high-heel race, a parade, and a block party in Mount Vernon on Saturday, and a festival in Druid Hill Park on Sunday. Twilight on the Terrace, a fundraiser for Pride’s sponsor, the Gay & Lesbian Community Center of Baltimore, takes place June 11 at Gertrude’s restaurant; see website for ticket information.


Great Scale Model Train Show

June 26 & 27

Model train enthusiasts descend gleefully on the fairgrounds in Timonium for the summer installment of the Great Scale Model Train Show, which is all about model trains crafted to scale. Attendees can admire the layouts and browse the wares of more than 450 vendors selling miniature choo-choos, scenery, books, display cases, and more.

Maryland State Fairgrounds 2200 York Rd. $9, children younger than 15 free, families $18 410-730-1036

Photo credits from top to bottom: photo by Leah Miller; photo by Joshua Huebner; photo by Jaime Windon |; photo by Guill Photo; courtesy of Baltimore Pride; photo by Garen Mortensen

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The Main Street Live! Summer Concert Series returns to the Hunt Valley Towne Centre beginning Friday, June 4. This year, don’t miss The Bridge Unplugged, a local rock band that’s always on the road in the United States and Europe; Deanna Bogart, whose soulful blues have won awards as she’s toured the United States and abroad; and Millennium, a high-energy music and dance group featuring past American Idol finalist Travis Tucker. Plus, so much more! The concerts are free to all and run from 7:30 to 9 p.m. every Friday. Enjoy the outdoor concerts, have a snack, grab a drink and pull up a chair courtesy of Greetings & Readings. Thanks to our Concert Series sponsors Greenspring Energy and St. Joseph Medical Center.

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Gluten-Free Gluttony When Renee D’Souza was diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that causes sufferers to react badly to wheat proteins, she faced several challenges: Conforming to a gluten-free diet was difficult and expensive, and the available vittles weren’t exactly palatable. “A shoe tastes better than some of the other products out there,” says her husband, Richard. So Renee, a pastry chef, came up with cupcakes and cookies that rivaled their gluten-laden counterparts, and the couple opened Sweet Sin Gourmet Desserts and Bakery (123 W. 27th St.; 410-464-7211;, a dedicated gluten-free café that also caters to folks avoiding dairy, soy, and eggs. Carrot cake, caramel apple, and Key lime are among the dozens of different cupcake varieties on hand (a rotating cast of about twenty are offered each day). Make it a full meal: Gluten-free soups and entrees are also available. —Maren Tarro

Here Come the Mods Want to be green—and red and white? Look no further than Vespa of Baltimore (6001 Reisterstown Rd.; 888-406-0522; www.vespaofbaltimore. com). The full-service Vespa dealer opened in January and is preaching the doctrine of “Vespanomics”: Most models cost less than $5,000 and can get as much as 90 miles to the gallon. “Piaggio [Vespa’s parent company] is still pumping out hipster-chic rides,” says manager Jessica Iliev. Vespa’s latest models are a bit sleeker than the originals—extra storage, security and navigation systems, and electric ignitions are just a few of the features available—but they retain that classic Vespa styling. —M.T.

photo by Tyler Fitzpatrick

The Cutting Edge Seventy-year-old Nancy Boltz is no blue-haired granny; instead, the jewelry designer and cancer survivor prefers her hair green—as in eco-friendly. Her salon in Hunt Valley, Bee Beautiful (11341 York Rd.; 410-527-4630; www.beebeautiful, stresses social responsibility along with style and pampering. “We are serene and green,” Boltz says. There’s a full menu of salon and spa services, from haircuts to full-body treatments, with an eye on the environment: Ventilation systems suck up fumes from nail polish and hair dye, all products have Earthfriendly elements, and even hair clippings are recycled. Boltz also plies clients with a little nosh. “Because I’m a grandmother I make sure there are always cookies and snacks,” she says. “And wine—after noon, of course.” —M.T.

photo by Tyler Fitzpatrick

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Sparkle and Shine In February, veteran jeweler Rebecca Myers moved shop from Annapolis to Baltimore to join the artisans at Clipper Mill. “It’s great to be in this creative mecca,” she says. The Rebecca Myers Collection (2010 Clipper Park Rd., #109; 410-889-3393; features earrings, rings, necklaces, and more that are billed as “refined, wearable, feminine.” Crafted from silver, gold, and diamonds, the pieces are often inspired by natural forms such as seed pods and flower petals, and many are limited-edition or one-of-a-kind. In Clipper Mill, Myers joins other newcomers Shine Collective (2010 Clipper Park Rd., #105; 410-366-6100;, which features clothing and accessories by local and independent designers, and women’s clothing boutique Form (2002 Clipper Park Rd., #100-C; 410-889-3116; www.formthe

photo by Ralph Gabriner

—Maria-Pia Negro

Well-Groomed Gents 

Conhead’s Men’s Grooming (861 N. Howard St.; 410-669-1402; is a place where men can be men: watch the game, smoke a cigar—and get a mani/pedi. “I’m trying to pay homage to the vintage feel of the neighborhood and the traditional barbershop,” says owner Derick Ausby Sr. The 3-year-old barber shop on Antique Row in Mount Vernon raises the art of barbering to a whole new level of sophistication, offering free Wi-Fi and complimentary beer and wine while maintaining the old-school barbershop air. There’s even a reception on the first Friday of each month that includes drinks and a chef-prepared dinner. —M.T. photo by Kelly Wise

Ella Pritsker, designer of the couture line Ella Moda, is fighting back against mass-produced clothing by teaching the finer points of custom fashion. Her Maryland Academy of Couture Arts (20 E. Timonium Rd., Suite 312; 410-560-3910; www.marylandacademyofcouturearts. com) offers classes for beginning and advanced students, as well as a pattern-making course. “Couture doesn’t have to be out of the reach of the masses; we can create our own couture,” says Pritsker, a native of Russia. Opened last fall, the academy has seen a steady stream of eager fashion-istas tackling sleeve rolls and hand stitching. This summer, Pritsker is partnering with the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Museum on a program for 9- to 12-year-olds (contact the academy for more information). She hopes to show the next generation “how to approach art from the point of fashion.” —M.T.

photo by Kelly Wise

A Stitch in Time 

a L s o i n B a Lt i m o r e o B s e r v e d : 29 Transformer: Baltimore Heritage turns 50

baltimore observed

t r a n s p o r tat i o n

The Third Rail

The proposed Baltimore-Washington Maglev Train has been stalled for years, but still the dream lives on.

courtesy of Central Japan Railway Company

by rona kobell


decade ago, it seemed like nothing could stop the bullet train known as Maglev. The $5 billion levitating locomotive would not only carry passengers between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore in eighteen minutes flat, but would also become an attraction all on its own: Tourists would pay $35 just for a joyride. Even more important, the train would be the engine driving the two cities’ bid for the 2012 Olympics. Baltimore’s new mayor, a rock-star politician named Martin O’Malley, went to Wall Street to sell investors on the idea. Everyone seemed to be on board. Yet almost no one talks about the train anymore. O’Malley, mired in budget woes, has scarcely mentioned Maglev since he became governor in 2006. The project stalled after a bumpy ride through the federal bureaucracy and multiple state administrations—and a head-on collision with one local legislator who won’t let the train pass through his very big backyard. “There’s nothing that moves in a straight line when it comes to this,” sighs Phyllis Wilkins, executive director of Maglev Maryland, a project of the quasi-public Baltimore Development Corp. that has fought to bring Maglev to the area for nearly two decades. “Everything is convoluted.” Yet with a president promising to pour billions of dollars into high-speed rail, rising concerns about the environmental toll of air and automobile travel, and a small but determined group of can-do supporters—including Wilkins, Abell Foundation President Robert Embry, and Greater Baltimore Committee CEO Donald Fry—some say Maglev could again gain steam.

Harbor East Summer Solstice Celebration is grateful for the support of


When Wilkins began working on Maglev in 1992, it was just a big idea, a dream to connect Baltimore to Washington, and eventually both cities to New York and Boston, in less time than it would take to drive or fly. The technology, which uses magnets to propel a train at speeds of more than 300 miles per hour, was young and costly, requiring a whole different track system and right-of-way. (Even today, Shanghai is the only city with a Maglev that takes passengers a significant distance—in this case, to the airport.) But in 1998, a federal transportation bill allocated $1.1 billion for Maglev, including $950 million for construction in whichever city landed the project. The Baltimore team submitted its proposal, along with ten other cities. By 2001, the Federal Railway Administration whittled the list to seven, and then two: Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Baltimore had good reason to be cocksure. Its proposal connected two cities; Pittsburgh’s merely connected the suburbs to the airport. In 2003, Baltimore submitted a draft environmental impact study, then received another $1 million for further research. By that point, however, Maglev was running into opposition. Bob Ehrlich had become governor, and people in his administration “hated the idea,” according to longtime Baltimore Sun government and transportation reporter Michael Dresser. The other obstacle was Sen. James “Ed” DeGrange Sr., who represents Linthicum and Odenton in Maryland’s General Assembly. The proposed routes called for Maglev to run through those communities, and DeGrange had gotten an earful from constituents who’d already had a lifetime of dinner conversations interrupted by planes, trains, and automobiles on account of living near the Light Rail, I-95, I-295, and BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. They’d had enough. So DeGrange, a Democrat, ushered rules through the Assembly in 2004 and 2005 that bar the state from spending money to study or build Maglev. DeGrange says the rule, which remains to this day, was meant to protect not only his constituents but also all taxpayers: Instead of building an expensive and untested third rail, he wanted the state to improve the system it already had. Still, concerns about climate change had policy-makers looking for ways to reduce the number of cars on the road and short-haul planes in the sky. In 2007, Wilkins’s team submitted another draft of the environmental study to the Federal Railway Administration. To update and finalize the study, however, they needed more money from the feds, and to get that federal money they needed to pony up $3.75 million in matching funds. Because they couldn’t

get that money from the state, they assured the feds they could raise funds from private foundations. Last September, the feds declined to fund the Baltimore Maglev study bid, claiming the backers were not eligible to apply because they were not the state. (The fact that Maglev Maryland is a part of a quasipublic entity, with backing from the Maryland Transportation Administration, was not enough.) Funding for further research went to Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, and Chattanooga. Earlier this year, the Maryland Department of Transportation took a shot at getting some of the $8 billion in stimulus money that the Obama administration was offering for high-speed rail. DeGrange agreed not to object to the bid, which requested $1.75 billion for Maglev and a few hundred million to improve MARC and other rail services. Maryland got some MARC money, but nothing for Maglev. The feds said the project was not ready. The project’s backers assumed that was because their environmental impact study was stuck in draft form. “Ironic,” says Jack Kinstlinger, chairman emeritus of Sparks-based KCI Technologies and the project’s chief engineer. “They sit on it for three years, and then they tell us we can’t move forward.” Another project supporter, the Abell Foundation’s Embry, has another word for it: ridiculous. How could Chattanooga get Maglev but not Baltimore-Washington? “There’s no comparison,” says Embry, who blames DeGrange. But the senator is hardly Maglev’s only roadblock, says the Sun’s Dresser. Cashstrapped Maryland has already committed to the Woodlawn-Bayview Red Line and to both the Purple Line and the Inter-County Connector in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. Plus, megaprojects like Boston’s Big Dig, which took two decades and cost $22 billion, have soured the public on major transportation investments. And ultimately, when everything works, the fifty-minute ride to Washington on the MARC train isn’t bad. Commuters mainly complain about delays and inefficiencies. State transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan says the state is adding cars, diesel locomotives, and other upgrades to address those concerns. Still, Maglev’s boosters keep on hoping. President Obama likes rail better than either of the Bushes or Clinton did. A Japanese company recently visited Baltimore, interested in bringing its magnetic train technology to the United States and offering to put Japanese financing behind it. And the city may have another selling point: It’s looking to bid on the 2016 Olympics. ■

Fiscal Woes and Wins: The proposed 2011 city budget has residents wringing their hands, wondering what’s in and what’s out. Parks, police, and fire services appear to have narrowly avoided deep program cuts, although they will all likely need to make do with less. But among those still on the chopping block is the Master Gardener program, part of the University of Maryland Extension. Using city funding, the master gardeners, working with city employees, tended the City Hall garden that last year pumped out more than 2,000 pounds of produce for Our Daily Bread, a hot-meal program for the city’s homeless and hungry. (See Urbanite, Jan. ’10.) Master Gardeners president Dorothy Wells says the garden is labor-intensive and may disappear without the funding. The city council is expected to make a final vote on June 21.

u p d at e

baltimore observed

Blowing in the Wind : Wind turbines

planted in the Atlantic Ocean could produce up to two-thirds of the energy Maryland currently uses , according to a report sponsored by the Abell Foundation and prepared by the University of Delaware’s Center for Carbon-free Power Integration. (See Urbanite, Sept. ’08.) Cape Wind, the Manhattan-sized wind farm proposed for the waters off Cape Cod, finally won the federal government’s blessing in April, but “it’s a good ways off before anyone in Maryland would see offshore turbines,” says Abell program officer Tracey Barbour-Gillett. “It comes down to cost and potential economic benefit, and it will take time to evaluate how both public and private sectors would economically benefit.” Landing on His Feet: Van Jones may be down, but he’s not out. The one-time Urbanite guest editor left his job as White House green jobs advisor following a character assassination led by talk-radio shock jock Glenn Beck. (See Urbanite, April ’07.) But Jones returned to Washington, D.C., last winter to take a job as a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress focusing on green jobs, energy, and the environment. This month, he starts teaching at Princeton University’s Center for African American Studies and in the Woodrow Wilson School’s Program in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy.

—Maren Tarro

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urbanite june 10

photo by John Miskimon

baltimore observed

Groundskeepers: Baltimore Heritage director Johns Hopkins and board member Arlene Fisher—here, on the steps of one of Lafayette Square’s historic buildings—keep an eye on the city’s endangered structures.


Best Defense

Baltimore Heritage celebrates a halfcentury of historic preservation.


n a modest meeting room at the Chase Street headquarters of Baltimore Heritage, the group’s director, Johns W. Hopkins, hands over a thick sheaf of 9-by-14-inch papers. It’s a spreadsheet listing every recipient of the citywide preservation nonprofit’s annual awards—a twenty-three-page litany of endangered buildings, blocks, and sundry elements of the city’s built environment. Winners range from City Hall, which faced demolition threats until voters chose to renovate the mid-19th-century Second Empire building in 1977, to the neon fish hanging in front of Tochterman’s Fishing Tackle, a circa-1938 survivor that received a Baltimore Heritage hat tip in 1991. Among the rest: a trove of defunct churches, apartment buildings, and Gilded Age mansions—enough to keep local history geeks busy for weeks. “We’re an old city,” Hopkins says. “We’ve got a lot of great stuff left.” The 40-year-old ex-lawyer, a distant relation of the university-founding Johns Hopkins, has been executive director of Baltimore Heritage since 2003, but the group itself was founded in 1960, a project of the prominent local architect W. Boulton “Bo” Kelly, among others. With city fathers then in the thrall of Robert Moses-era notions

about urban renewal, Kelly organized historic architecture tours and rallied volunteers to stand athwart plans that would have bulldozed huge swaths of the city’s historic fabric. Since then, Baltimore Heritage has been involved in development struggles over projects great and small, from the Camden Yards warehouse to the Patterson Park pagoda. They advocate for historic rehab tax credits, compile a watchlist of threatened buildings, assist neighborhoods in identifying and leveraging their historic assets, and attempt to inject a preservation-friendly perspective into the city’s urban planning process. “Historic preservation isn’t just bluebloods and tea sandwiches,” Hopkins insists. “In the last fifty years, most of the major city-shaping issues have involved historic preservation.” Unlike their colleagues in the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), which is part of the city’s planning department, Baltimore Heritage “doesn’t have to answer to anybody,” Hopkins says, which gives it more freedom to oppose City Hall-backed development and to defend, sometimes in vain, such causes as the Rochambeau Apartments in Mount Vernon (demolished in 2006 by the Archdiocese of

Baltimore) or the stand of 1820s rowhouses on St. Paul Place that Mercy Hospital razed in 2007. Much of the group’s recent efforts have been trained on West Baltimore, where chronic blight and vacant housing cloud the future of buildings that lie within the Old West Baltimore National Register Historic District, a collection of some five thousand historic structures in five neighborhoods, including the houses surrounding historic Lafayette Square. “We look at that square and say, ‘That’s a serious asset,’” Hopkins says. “If this was in San Francisco, those would be million-dollar homes.” And with a little luck, they might be again someday. “Baltimore Heritage is a force to help people understand how the built environment adds value to lives,” Hopkins says. “McDonald’s doesn’t have to be the only landmark in your neighborhood.” ■ — David Dudley On June 11, Baltimore Heritage celebrates its fiftieth anniversary with a fundraising gala at the Garrett-Jacobs Mansion, a walking tour of Mount Vernon, and other events. For more information, go to w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0




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HOT WHEELS IN THE CITY By Robin T. Reid | Photography by Brion McCarthy For an avid cyclist like Nate Evans, overseeing Baltimore’s grand plan to encourage commuters to bike would be a dream job. He’s also a big fan of making Charm City more walkable too. The city’s first full-time bike and pedestrian planner discusses new trails, new rules, and incentives.

Q: How did you wind up as Baltimore’s bike maven? A: I’ve always been a passionate cyclist. I learned to ride when I was about five and haven’t stopped since. When I was seventeen, I bought a mountain bike instead of a car. Before I came here two years ago, I was a civil engineer for a private company working on highway projects. Q: How’s it been so far? A: Overall, it has been a great experience helping Baltimore to become more bike-conscious. The biggest hurdle I face is educating city residents that biking is a viable form of transportation. Cycling is not just for those who wear Spandex and ride ultralight road bikes. It’s also for those that have no other way to travel and those who choose to have a cleaner commute.


Q: What is the city doing to increase its bike and pedestrian infrastructure? A: We’ll have three sections of trails under construction, two on the Jones Falls and one on the Gwynns Falls. We’ll also have two bike networks under construction this summer; these include bike lanes, routes, and directions specifically for cyclists to common destination points. The two networks will be in Park Heights and Southeast Baltimore, adding another 35 miles of bike facilities. We currently have 45 miles of bike routes, lanes, and “sharrows,” share-the-roads. We’ll have two designated bike routes along Lake Avenue and Bellemore Road to connect Mount Washington to Belvedere Square and Chinquapin Park. The other route along Park Avenue and Druid Lake follows streets with low traffic volume and speed. Given these conditions, we’re installing signs and mileage markers along these routes.

Baltimore has had a trail along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard that is a 10-footwide sidewalk. Legally, bikes are not allowed on sidewalks in the city. However, since the AASHTO [American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials] says that 10 feet wide is an acceptable trail width, it will be a trail that will go along MLK to Camden Yards. When the city resurfaces a roadway, we upgrade the sidewalks and ramps and add bike lanes where appropriate. The city’s Alleys and Footways section has been doing sidewalk repairs as well to improve walkability and the streetscape. Q: What is the city doing to make motorists more aware of cyclists and pedestrians? A: We’ve been really fortunate that the State Highway Administration did a safety campaign about this, which started last year. The campaign included ads on the back and sides of buses to give a human presence to

THIRTY-FOUR PERCENT of all pedestrian and bicycle crashes in Maryland occur in Baltimore City. The Baltimore metropolitan region averages 1,700 pedestrian and 500 bicycle crashes each year, resulting in an average of 52 fatalities per year. In response to these staggering numbers, Street Smart was developed in 2009 as an annual public education, awareness, and behavioral change program. It has used radio, newspaper, and transit advertising, public awareness efforts, and targeted law enforcement to respond to the challenges of pedestrian and bicyclist safety. Street Smart utilizes the momentum of concurrent activities associated with the Washington, D.C., campaign.

cyclists on the road. We’re partnering with other groups like the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, and we’ll have a presence at the June 26 Tri-Parks Festival in Lake Montebello. Local bike groups will be there to help fix bikes. Q: What kind of enforcement is done to protect pedestrians and cyclists? A: Bill 09-0430 before City Council proposes to set fines at $50 for parking in a bike lane. Police regularly patrol the bike/pedestrian lanes around Pratt Street and will cite vehicles in the lane. Q: What kinds of hurdles does the city face to make this a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly place? A: The number one issue for cyclists is harassment from motorists, who are either driving too close or are verbally abusive. After that, unsafe storm

grates are an issue; DOT upgrades storm grates with existing construction projects, so you can ride over them safely. Other hazards are the old streetcar tracks; a cyclist’s wheel can get stuck in the groove and throw the rider. Whenever we resurface a road, we try to remove the tracks, making the road safer for all users. Q: What groups are you working with to promote commuting by bike? A: The main group would be the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, which put together an excellent Baltimore Commuter Guide. It gives a step-by-step guide on how you can go from being a car commuter to being a bike commuter. We also have the Mayor’s Bike Advisory Committee; it’s a group of people who are serious about biking. They’ll get people out and show them how to ride. Google Maps has just released bike directions as it does for cars and transit. We supplied

Street Smart emphasizes educating motorists and pedestrians through mass media. It is meant to complement, not replace, the efforts of state and local governments and agencies to build safer streets and sidewalks, enforce laws, and train people to be better drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. The program is coordinated by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and is supported by federal funds made available through state governments. The 2010 Street Smart campaign runs throughout July. Apart from the mass media and public awareness components, additional campaign elements include high visibility street teams that will be canvassing neighborhoods in and near Dundalk on corridors that have been identified as dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. These efforts will be followed up by coordinated law enforcement activities such as training new officers on bike and pedestrian laws, identifying corridors that have bike and pedestrian crash issues, and targeted bike and pedestrian enforcement on selected corridors.


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The Urbanist Architect Witold Rybczynski on what happens in cities while the “experts” are busy making other plans. interview by marc steiner   |  photograph by colin m. lenton


itold Rybczynski is no great fan of urban planning. In a recent column in Slate, he offered a note of caution about city “smart plans” championed by the director of President Barack Obama’s new White House Office of Urban Affairs. “The last binge of planning in the 1960s produced urban renewal, city expressways, and acres of housing projects from which many cities are still only partially recovered,” he wrote. He concluded by paraphrasing the great urban planner Daniel Burnham: “Make no big plans, only small ones.” Rybczynski is an architect, author of more than a dozen books, and, during the day, the Meyerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. In a forthcoming book, Makeshift Metropolis: Ideas about Cities, he explores the forces—and the people—that have shaped the contemporary urban landscape, including writer and historian Lewis Mumford, who championed small-scale urban planning as a way to balance people’s lives with their surroundings, and Jane Jacobs, who rejected planning and reveled instead in the yeasty, chaotic energy that animated places like Greenwich Village. (Jacobs’s 1961 book, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, is required reading for every student of contemporary urbanity.) Then Rybczynski describes the imperative for a new breed of ecologically friendly city, built to meet the challenge of sustainability in an age of global environmental crisis. So how, you might wonder, do we get there without big plans? His answer to this question, he says, has been shaped by his time teaching in the real estate department of the Wharton business school. Where planners and architects traditionally work to design spaces that function the way they ought to—walkable neighborhoods with green spaces, bike paths, and public transportation—the budding MBAs in the real estate program are more interested in what people want from a place. Ultimately, the business students believe that it is the market that decides what works and what doesn’t—a philosophy that Rybczynski says has proven sound. “Real estate entrepreneurs … long ago replaced planners as the chief urban strategists,” he writes in the preface to Makeshift Metropolis.

Still, Rybczynski recognizes the need for a larger vision—if not big plans, then at least many small ones. “The kind of cities that Americans want, and the kind of cities that the present environmental crisis suggests that we need … turn out to be not at all the same,” he writes. “Resolving this contradiction is the prime challenge for the next generation of city builders.”


In your latest book, Makeshift Metropolis, you write a lot about Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs, two of the great thinkers about the urban world.


The interesting thing about cities is that it’s not a science; it’s not something you can study. Jane Jacobs was self-taught. She was a journalist. Mumford was also not an academic. He was really an essayist and a journalist. Often the most interesting writing about our cities has come from these unexpected directions. Despite what city planners sometimes say, it isn’t really a science where people have black and white answers for everything. And often when we do have black and white answers is when we get into trouble, which is what happened in the ’60s, where we thought we knew how to re-plan cities with urban expressways and public housing projects and superblock projects, and really created a great deal of problems. Many cities are still recovering from that “urban renewal” period.


This city suffered mightily from urban renewal and de velopment and city housing projects and gigantic highways that divided the city and ended up going nowhere.

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We [in the United States] are not like France and England that have one major city. We have many important cities. These cities compete with each other. When an idea comes along, like urban expressways, it spreads because cities don’t want to feel that they’re falling behind. So things like pedestrian malls—which were a terrible idea—there were hundreds of them across the country. Boston was one of the five biggest cities in the country a hundred years ago, and today I think it’s number twenty-five. Then there are cities like Detroit that have lost population and are economically worse off than they were in the 1920s. It’s a kind of a ruthless system where you can get bumped off the train very easily.


In the last fifty years, the middle class has fled to create the suburbs. Cities have become mired in poverty. This whole young urban movement is growing, but it is really a small percentage of the people in those cities.


Remember all those novels written when cities were growing, by people like [Charles] Dickens? The city was the place that attracted ambition. The other people stayed in the village and stayed farming, and their lives changed slowly, but the really ambitious people made it to the city. Today, if the city no longer attracts those people, that changes the city, too. New York still has the ability to attract ambition. People [go there] from all over the world, and that keeps the city going. It’s as if you were priming the pump of the city continually. That’s very important for a city if it’s to be vital and active.


How do you think that 21st-century cities can creatively, intelligently accommodate middle-class families and younger thinkers?


A big question is whether Americans will change their minds about living in cities. If we’re very young, we’re attracted to cities, and we’re also attracted when we retire; our kids grow up, and we get tired of living in the suburbs, and the city becomes an attractive place again. What we haven’t succeeded in doing is convincing ourselves that cities are a place where you could raise a family. That’s a big cultural question. Part of the answer is going to be the green movement. Part of the answer will be very high gas prices. For a certain number of people, commuting, spending all this money on a large freestanding house suddenly becomes a lot less attractive, and the city becomes a more attractive place.


Are there places that you study that are retooling urban neighborhoods in a way that make them safe and thriving places for families?


There are about half a dozen American downtowns that have attracted significant populations, which can then support amenities and stores and things like that. That is more than we had thirty years ago. Remember, there is no tradition of living downtown in American cities. Traditionally American downtowns were commercial. That has changed, but it’s a very small change. Montreal has tried to recreate the neighborhood by decentralizing its government somewhat and having neighborhood-level

governments. [They] try to recreate that pre-industrial sense that you had a neighborhood, you controlled things—there was a parish and a school, and you related to that, not to the whole city. That’s one option—breaking it down, creating some kind of neighborhood-level jurisdiction. It’s sort of like making small towns within the big city.


You wrote a book about Frederick Law Olmsted. In your new book, you write about Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs. Supposing that here in the 21st century you had them all in a room. Tell me what you think they would think about where we are now.


What’s strange is that they are all very influential, and their ideas have borne fruit, but in some ways not in the way they expected. With Jane Jacobs, her influence is enormous. You can’t underestimate her influence on planners or anyone who manages cities or deals with cities. The same way that Julia Child taught Americans how to eat, [Jacobs] taught Americans how to live in cities. She’s continually fascinated by this idea that you have this very large number of people, and that it’s the decisions of many individuals in the city that finally make the city. It isn’t about grand plans; it’s about all these individuals doing things. It’s what makes cities attractive. They’re not predictable. You can find all sorts of niches in cities. It hasn’t been planned except in a very rough way. What’s happened is that [her ideas have] almost become too successful. The problem is that there aren’t enough Greenwich Villages to go around. The places she loved and studied and wrote about have become very exclusive. Greenwich Village, or Society Hill in Philadelphia—these attractive old neighborhoods have become very expensive. Most people wouldn’t even think of living there. They couldn’t afford it. I think that would have surprised her. Although she was so smart that maybe she foresaw that too. The one that would be the most positive is probably Olmsted. In the last decade or two, we’ve started building urban parks again. They’re not quite as big as his were. But the public spaces in the city kind of disappeared. From 1900 to 1980, parks were not something that cities created; it was considered old-fashioned. Now I think every city has one or even several new, big, urban parks being built or being planned. The idea has come to life again.


Do you think that urban planning is a waste of time?

No. I think cities are fascinating … I’m very strong on development. I think that the private market is what has created American cities from the beginning. [Urban development is] driven by entrepreneurs and risk-takers. But the public government has a role to play. It can make these projects very difficult or expensive, or it can encourage them. The downside of the private market is that the developer is only thinking about his own project. Somebody does have to put the pieces together or link them up when they need to be linked. That is the city itself. Cities are not very good at developing, but they do have that responsibility, and they do have the tools to deal with transportation and infrastructural issues. Only the city can do that. ■

On the air: Listen to a podcast of the full interview with Witold Rybczynski at or tune in to The Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM, on June 17. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0




A unique partnership seeks to draw kids back into Baltimore’s neighborhood schools—and boost communities at the same time. By Joan Jacobson | Illustration by Deanna Staffo



11:55 AM

Page 1

Your favorite seagulls want you to call


Check in before you leave to cross the Bay Bridge for current traffic conditions.

Martin O’Malley Governor

Anthony Brown Lt. Governor

Don’t wing it. Plan ahead.

When Jennifer DiFrancesco and her husband, J.T. Paulk, started looking for a home in the Baltimore area in 2006, acquaintances steered them away from the city, toward Lutherville or Timonium. But the suburbs just weren’t their style. “We wanted more diversity,” says DiFrancesco, a reverend and the associate pastor at the Second Presbyterian Church in Guilford. “White Republicans didn’t always fit us. We intentionally picked living in the city.” They settled contentedly in a rowhouse in Charles Village just one block from the neighborhood public school, Margaret Brent Elementary-Middle School. But when it was time for their oldest daughter, Ellie, to start pre-kindergarten, they were again advised to look elsewhere. The Margaret Brent school was a virtual island in Charles Village, a modern architectural interloper with a sweeping arch straddling North Calvert and St. Paul streets, surrounded by rowhouses of an earlier era. The school’s architectural isolation hinted at deeper issues of social and racial segregation: The student body at Margaret Brent was predominantly poor and African American; the white middle-class parents of Charles Village sent their children to private schools, citywide public schools, or a growing number of city charter schools. The neighbors’ misgivings about the school may have been motivated by race and class, but their doubts were not unfounded. For decades, the academic standards at Margaret Brent had been dismal. “There wasn’t as much dedication and commitment to children as there should have been,” says Jacqueline Waters-Scofield, who took over as principal in 2006. Before she arrived, test scores were so low that the school received the lowest possible classification from the state—“reconstitution eligible”—putting it under strict state supervision. Still, DiFrancesco wanted a closer look. She visited Margaret Brent, met with Waters-Scofield, and even joined the school’s budget advisory committee. In the process, she discovered that there had been a dramatic transformation. “A lot of things we were told [before visiting the school] were blatantly wrong,” she says. “And I’m glad we didn’t listen.” All over Baltimore, city schools like Margaret Brent are suffering from a poor image that no longer holds true. An increasing number of city school children are meeting or exceeding standards on statewide test scores. According to Baltimore City Public Schools, the number of students from grades three to eight who scored “advanced” on statewide tests more than doubled from 2004 to 2009, from 2,561 to 6,355. Enter the Neighborhood-School Partnership, a novel idea for an urban area: Instead of attempting the herculean task of transforming

A lot of things we were told [before visiting

the school] were blatantly wrong,” says Jennifer DiFrancesco, whose daughter is enrolled in

pre-kindergarten at the Margaret Brent school. “And I’m glad we didn’t listen.” the worst schools (the city’s school leaders are already trying to do that), the program, funded by the Goldseker Foundation, is pouring almost half a million dollars into spreading the good word about schools that are working well—and in the process, giving both the schools and the surrounding neighborhoods a boost.

The Neighborhood-School Partnership program is an out-

growth of Healthy Neighborhoods, a nonprofit organization started by the Goldseker Foundation in 2001 and funded by numerous banks and foundations. The approach taken by Healthy Neighborhoods was counter to what Baltimore, other cities, and the federal government had done in the past. Baltimore was a national leader, dating back to the 1960s, in spending millions of federal dollars to rejuvenate some of the city’s worst slums. Some efforts, like the “dollar house” program, which offered homes for a buck to anyone willing to fix them up and live in them, transformed communities like Otterbein near the Inner Harbor and Sterling Street in East Baltimore. Others, like rehabbing and selling entire blocks of houses at reduced prices in Park Heights in Northwest, failed amid the city’s heroin epidemic, high crime rate, and abject poverty. The Healthy Neighborhoods approach, in comparison, is based on building a market for housing in more stable “middle neighborhoods,” encouraging residents and newcomers to invest both time and money. It does this through what amounts to a self-help program for communities, encouraging residents to identify the things that make their neighborhoods unique and valuable. Homeowners, bolstered by targeted investments from developers and philanthropists, then prime the pump for more development. “We’re all drawn

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to the worst problems in the toughest places,” says Healthy Neighborhoods President Mark Sissman. “It makes sense to build a neighborhood from the strongest blocks outward, but housing programs all do the opposite.” This shift—away from the most bombed-out neighborhoods and toward “the strongest blocks”— has yielded impressive results over the past decade in neighborhoods throughout the city, many of which have received support from Sissman’s organization. (See “The Color Line,” Feb. ’10 Urbanite.) Today Healthy Neighborhoods works in forty-one communities, including Patterson Park, Highlandtown, Greektown, and Bayview in East Baltimore; Greater Lauraville and Belair-Edison in Northeast; Coppin Heights, Mondawmin, and Edmondson Village on the west side; and Greater Homewood in North Baltimore. Funds go toward home renovations, acquiring vacant houses for rehabilitation, decreasing the time houses are on the market, and increasing the city’s tax base. The idea to expand the Healthy Neighborhoods concept to local schools in some of these neighborhoods came from Goldseker Foundation President Tim Armbruster and the foundation’s program officer, Laurie Latuda. After so many years of city public schools getting a bum rap in their own communities, Ambruster says he wanted to take another look at how schools were performing in the areas where Healthy Neighborhoods worked, especially since the reform efforts of city public schools CEO Andres Alonso. In the fall of 2008, Latuda began to pore over the schools data. Her question: How well were local schools—both public and private—faring, compared to the best schools in the city and the state? “For decades these schools were seen as liabilities in neighborhoods. We were trying to test the evidence,” she says. Latuda started with test scores, and what she found was surprising: Many of the public schools within the forty-one targeted neighborhoods were not only beating citywide scores in reading and math, she says, but sometimes also statewide test scores. She continued checking school attendance records, as well as parent satisfaction surveys and safety records, and found that many of the schools were above average, even by statewide standards. After looking at all the data, Latuda and Armbruster concluded that in terms of community development, the schools should be viewed as assets, not liabilities. If they could change the perception of the schools, they could draw people into these neighborhoods— and at the same time, provide a real benefit for the schools, too. There was a hidden synergy that just needed to be excavated. Last July, Goldseker put out a request for proposals for partnerships between neighborhood organizations and local schools, making it clear that poorly performing schools were not eligible. The money would go toward connecting each neighborhood with its schools—

We’re all drawn to the worst problems in the

toughest places,” says Healthy Neighborhoods

President Mark Sissman. “It makes sense to build

a neighborhood from the strongest blocks outward, but housing programs all do the opposite.” “to bring the school into the neighborhood,” says Latuda, “and the neighborhood into the school.” School reform is not the end goal, says Ambruster: “We were very intentional to describe this as an extension of community development work.” Paul Brophy, a nationally known consultant in housing and neighborhood improvement and an advisor to the Goldseker Foundation, says the idea of using schools as magnets for urban development “is fairly unique.” The most comparable effort, he says, is a partnership between the University of Chicago and that city’s South Side, where the university helped found four public charter schools ten years ago. Today, these neighborhood charter schools have long waiting lists, high test scores, and high graduation rates, says Hank Webber, former vice president for community and government affairs at the University of Chicago, who now works at Washington University in St. Louis. “The schools were laboratory schools to test new ideas, but also the key ingredients in revitalizing communities. “There are three things you need to revitalize a community,” says Webber: Safety, quality housing, and quality education.

At the Margaret Brent school in Charles Village, Principal

Waters-Scofield felt that she had already come a long way toward providing quality education. In the three years she’d been at the school, she had brought in new teachers, raised academic standards to pull students up to grade level, and made sure teachers were using techniques that would improve student test scores. Today, the school’s scores, while still low in its middle school grades, have significantly continued on page 81

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Open seating: A park bench sits empty in front of the Chinese Pavilion, built in 1863 as one of three stations for the long vanished Druid Hill Park railway.

g the Silence What’s the secret to reviving abandoned urban parks? STORY BY REBECCA MESSNER PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALAN GILBERT AND DOUG MILLER

Grrand entrance: Years ago, city residents could ride a trolley to the Druid Hill Park gateway on Madison Avenue, designed by architect George Aloysius Frederick and completed in 1868.





it,andsixlanesofbusytrafficstandbetweenyouandthepark’sleafy,rollinghills. Itwasn’talwaysthisway.Decadesago,youcouldgetoffthetrolleyatthegateway,

walkunderthearchesofNovaScotiasandstone,andbetransportedimmediatelyintoa bucolicparadise.Wroughtirongatesoncespannedthearchways,openinginthemorning and closing at 9 p.m. Forthefirsteightyyearsofthepark’sexistence,residentsoftherowofhouses thatfacetheparkhadonlytocrossaquiettwo-waycarriageroadtoaccessthegrass.

Whistle stop: Tucked under the oaks near Druid Hill Reservoir, Latrobe Pavilion was one of three railway stops designed with themes adapted from Asia and the Near east.

“The park went all the way up to the houses,” says Anne Draddy, co-author of Druid Hill Park: The Heart of Historic Baltimore and coordinator of the Tree Baltimore program for the city’s Recreation and Parks department. “It must have been amazing.” But the ’20s and ’30s brought about the need to accommodate the growing numbers of cars traversing the city. In 1940, the city built Druid Park Lake Drive between the park and the neighboring houses, connecting neighborhoods on the west side of the park to downtown. The road swelled to its current girth twenty years later, fed by an offramp from the freshly constructed Jones Falls Expressway. Today the road, which lacks clearly marked crosswalks and pedestrian traffic lights, is a formidable obstacle for locals wanting to access the park, says Rick Gwynallen, associate director of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council. “It’s better than a wall.” These lanes of traffic stand as a symbol of the barriers that separate Druid Hill Park from the communities that surround it. Druid Hill was one of the first and largest public parks built in this country, designed in later years by the renowned Olmsted Brothers. The park is centrally located and, at 745 acres, one of the largest in the city. In addition to the towering oak trees that are thought to have inspired its name (the druids, Celtic priests, were said to be especially fond of oaks), it houses the Maryland Zoo, the stunning Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory, a swimming pool, tennis courts, an eighteen-hole disc golf course, and the Druid Hill Reservoir, which boasts one of the best views of downtown in the city. It’s been called Baltimore’s Central Park, our crown jewel. And yet it has remained largely underused for decades. As Druid Hill Park celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, park advocates are asking why the place has resisted the kind of renaissance we’ve seen in Patterson Park and elsewhere. And there are larger questions, too: Is it possible, especially during penny-pinching, budgetslashing days such as these, to revive an urban park when the communities around it are struggling too? What do you save first, the park or the neighborhoods—and can you rescue one without the other?


nce a country estate, the land that comprises Druid Hill Park was purchased by Mayor Swann for Baltimore City in 1859. It opened in 1860 as Baltimore’s first public park and the third public park in the country. Originally designed by engineer and landscape architect Howard Daniels, the park was a Victorian haven, with winding carriage roads, sheep-fi lled meadows, and ornate picnic shelters. The Baltimore Zoo (now the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore) opened in 1876, and for the better part of a century it spread throughout the park unfenced; admission was free. “In the summertime we could hear the lions roar from our house,” remembers Jean Wright, 83, who has lived in Reservoir Hill, south of the park, all her life. Other residents recall on hot nights before air conditioning, entire families gathering up blankets and pillows and sleeping in the park. From the early 20th century until World War II, Reservoir Hill was part of an enclave of wealthy Jews, mostly from Germany or Eastern Europe. By the 1950s, however, the majestic old mansions of Eutaw Place had been broken up into apartments, and many of the Jews had left for the suburbs, often following the newly widened Druid Park Lake Drive northwest to Liberty Heights and Pikesville, according to the recent history, Druid Hill Park: Jewish Baltimore’s Green Oasis, by local historian Barry Kessler. The neighborhood has struggled since with disinvestment. As the neighborhood declined, so did the park. From the 1940s through the 1960s, many of the streets around the park were widened to accommodate increasing traffic, while the Jones Falls Expressway, built in 1960, severed the park from its namesake river to the east and the neighborhoods of Remington and Hampden. In the 1970s and ’80s, the park—large, leafy, and little patrolled—became a haven for illegal activity. “In the ’70s, it became a scary place,” Draddy says. “There was no zoo fence until 1970. In 1970 the fence goes up, and it cuts off the front of the park [the south side] from the back of the park [the north side]. So then only the bad people start using the back of the park. Drugs w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0


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and whatever else. I think it became scary, and with parks, when something happens it takes years to dispel that reputation.” For the surrounding communities, Druid Hill changed from an asset to a liability. “I never really saw the park in the ’60s and ’70s as an amenity,” says Earl Arnett, former president of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council and a longtime resident of the area. “I didn’t spend much time there. If anything, I maybe shared the perception that it was somewhat dangerous, although I don’t think it ever really was.” Acre for acre, the park was surely safer than the surrounding streets, but there was crime in Druid Hill. In the early 1980s, the Sun ran stories about a man found shot dead in his car in the park and a young girl who was raped there by a man pretending to be a police officer. Even in the early 2000s, Druid Hill had one of the highest crime rates of any park in the city, according to a 2008 study by researchers with the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. Today, isolated incidents that get attention from the press do nothing to dispel this notion: The first homicide of 2010 occurred on the 2300 block of Ocala Avenue, just outside the park. In the last few months, the park has made headlines for the assault of a well-known TV sportscaster and the illegal burial of a murdered infant.

“It’s one of those chicken and egg things,” saysTimAlmaguer,executivedirectorofFriends ofPattersonPark.“Theparkfallsdown,and thecommunityfallsdown.It’sasymbiotic relationship, positively and negatively.”


rime and public image problems are certainly not unique to Druid Hill. In the middle of the 20th century, cities became more interested in building fast, efficient ways for their citizens to escape to the suburbs than in offering reasons to stay (see the Jones Falls Expressway and nearly every Robert Moses highway constructed in and around New York). The result was disinvestment in cities themselves and the parks within them. Even New York’s Central Park, surrounded by some of the most expensive and historic real estate in the country, was a crime den in the 1960s and ’70s. In Baltimore during those decades, arsonists burned down abandoned buildings in Patterson Park, says Tim Almaguer, executive director of Friends of Patterson Park. As recently as ten years ago, he says, cleanup crews with the newly formed Friends group “would literally fi ll biohazard bottles full of syringes.” “It’s one of those chicken and egg things,” Almaguer says. “The park falls down, and the community falls down. It’s a symbiotic relationship, positively and negatively.” It was a problem that cash-strapped city governments across America were in no position to solve. Then, beginning in the 1980s, nonprofit groups were formed

Play ball: The Patterson Park “extension,” developed between 1908 and 1915 under the guidance of the Olmsted Brothers, is the site of daily pick-up soccer games played by residents with Latin American, African, and european backgrounds.


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Family league: Abandoned tennis courts in Patterson Park have been repurposed for volleyball. “This is a predominantly Latino league,” says Tim Almaguer with Friends of Patterson Park. “entire families come out and play and watch the games.”

“Iwasatameetingonce,andpeople fromtheneighborhoodssurroundingthe parkweretalkingaboutgettingarec center,”saysFriendsofDruidHillPark ExecutiveDirectorTomOrth.“Theywere saying,‘Weneedareccenter!Weneeda reccenter!’Andsomeonefromourgroup stoodupandsaid,‘Youhave750acresof rec center across the street.’”

that harnessed private capital and volunteer labor to clean up and reclaim urban green spaces. The fi rst act of the pioneering Central Park Conservancy in New York was to erase some 65,000 square feet of graffiti that spattered the park’s architectural structures. By removing these tags of ownership, the group hoped to signal a shift in leadership and inspire people to treat the park with more respect. It worked. Central Park today is arguably the safest and best maintained park in the country. These early players, too, had to dispel old notions of parks as unsafe places. Tupper Thomas began the revitalization of the Olmsteddesigned Prospect Park in Brooklyn in the mid-’80s. The park at that time was considered so unsafe that Thomas’s neighbors thought she was crazy for trying. “There was this theory that it wasn’t safe to go to the park because there were trees and shrubs all over the place,” says Thomas, who recently announced her retirement after thirty years at the Prospect Park Alliance. “So the city actually went and cut all the understory in the forest, out of fear that crimes would be committed there. “It’s not a tree or a shrub that causes crime in city parks,” she says. “You should not destroy the beauty of your park. You should have more police, or you should have more activities.” One of Thomas’s first moves was to announce off-leash hours for dogs from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. Happy dogs and their owners flocked to the park. The lesson: Give the community an incentive to get back into the park, and people will ultimately care more about it. “You’ve got to have people who will fight for it,” Thomas says.

Park advocates in Baltimore used some of the same tools. When the Friends of Patterson Park formed in 1998, the group advocated for city and state funds to restore what they considered to be the most iconic structure in the park: the pagoda. From there, they restored the boat lake and the 1865 marble fountain—the oldest architectural element in the park—and organized events like parades, sports tournaments, performances of Shakespeare, and bike races. “We knew that having these facilities restored and building programs around them would get people involved, give them a sense of ownership of the park,” Almaguer says. “And then they might come back and plant trees or do a cleanup.” The group also saw increased park programming as a way to “push the bad things away,” Almaguer says. “People don’t like to be seen doing bad things. If you have one or two hundred kids at a puppet show, there’s a nine out of ten chance that no one’s going to shoot up right there.”


ut in many ways, Patterson Park was an easier fi x than Druid Hill. Start with simple geography: Patterson Park is surrounded on four sides by houses, fronted by relatively quiet, two-lane streets with well-defined crosswalks. The park itself is a 137acre rectangle. “You can stand in one corner and say, ‘OK. Tennis is over there, basketball’s over there, the ponds are over there,’” says Tom Orth, continued on page 83 w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0


by evan balkan | illustrations by april osmanof Cylburn Arboretum just got a facelift (410-3672217; A gleaming, 10,000-square-foot visitor center has joined the Italianate Cylburn Mansion, whose construction dates to the Civil War. Outside, you’ll find several miles of refurbished trails— some of them now paved for handicap access—through more than twenty separate gardens, a thumbnail-sized bog, and a surfeit of trees and ornamentals.

Summer in the City A guide to the serene, the strenuous, and the downright strange in Baltimore’s wide open spaces Hikers can stitch together 5 miles of trails in the forested sublimity of Leakin Park. Never mind that parts of the 1999 spook fest, The Blair Witch Project, were shot here—the park has some of the lowest crime rates of any in the city. Check out the Carrie Murray Nature Center (410-396-0808; ; established by O’s great Eddie Murray and named for his mother, the center houses an insect zoo and rehab center for disabled birds of prey. Kids of all ages love to ride the restored miniature train, which runs the second Sunday of every month throughout the summer and fall (410- 448-0730; www.

Phase I of the Jones Falls Trail is complete. Start at the Baltimore Streetcar Museum and pedal past Round Falls, up the switchbacks to Wyman Park Drive, and around the Druid Hill Lake loop and the park’s profusion of monuments: Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Sir William Wallace, and Eli Siegel (look it up). From there, the trail winds past the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory and the Maryland Zoo, eventually descending to Clipper Mill. Find a map at

The citywide cycling festival Tour Dem Parks (, held this year on June 13, takes in the best of Baltimore’s historic green spaces. Start at Carroll Park at 7 a.m. and choose from four separate routes: a family 14-miler along the Gwynns Falls Trail or more challenging 25-, 35-, or 64-mile rides that pass through Carroll, Clifton, Druid Hill, Gwynns Falls, Herring Run, Leakin, and Patterson parks, as well as, depending on your route, such lesser known spots as Leon Day, Solo Gibbs, and Boy Scouts parks. Your registration fee of $35 helps to maintain city parks and secures your access to the four rest areas set up along the route, featuring portable toilets, drinks, and bike mechanics, great for helping in the battle against potholes.


urbanite june 10

What says America more than a Pomeranian and his owner similarly bedecked in red, white, and blue—with spangles, headwear, and hanging tongue to boot? The American Visionary Art Museum’s annual Visionary Pets on Parade takes place on Sunday, July 4, at 10 a.m. (9:30 a.m. registration for pets). Enter your critter for a chance to win in such categories as Most Patriotic, Best Costume, Most Visionary Pet, or Least Likely to Succeed as a Pet. A pet trick show following the parade has, in past years, included cicada circus acts and Revolutionary War reenactments performed by hermit crabs (410-244-1900;

An An

An easy 4-mile bike ride links Herring Run Park with Lake Montebello (410-254-1577; www. The paved trail meanders along Herring Run through deep woods, traversing copses such as Fox Den and Deep Forest. (Yes, you’re in the middle of the city.) Lake Montebello, meanwhile, is only a few years removed from a $20 million restoration and upgrade. Bikers and walkers used to share the loop around the lake with automobiles; now a median with ornamental plantings creates a spiffy buffer around much of it.

Established in 1838 and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, Greenmount Cemetery is Baltimore’s answer to Père Lachaise in Paris (410-539-0641; www. You won’t find Jim Morrison or Oscar Wilde (even Edgar Allan Poe is across town), but among the 65,000 souls interred here are eight governors and eight mayors; big Baltimore names such as Johns Hopkins, Henry Walters, and Enoch Pratt; the co-conspirators in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination; a slew of generals; Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister-in-law; and circus performer Johnny Eck, a.k.a. “King of the Freaks,” born without a lower half.

When John Waters commented, “It’s as if every freak in the south was headed to New York, ran out of gas in Baltimore, and decided to stay,” he may have had Fluid Movement in mind ( In Waters’s and many locals’ formulation, freakiness is not pejorative, and the weirdness produced by the Fluid Movement collective is simply spectacular. Past performances have included water ballet in Federal Hill’s Riverside Park Pool, hula-hoop-athons in Charles Village, roller skating ballets in Hampden, and a celebration in Patterson Park of the centennial of Baltimore’s Great Fire featuring flamenco and funk “conflagrative interpretations.”

On July 10, Patterson Park hosts the Chesapeake Turtle Derby (410-3969392), an annual event since 1941. (A 1981 Baltimore Afro-American blurb encouraged interested parties to contact the Mayor’s Office of Special Projects through “Turtle Central.” Cool.) The race is just as tortuously slow today as it was sixtynine years ago—and just as fun. Starting time is 11 a.m. For a faster pace, the park (410276-3676; offers free concerts, a June 5 fishing festival at the lake, and international festivals including the Polish Festival June 4–6 (; LatinoFest June 26 and 27 (; and FestAfrica August 14 and 15 (www.festafricausa. com).

What a difference a century and some ecoconsciousness can make. The Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center (410-2460669;, created in 2009 near the south Baltimore neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, and Curtis Bay, sits on a longtime illegal dumping zone; debris from the Great Fire of 1904 was discarded here, and environmental disasters continued unabated for another century. But today, this spot along the Middle Branch of the Patapsco is home to 50-plus acres of cleaned wetlands, hosting a protected bird sanctuary. Visitors can now amble along nature trails or fish off the public pier.

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the Outside In

Jackie Browning, owner of the Marvin Window & Door Planning Centre, invites you into her showroom to discover the ultimate window and door shopping and design experience.

Q. What was your profession before you

opened the Marvin Window & Door Planning Centre?

A. At the time, my husband had a home

improvement business, and I had been balancing his books. A Marvin distributor realized that there was a need in the market, and both of us believed in the product due to its versatility and quality. Marvin’s products may be designed to fit any project you can imagine, whether it’s commercial, residential, or historical.

As a woman and a minority business A. I graduated from the University of Bal- Q. owner, what obstacles did you run into? timore with an accounting degree and had taken real estate as an elective. I went on to get my real estate license and sold houses for about ten years. Ultimately, I ended up as a CFO for a small bank in which I got plenty of experience with the financial side of balancing a business.

Q. How then did you decide to get into 54

the window and door business with a real estate and accounting background? urbanite june 10

A. It was difficult for me to break into the

predominantly male industry and required a lot of work to be seen as an equal. There were many clients who were intrigued and gave me a chance to prove myself; I went out of my way to provide exceptional support. They saw that I was not only passionate about my product, but also about my reputation within the industry. My hard work paid off,

Helping clients make a grand entrance and business began to build based on wordof-mouth.

Q. I’ve heard that you have the biggest Marvin showroom in Maryland.

A. Yes, our showroom is 6,000 square

feet and houses various hands-on displays with which to interact. Having this available makes it easier for the consumer to visualize our products in their homes and experience the great quality of the product for themselves. Our showroom has been so successful that it’s been emulated by Marvin as a prototype for future dealers.

Q. What types of services do you provide in-house?

A. I have a very tight-knit group that has

worked with me for a long time, some even


since the inception of the business in 1989. We pride ourselves as a team that will work with you from a simple idea to completion, including navigating through the architectural details. When you work with us, you get the whole package, including factorytrained installation specialists and our own in-house service, and a warranty and parts department.

Q. What types of projects can you handle?

A. Literally, if you can dream it, we can

design it. We can handle any project from one window to thousands. The products that we offer have the capability to fit into any project. In addition to standard sizes, we can create a product for the consumer that may be irregularly sized or shaped as well; we regularly work on projects for custom homes. A great example of this would be a rapid prototype that was created for American Brewery. The clad-aluminum trim pieces had to be custom colors and profi les that had never been created before and were done only for that particular project to meet Maryland historical requirements. They turned out looking absolutely beautiful and authentic.

Q. Jackie, what is your favorite part of your job?

money by being Energy Star-rated, perform for a lifetime, and have a great warranty.

So aside from being a full-time entreA. There are many facets of my job that Q. preneur, what do you do for fun? I love. I love watching ideas on paper come to life and seeing how happy customers are when their project is completed and exceeds their expectations. I love managing a fantastic team, from the installers, to the office staff, the service department, and, of course, our salesmen. Each one of the people working here was hand-picked and is a member of our staff because of their devotion to excellence. We really are like a family here, and that keeps me going.

Q. What would you want to say to a consumer who feels like your products are too overpriced in this economy?

A. Marvin is competitively priced. I understand that many people, organizations, and industries are on a severe budget crunch, including us. However, the Marvin product is not only an investment in windows and doors, but also is an investment in your future. These products will save the consumer

A. I love ten-pin bowling! I also enjoy rid-

ing my bike, and I’m an avid gardener. I’m the mother of two children, Erik, 23, a corporal in the Marines, and Amber, 28, who works for me as our marketing director, as well as a blind Jack Russell Terrier named Gidget. I also have one adorable grandchild, Rebekah, who is 2½ and lives in San Diego with my son.

Th e Marvin Window & Door Planning Centre is located at 1601 Knecht Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21227, which is convenient from Baltimore City, I-83, I-95, I-97, or I-695. Our showroom is open to the public 9 to 5 during the week and 9 to 2 on Saturdays. We also offer free in-home estimates and will happily accommodate your busy schedule! Please call 410-2423000 to speak to either Jackie or an experienced sales representative. We look forward to doing business with you.

Q. With consumers starting to become

more green-savvy, how do your products fit into that movement?

A. All of Marvin’s products are Energy

Star-rated, and the government has extended the Energy Star tax rebate. So if you purchase windows or doors that meet the requirements, you may be eligible for a refund on your taxes. In addition, Marvin, as a corporate entity, focuses on meeting green requirements by making all of the major components of its windows recyclable, as well as the packaging in which they are shipped. Marvin also primarily uses pine to manufacture wood windows and patio doors (which is a resource not associated with rainforests) and purchases from suppliers that are members of the Sustainable Forest Initiative and those who support the Tropical Forest Foundation, in addition to participating in forest management education programs. And on a more personal note, we here at the center also recycle!

Find Marvin in your neighborhood: Baltimore City Baltimore City Hall Patterson Park Public Charter School The American Brewery Building Ellicott City Shipley’s Grant shopping center Fells Point H&S Bakery headquarters The Black Olive Fort Meade Fort Meade housing

Havre de Grace Father Martin’s Ashley Owings Mills Garrison Forest middle and high schools Greenspring Valley Hunt clubhouse Roland Park Grace United Methodist Church Zamoiski Alumni Hall, Friends School of Baltimore Towson Blakehurst retirement community Sheppard Pratt hospital

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Luxury Apartments

The great outdoors: Paul Babikow’s backyard reflects his “no lawn” sensibility. The bluestone pavers are edged with carefully selected trees and plants and include an unusual touch—two gurgling fish ponds set into the ground.


Back of the House An Oakenshawe rehab blends indoor and outdoor living.


aul Babikow loves Oriental rugs. The ornate and colorful fl oor coverings abound in his newly renovated Oakenshawe rowhouse. They even cover his front and back yards. Well, in a manner of speaking. “When all of these plants grow together, it will look exactly like an Oriental rug, in both the texture of the leaves and the blooms,” Babikow says on this late April afternoon, pointing down to the young shrubs and perennials painstakingly planted in his yard, including grassy tufts of Pennsylvania sedge and vine-like barrenwort with its pale, heart-shaped leaves. story and photography by brennen jensen


No boundaries: When the bi-fold doors and windows are tucked away, indoor and outdoor space flow together seamlessly. A screen keeps insects from sneaking into the house.

While a bit hard to envision this early in the season, it’s a good bet he knows what he’s talking about. The fit, ruddy-faced sixtysomething is president of Babikow Greenhouses, a wholesale nursery business near White Marsh Mall that his grandfather started in 1875. But truth be told, when Babikow went looking for a house in the city last year, neither rugs nor gardening were foremost in his mind. His house hunting was driven by two goals: “I wanted be able to display my art, and I wanted a very open first floor for entertaining—I love to host dinner parties,” he says. Stepping inside the 90-plus-year-old, 2,400-square-foot home, it’s clear that his desires were met in resplendent fashion. The unobstructed, sparingly furnished living room really feels like an art gallery, with gleaming maple flooring and spot-lit walls

hung with large contemporary artworks by the likes of Squeak Carnwath, Nancy Sheinman, John Markowitz, and Dhruvi Acharya. Creating this bright, airy expanse wasn’t easy. The house had been vacant for seven years—a true fi xer-upper, replete with leaky roof, flooding basement, and a warren of cramped first-floor rooms. “I think we took out five or six Dumpster loads,” Babikow says of the demolition process. However, his team—architect Scot Foster, designer Arthur Valk, and contractor Joe Letke—stopped short of a total gut job during the elevenmonth renovation. “I wanted to maintain some integrity of the original architecture,” Babikow says. The stairway and handsome banister that snake up through the house went untouched, as did the fireplace mantel and many of the five-panel doors and trim surrounds. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0


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Gallery-style: Pieces from Babikow’s collection of contemporary art are hung throughout the first floor—and can also be found in the front and back yards.

Babikow’s openness mandate is most dramatically realized at the rear of the house, where the goal, he says, “was to have little distinction between house and garden.” The original brick back wall was blown out for a stucco kitchen extension—with a gently vaulted ceiling—and bi-fold doors and windows that, when tucked away, all but eliminate the barrier between outside and in. (Yes, a rolling screen can be pulled into place to exclude winged guests.) Here one can see that the art collection includes sculpture, too. A deeply rusted circular array of pipes just outside, called Missing Piece, is the work of local artist David Hess, whose works can also be seen at the American Visionary Art Museum. (Babikow grins when recounting how it began as the busted-up guts of an old boiler once used to heat his greenhouses.) Components of another Hess creation, called Grove and composed of cement spheres and metallic pedestals, reside in both the front and rear yards, having been relocated from Babikow’s previous residence in Baldwin. Out back, landscape designer Dejan Ernestl helped Babikow weave his perennials around a patio of various hued bluestone

pavers and a pair of dark squares housing ponds, complete with goldfish, that emit a subtle gurgling sound. Towering overhead is a trio of slender Newton Sentry Sugar Maples—what Babikow calls the perfect city tree, noting that they can soar 60 feet high while maintaining a very narrow canopy. A more traditional willow oak planted in a far corner will provide years of shade. The perfect perch to view the artful indoor-outdoor realm is a second-floor balcony atop the kitchen extension accessed from the master bedroom. Babikow has already hosted numerous social gatherings in his new space— including dinners he’s whipped up on a shiny, six-burner Viking stove. His conclusion: the re-imagined residence provides everything he wanted in an urban abode. And it omits one thing he surely didn’t desire: grass. “I’m very opposed to lawns,” Babikow says. Fitting words for someone who raises bedding plants for living. Fortunately, his unique “outdoor rugs” don’t require mowing. Or vacuuming. ■ —Brennen Jensen wrote about the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in the May Urbanite.

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Can a “taco trawl” unite southeast Baltimore’s diverse Hispanic community? BY MA RTH A TH OMAS | P H OTO G RA P HY BY L A KAYE M BA H


the feed This month in eating

ortilleria Sinaloa is what Fernando Parada, the vice president of Baltimore’s Hispanic Business Association, would call a “crossover.” The woman who takes our order speaks little English, and many patrons— like the man in dusty work boots quietly consuming a plate of soft tacos stuffed with beef tongue—seem to be drawn from the growing Hispanic community of Upper Fells Point. But there’s also a pair of young women by the window who look like they drifted north from the more affluent blocks near the water. The small storefront’s pumpkincolored walls and blaring Latin music have a south-of-the-border familiarity that lands within the gringo comfort zone. A group of four of us—none natives of lands south of Texas—are kicking off a culinary tour of greater Upper Fells Point. We order a sampler: tacos al pastor stuffed with chunks of pork, plus containers of red and green salsas and wedges of fresh lime, and pozole, a soup loaded with chewy pasta-like nuggets of hominy and bits of pork barely clinging to fatty skin and shards of bone. The rich pozole is both soothing and satiating—one of my fellow food tourists dubs it “Mexican matzoh ball soup.” But the big draw at Tortilleria Sinaloa (1716 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-3741) is the fresh corn tortillas, stamped out at a rate of nearly twenty thousand per day. At $2 per kilo (about thirtythree tortillas), they feed the neighborhood’s many recent Hispanic immigrants at home and in local restaurants and bodegas. Owner Robert Willingham opened the place eight years ago, wiring $25,000 to Mexico for the tortilla-making equipment. “We hired Mexican ladies and asked them to make what their mothers made back home,” he tells me. “The game plan was authenticity.” Authenticity is in abundant supply in this southeast Baltimore neighborhood these days. Baltimore City’s Hispanic population increased by 53.8 percent between 2000 and 2008, according to the Governor’s

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eat / drink favorite dessert: tres leche cake, frosted in whipped cream, with strawberries pressed between the sweet milk-soaked layers of white cake. It seems that Highlandtown, where rents tend to be cheaper than in Fells Point, is the new frontier for both Baltimore’s Latinos and their cuisines. And uniting this diverse and increasingly far-flung community can be challenging. “Sometimes we all have trouble meshing,” Parada says. “You should hear some of the discussions about whose tortilla is better.” ■ —Martha Thomas writes frequently about food for Urbanite.

Tacos al Pastor Makes 8 servings

Typically served by street vendors, tacos al pastor—translated as “shepherd-style tacos”—are thought to be a Mexican adaptation of MiddleEastern spit-grilled meat sandwiches. The chiles listed below should be easy to find in Upper Fells Point’s Hispanic grocery stores.


a couple of luscious lamb tacos ($2.50 each, by far the best value of the evening). A few bottles of Negra Modelo from a liquor store a few doors down round out the sidewalk feast. Next is Restaurante El Salvador (207 S. Broadway; 410-5223250) for pupusas, thick tortillas stuffed with ground beef. Their bright green tomatillo sauce has the complexity of a fine white Burgundy: It opens your taste Curbside delivery: From the Tacos Jalisco truck, Manuel Costilla supplies buds with a bright citrusy flavor, Upper Fells Point with freshly made tacos and other Hispanic foods. then moves in for the punch with its blast of heat. Commission on Hispanic Affairs. And while Finally, we follow a tip down Eastern it was still a modest 2.7 percent of the city’s Avenue to Cinco de Mayo, a brightly lit and overall population, the Hispanic presence in festively decorated restaurant hidden behind Fells Point is significant: There are about a a grocery store (1312 Eastern Ave.; 410-522hundred Hispanic-owned/operated busi7646). The chef’s take on the quesadilla nesses on Eastern Avenue and Broadway turns out to be a crispy, platter-sized tortilla alone, says Parada, the owner of Central shell encasing chorizo and tongue (we’d Realty, which has an office above Arcos resspecial-ordered it half and half), sprinkled taurant on Broadway. The influx has transwith crumbled cheese, sour cream, and formed the character of the area, known varishredded iceberg lettuce. ously as “Little Mexico” and “Spanish Town” A week later, Parada and Jose Rivas, his over the years. Both monikers are incomplete. business partner at Central Realty, take me The residents here hail from many points to some of Parada’s favorites, starting with in the Spanish-speaking world: El Salvador, Paisanos (1636 E. Lombard St.). He laments Honduras, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru. Parada the no-frills service (we have to ask for plasis from Rhode Island, although he was born tic cutlery), but I’m entranced by the baleada, in Bolivia. “I don’t care what you call the a wheat tortilla smeared with refried beans district,” he says, “as long as you get people and folded around scrambled eggs, crumbled in here to buy what you’re feeding them.” queso fresco, and sliced avocados. A common As an advocate for the Hispanic business snack in Honduras, the baleada strikes me as community, Parada has been pondering the the perfect breakfast food. Its name, Parada neighborhood’s crossover potential, trying to says, describes the action of shooting a gun. draw more visitors from other parts of town. We puzzle over this, wondering if it could “You don’t want to go too far” in Americanrefer to the quick action of eating it. izing it, he says; after all, today’s adventurNext, we push east past the boundaries ous eaters diligently seek authenticity. On of Fells Point to Highlandtown. Parada raves the other hand, he worries that some of the about our next stop, a Peruvian place called local “dives,” as he calls them, “might make Chicken Rico (3728 Eastern Ave.; 410-522people a little nervous,” even if they do serve 2950). The meat is tender and spicy, and we some of the best food. So Parada is working order it with fried yucca and plantains on with Fells Point Main Street to devise a “taco the side. Parada also orders cau cau—a soup trawl” through the neighborhood, similar to made with chewy slices of honeycomb tripe Fells Point pub crawls like the Pyrate Invasteeped in a rich saffron-tinted broth—and sion on Privateer Day. (The tour is still in the suggests I try a bottle of chicha morada, a planning stages.) sweet purple drink made from blue corn Fells Point Main Street Director Jason and cane sugar and flavored with pineSullivan, who has worked for development apple, quince, cinnamon, and cloves. It’s the organizations in Honduras, Paraguay, and El unfermented cousin to the more famous ferSalvador, appreciates the culinary verisimilimented version, chicha, which dates to the tude he now encounters in the environs of Incas and is made by chewing corn and then his office. “In terms of drawing outsiders to spitting it into a warm bath to ferment. The Fells Point,” he says, “food is our best bet.” drink is seriously good but densely flavored; I It’s pretty easy to eat your way around take it home to mix with seltzer. the district. After kicking off our foray Rivas chooses the last stop: Vargas at Tortilleria Sinaloa, we stumble on the Bakery (274 Highland Ave.; 443-801-1058). Tacos Jalisco truck, parked on Broadway The case is filled with conchas (sugary buns (11 a.m.–7 p.m. daily), where we order with a swirled seashell-like imprint), flaky tamales—chicken and pork stuffed in masa pastry orejas that look like ears, and balls of and wrapped in soft corn husks—as well as sweet toasted coconut. Rivas treats me to his

2 lbs. pork loin meat 1½ onions Juice of 4 or 5 oranges 1 cup vinegar 10 chiles guajillo, dried 10 chiles puya, dried 1 clove garlic 2 tomatoes Pinch of cumin 1 clove Salt to taste 16 corn tortillas 1 bunch cilantro, tough stems removed 1 cup sliced and grilled pineapple first day: Cut the meat into very small pieces. Slice the onion. Mix meat, onion, orange juice, and ½ cup vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt and let stand overnight. next day: Wearing rubber gloves, remove the seeds and veins from the chiles. Soak them in warm water for at least 20 minutes or until soft, reserving the soaking water. Puree the chiles, garlic, tomatoes, ½ onion, cumin, and clove, adding soaking water as needed for a smooth puree. Add the remaining ½ cup vinegar and mix thoroughly. Add mixture to the container with the meat and let stand for two hours more. When ready to serve, heat a grill pan and sauté the meat. Gently heat tortillas on a lightly oiled grill until warm and soft. Place meat on tortillas and fold in half. Finish tacos with cilantro, chopped onion, and a slice of grilled pineapple. —Courtesy of Tortilleria Sinaloa Web extra: For more Mexican recipes, go to w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0



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photo by Tyler Fitzpatrick

Fancy pants: Milan caters to a well-dressed crowd.

The pricing of food in euros as well as dollars on Milan’s menu is an indication of its self-image, if a restaurant can have such a thing. This one wears distressed jeans, has D&G sunglasses perched atop its head, and occasionally glances past dining partners to see who just walked through the door. The stark modernist décor—white leather-wrapped barstools, tufted Barcelona-style divans, and a glistening red granite bar— along with the admonition that guests follow the “food meets fashion” dress code, add up to a daring concept in Little Italy, where multi-generational families have cranked out reliable red-sauce ziti and pounded veal piccata for decades. (In fact, some neighbors haven’t warmly welcomed this newcomer, fighting the renewal of its liquor license on the grounds that Milan is more nightclub than restaurant.) Milan may also be the only restaurant in town with a “VIP Ambassador” on the payroll. He’ll occasionally stop at your table— even if you are not terribly important—to make sure all is to your liking. But really, what’s not to like? Milan takes its food seriously. The curious meatball salad is proof enough: A succulent mound of

ground kobe beef and veal with spinach and aromatic Fontina cheese, resting on a bed of wild greens, it’s enough to convince you that, Atkins adherents notwithstanding, this is not a place for starving oneself. There are plenty of hearty dishes on the entrée list: veal with risotto, filet mignon with gorgonzola butter, and such updated Italian classics as deconstructed ravioli with citrus pistachio gremolata. At the same time, the menu is perfectly amenable to grazing, with small plates (lobster mac ’n’ cheese, lamb “lollipops,” and polenta cakes with sausage) and a variety of flatbreads (grilled steak, lump crab, and grilled vegetables). Milan’s signature “Italian sushi” is essentially Mediterranean ingredients in rice wrappers (mozzarella and prosciutto roll, anyone?). Desserts include a wedge of deep chocolate fudge cake with hazelnut butter and crème anglaise, cheesecake with balsamic strawberry compote, and a hearty trio of gelato scoops. (Dinner and late night daily. 1000 Eastern Ave.; 410-6856111;


eat / drink


—Martha Thomas

The French cousin in the Tony Foreman/ Cindy Wolf restaurant empire turns 10 years old this summer, and it wears its age well. Tucked into the historic half-timbered Roland Park Shopping Center, Petit Louis Bistro manages a convincing, low-key rendition of the real thing. The bar is topped with zinc, the menu is scratched on a chalkboard, and the cream-colored walls are artfully stained with what appears to be the simulated soot of several decades of Gauloises smoking. Like the bistros of Paris or Montreal, it’s fundamentally a neighborhood hangout, far more informal and shaggy than the other Foreman/Wolf enterprises. Bands of extended families and neighbors drift over from nearby residences, filling the faded red banquettes with the companionable chatter of the Roland Park good life. (When crowded, the clattery, hard-surfaced dining room even sounds French.) You can splurge with foie gras and a $300 Bordeaux, but you can also split a croque monsieur with your toddler and not worry about le serveur giving you the hairy eyeball. Chef Ben Lefenfeld’s version of bistro cuisine is scrupulously by-the-book: duck confit, porky pâté de campagne, a whole

roasted chicken for two, et al. Onion soup delivers with a rich broth full of densely carmelized onions and pungent gobs of molten Gruyere. A crock of this plus bread and wine and you’ve got dinner. Salads are simple and expertly dressed, as in a plate of lemony asparagus spears topped with a confetti shower of chopped tarragon. Saumon à l’Aneth is another honest, minimalist treatment—a perfectly cooked slab of nearly unadorned fish over a velvety bed of dressed spinach, seasoned with fresh dill. For meatand-potatoes types, Louis offers two takes on the classic bistro steak: a New York strip accompanied by a cone of duck-fat frites, or three peppery medallions with a thin redwine-and-shallot reduction. Both are good, if perhaps somewhat basic to overstimulated American palates. For cream-and-butter overkill, one must wait for dessert: chocolate roulade, a feathery mousse-like flourless cake rolled around in liqueur-spiked crème Chantilly, makes for a boozy Gallic finale. (Lunch Tues–Fri; dinner nightly; brunch Sun. 4800 Roland Ave.; 410-366-9393;

photo by Tyler Fitzpatrick

Petit Louis Bistro

Ooh la la: Petit Louis offers classic French fare.

—David Dudley w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0


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ine can make you feel young in lots of ways, not the least interesting of which (depending on your degree of geekhood) is tracing its history. Since the days of the ancients, grapevines and winemaking have followed the expansions of empires. In The World Atlas of Wine, oeno-scholar Hugh Johnson draws a nifty migration map, beginning in Caucasia or Mesopotamia around 6000 B.C. A few millennia later, as they colonized the Mediterranean rim, the Phoenicians and Greeks took wine with them—although with such additives as herbs, honey, and seawater, we might not recognize it as such. The Romans, as was their wont, took a good idea, scienced it up with texts by Cato and Pliny, and then carried their vines and vinous traditions on conquests deep into Gaul and Iberia, even southern Britain. “By the time they withdrew from what is now France in the fifth century AD,” writes Johnson, “the Romans had laid the foundations for almost all of the most famous vineyards of modern Europe.” The Vikings encountered such an abundance of vines in their pre-Columbian visits to North America that they initially named it “Vinland,” but it fell to Cortés and his conquistadores to introduce wine to the Western hemisphere. So important was wine to both secular and sacramental pursuits that Cortés imported European vines or seeds for propagation almost immediately after his arrival in Mexico in 1519. (Then, as now, native American vines were deemed vastly inferior for winemaking.) Jesuit missionaries, impelled to celebrate the Eucharist and proselytize, established vineyards with their missions along the coast of modern-day California—and centuries later, during Prohibition, sacramental wine production saved many old-growth vines from extinction. Less famously, at least among gringos, the missionaries traveled south:

first to Peru, which became an early wine center, thence to Argentina and Chile, which have emerged as contemporary powerhouses. The two countries’ combined vineyard acreage (1.045 million acres in 2008, compared to 939,000 in the United States, according to the Wine Institute) makes South America the world’s second most significant winemaking continent,

wine & spirits

4 east

Tracing the roots of modern winemaking

illustration by Chris Rebbert


eat / drink

behind Europe. Falling on opposite sides of the Andes, Argentina and Chile have different wine stories to tell. Argentine vineyards climb higher than most, and the altitude provides intense sunlight and the cool nights that grapes need for optimum ripening. In Chile—roughly as long top-to-bottom as the United States is broad, but never wider than a few hundred miles—vines nestle in valleys and foothills cooled by maritime breezes and mountain downdrafts. Both countries’ wine industries have modernized rapidly, but each has been influenced by a different émigré grape variety from Bordeaux that arrived more than a century ago. Argentina has staked its claim with Malbec, once dominant in Bordeaux’s red blends, now an afterthought in that region. Typically lush and plummy (and to my taste somewhat anonymous), Malbec has become the backbone of Argentina’s export market, booming in ways no other country at the moment can match. Meanwhile, in the early 1990s Chilean vintners discovered through genetic testing that vineyards previously thought planted with Merlot in fact held Carmenère, a Bordeaux variety of high repute in the 1700s but now virtually nonexistent there, having fallen from favor due to its susceptibility to endemic vine diseases. With less success than its neighbor, Chile tried marketing Carmenère as its signature grape, perhaps hampered by previous efforts to promote Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon. Most of Chile’s top-rated wines now blend the two grapes, and sometimes others. A stand-alone bottling, Arboleda Carmenère 2000 (current 2007 release $17), pours deep ruby. It’s rich and darkly berried on the nose, with scents of a garden pepper patch. Black fruit flavors come heavily accented by spice box and pipe tobacco, with soft tannins. Big body and 14.5 percent alcohol make this quite a mouthful. It’s come a long way from 18th-century France, and I’m glad it made the trip. ■ w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0


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Large selection of regional wines available for take out

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photo by Lon Dean |

the feed

eat / drink

This Month in Eating Compiled by Martha Thomas


The organizers of the Annapolis Greek Festival want you to know that the Greeks invented line dancing. A good hasaposerviko or kalamatiano is a great way to work off those other Hellenic innovations: grape leaf dolmathes, pastitsio (casserole), and tangy avgolemono, a soup frothy with egg and thick with chicken and rice. Festival food, prepared by the congregation of the Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, includes the always-irresistible rice pudding—with the promise that it’s “just like yia-yia makes.” Fri and Sat 11 a.m.–11 p.m., Sun 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Free.

JUNE 4– 6

Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church 2747 Riva Rd., Annapolis 410-573-2072



Billed as an “epicurean adventure,” this National Kidney Foundation of Maryland fundraiser unites such powerhouses of Baltimore’s food scene as B&O American Brasserie, Ra Sushi, Neopol Savory Smokery, and Linwoods. Culinary royals including Jesse Sandlin (the former Top Chef contestant now at Vino Rosina) and Joy Ludwig of Charleston are to give cooking demonstrations. The premium tasting at 2 p.m. includes guided tastings of gin, rum, and tequila. 3 p.m.–6 p.m. $85; $75 in advance, $40 designated driver. $100 for premium tasting.

American Visionary Art Museum 800 Key Hwy. 443-322-0377



This one-day summit all about urban agriculture in the Chesapeake Bay area hopes to yield both future farmers and food justice activists. The event features 2008 MacArthur “Genius” grantee Will Allen as keynote speaker and includes an outdoor, hands-on technical workshop as well as sessions on land use and economic development. 8:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. $75.

Henry A. Wallace Beltsville Agricultural Research Center 10300 Baltimore Ave., Beltsville 202-642-1805 www.sowingseedshereandnow. com



Every year, the population of the 2.8-square-mile Tilghman Island swells for the annual Seafood Festival, sponsored by the island’s volunteer fi re company. Events include the annual crab race, where crustacean competitors scuttle sideways, and the crab-picking competition. Also planned are food and crafts vendors, a parade, and live country/rock music by Bird Dog and the Road Kings. 11 a.m.–7 p.m. Free.

Kronsberg Park, Tilghman Island 410-886-2677 htm


JUNE 26 –27

The city’s series of ethnic festivals, dubbed the Showcase of Nations, kicks off this month (for more info, go to www. For LatinoFest, close to 50,000 people are expected to crowd Patterson Park in a celebration of authentic Hispanic culture and its culinary contributions, from stuffed yucca and plaintains to cuajito—soup made with cow intestine. Also planned are cultural displays, children’s activities, and lots of music and dancing. Sat noon–10 p.m.; Sun noon–9 p.m. $5; children younger than 12 free.

Patterson Park Eastern Ave. and S. Linwood Ave. 410-563-3160

w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0




Johns Hopkins offers short-term, college-credit programs to rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Live on campus or commute.


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TERM I: July 11 - July 24 TERM II: July 25 - August 7 HEALTH STUDIES Environmental Health and Justice (I) Plagues and Pandemics in Literature (I/II)

HISTORY A Century in Review: Sports and the Rise of American Mass Culture (II)

POLITICS Greener Pastures: The Politics of Our Environment (I)

SOCIOLOGY Immigration and the City (I)

For more information, please visit or call 410.516.4585.


urbanite june 10

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art / culture

theater Tragedy, a Tragedy and The 39 Steps

showcase Maryland Masters

the scene This month’s cultural highlights


Shot Through the Heart Photographer Martha Cooper captures daily life in Sowebo. by deborah rudacille photography by martha cooper

n the eve of the Civil War, a young rabbi named Benjamin Szold landed in southwest Baltimore, settling in the 800 block of West Lombard Street to lead the nearby Oheb Shalom congregation. Now, fast-forward a century and a half. Szold’s thoroughly secular great-granddaughter, Martha Cooper, is performing her own rituals of devotion, roaming the hardscrabble streets a few blocks west in a Patagonia jacket and faded jeans. Known to residents as “picture lady,” Cooper photographs the vibrant street life of a community that many view as little more than a drug-infested ghetto. Although the backdrop to her photos “is a neighborhood rife with drugs and crime, full of boarded-up buildings,” she says, “that’s not my focus. I’m shooting more in a spirit of historic preservation, trying to capture what street life and culture was like in this neighborhood at this point in time.” That same impulse led Cooper to the work that made her famous thirty years ago, now-iconic photos of graffiti-splashed subway trains and street artists and b-boys—also known as breakdancers—practicing their art in the gritty Manhattan of the 1970s. The book she published with fellow photographer Henry Chalfant in 1984, Subway Art, was the catalyst for a global street art revolution. Today, in her 60s, Cooper is invited to photograph street art and dance events around the world. But as an artist, she had started to feel restless. After returning to the city of her birth a few years ago to settle her parents’ estate—Cooper’s Camera Mart, a northeast Baltimore institution— she thought, “How can I use this money to do something I couldn’t otherwise do?” Wanting to “just shoot street stuff”—the kind of aimless artistry that led her to Dondi, Lady Pink, and other NYC graffiti artists back in the day—Cooper thought about Baltimore. “I got a little flutter,” she says. Driving through Sowebo with a real estate agent some weeks later, she saw a kid jumping on a mattress. Sold! “I used to see that all the time on the Lower East Side [in New York],” she says. It was only after she had put a deposit down on a tiny rowhouse a few blocks from Hollins Market that she learned she had settled in the same neighborhood as her Baltimore ancestors. “It was complete chance.”

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Taking the Bolt bus down from New York every other weekend, Cooper shoots within a strictly defined area. “The borders I stick to are Baltimore Street, the railroad tracks, MLK Boulevard, and Monroe Street,” she says, and she wanders those sometimessketchy streets on foot, alone with her camera—although only during the day. “I don’t feel safe in Baltimore,” Cooper admits. “I feel anxious.” On more than one occasion, she says young men on corners have yelled at her to put the camera away. She always attempts to introduce herself and explain what she’s up to. “I try to be really open about what I’m doing,” she says. Forty-nine-year-old Dwayne Fantroy, who owns a garage and a variety store just north of Union Square in the poorer, blacker Franklin Square community, says that by persevering, Cooper has built a body of work that “really captures what’s going on in the neighborhood—the tragedy and the successes. I label her a ’hood photographer. I think her efforts are genuine.” And he says that he finds it “courageous that a white woman would even venture into some of these neighborhoods. Especially with a camera.” But Cooper’s photos illustrate the surprisingly diverse racial mix of Southwest Baltimore. Pointing to the potential for voyeuristic exploitation in urban street photography, she says, “I’d actually be uncomfortable doing this work if it were an all-black neighborhood.” Neighborhood residents seem both grateful to and a bit mystified by the nice lady with the big camera. “She takes very

good pictures,” says Wendell Shore, 66, “and she always comes by and gives you copies.” Shore lives on South Stricker Street a couple of blocks south of gentrified Union Square, but on his corner, the view is of boarded-up houses and broken windows. Still, he has made creative use of the destruction, creating a flourishing orchard and vegetable garden in the empty lots created when crumbling rowhouses were torn down. Cooper often photographs him in his garden. “One time she got down in the dirt and took a picture looking up at me smoking a cigarette and holdin’ six tomatoes in my hand,” he marvels. Eight blocks west, 74-year-old “Miss Barb” Morris has crafted another kind of garden, planted not in earth but in plaster. The façade and narrow front yard of her Lombard Street rowhouse is a kind of holiday fairyland, full of elaborate seasonal decorations. Morris says she plans to send her family in Virginia the photos Cooper has taken of her standing in her front yard at Halloween, Easter, and Christmas. Drug dealers may ply their trade in the neighborhood and “run through our yard when the cops are after them,” but Miss Barb and her dog, Meanness, just go about their business. “My point of view is always more about focusing on survival in these neighborhoods,” says Cooper, whether in Sowebo today or the New York City of old. “I’ve seen some terrible things, but I’m looking for people who are doing something creative in their circumstances.” ■ —Deborah Rudacille is a frequent contributor to Urbanite.

A day in the life: Sowebo residents Barbara Morris and James M. Sharbs, as captured by Martha Cooper.

On the air: An interview with Martha Cooper on The Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM, on June 10.

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Tragedy, a Tragedy at Single Carrot Theatre, June 16–July 11 The 39 Steps at the Hippodrome, June 1–13 The so-called tragedy of Tragedy, a Tragedy at Single Carrot is the amplified contrivance of a slow news day. A team of reporters is breaking the story of an event with global and potentially calamitous implications: The sun has set. “In a way,” says Single Carrot company member Brendan Ragan, “it’s a long joke.” Newscasters doggedly follow the developments that begin with dusk, interviewing



Maryland Traditions Ga†hering and Maryland Masters Showcase at the Creative Alliance, June 10

Is muskrat-skinning art? You better believe it. (Useful, too, what with the end of civilization as we know it just around the corner.) Folks across Maryland have mastered this and other “living traditions” such as boat-building, decoy-carving, and screenpainting—all of which are in danger of disappearing if not nourished, supported, and passed on. Coming to the rescue is Maryland Traditions, a program of the Maryland State Arts Council that’s co-directed by folklorists Elaine Eff (a 2010 Urbanite Project participant) and Clifford Murphy. It launched in 2001 with the mission of documenting, celebrating, and preserving Maryland’s traditional and folk arts, which are passed on by word of mouth or learned through example. “We started small. We basically did a lot of listening,” Eff says. “It was clear that we have a lot of endangered traditions.” To prevent those customs’ untimely deaths, Maryland Traditions sponsors an annual master-apprentice program. Supported

witnesses, calling in experts for commentary, and speculating about outcomes. “It shows how news can be presented with drama and gripping tension while taking out the news element entirely,” Ragan says. “Newscasters are forced to treat a nuclear summit, for example, with the same gravitas [with which] they report on Tiger Woods.” In 2005 the playwright, Will Eno, was hailed by the New York Times as “a Samuel Beckett for the Jon Stewart generation” and was a Pulitzer finalist for his play Thom Pain (based on nothing). Tragedy, a Tragedy follows the absurdist tradition by looking for human truths in situations that are either futile or completely off the wall. J. Buck Jabaily, who is directing, says initially the implications of this particular sunset are unclear. “You don’t know for certain if the sun will never rise again,” he says, but the ongoing coverage begins to reveal larger truths. “It’s not so much about the news itself, but how we deliver and consume it.” The Hollywood Squares-inspired set, with four cubes inhabited by individual actors, helps to underscore what Jabaily describes as the characters’ inherent separateness. “We watch the news to break [our]

art/culture isolation,” he says. “But the people who deliver our news are also isolated.” The 39 Steps at the Hippodrome also oozes absurdity, although this comic take on Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller (itself based on a 1915 spy novel) is more harmless riff than social commentary. Four actors perform the script of the 1935 film from beginning to end (portraying more than 150 characters in all), with allusions to such other Hitchcock classics as North by Northwest and Psycho as well as dozens of costume changes along the way. The Tony Award-winning play, which also garnered the 2008 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience, is racy, wacky, and completely accessible to those unfamiliar with the movie. —Martha Thomas For tickets to Tragedy, a Tragedy, call 443-844-9253 or go to For tickets to The 39 Steps, call 410-547-SEAT or go to

Best of the best: Gustavo Nieto, a Colombian vallenato accordian master and resident of Germantown, is one of the performers showing their stuff at this year’s Maryland Masters showcase.

by a $2,000 grant, each master shares the secrets of his or her chosen skill with an eager apprentice. This year’s cadre includes Jay Young, who’s teaching fox-hunting to artist Tony Shore, known for his paintings on black velvet. They and other practitioners will be showcased on June 10 at the Creative Alliance. The day includes two separate events: The Maryland Traditions Gathering in the afternoon features an exhibition of Edwin Remsberg’s photographs of the 2010 master-apprentice teams, live demonstrations of traditional craft, and a buffet-style meal, with the cooks sharing the stories behind the dishes. Following that in the evening is the Maryland Masters Showcase, with live musical performances from such state talents as Appalachian gospel singer Burton DeBusk and Indian classical music vocalist Samia Ahmad, plus the presentation of 2010

photo by Edwin Remsberg

photo by Craig Schwartz

Men of many talents: Four actors portray more than 150 characters in The 39 Steps, a comedic retelling of the Hitchcock thriller.

ALTA (Achievement in Living Traditions and the Arts) awards. “You don’t stay at arm’s distance from the culture that surrounds you,” Eff says. “Learn about it, be a part of it, embrace it. That’s what Maryland Traditions is all about.” —Marianne K. Amoss To attend the free Maryland Traditions Gathering, RSVP to 410-767-6555 by June 7. For tickets to the Maryland Masters Showcase, call 410-276-1651 or go to www. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0


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In its eighteenth year, the Capital Jazz Fest features such greats as Patti LaBelle and the Family Stone as well as rising stars. Gladys Knight and Sinbad kick off the weekend with music and comedy on Friday. At Merriweather Post Pavilion June 4–6. For tickets, call 877-4FLY-TIX. (www. BLUES

The fifteenth annual Western Maryland Blues Fest features four days of live performances by national and local blues musicians of note, including the Tommy Castro Band, Phil Wiggins and Corey Harris, and Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. June 3–6 in Hagerstown. (301-739-8577 ext. 116; INDIE MUSIC

U.K. old-time country/blues duo Holly Golightly and the Brokeoffs stop by the Metro Gallery June 6, on tour to promote their new album, Medicine County. Following that on June 11 is a night of neo-psychedelia, with Philadelphians The Asteroid No. 4, Canadians The High Dials, and locals Sri Aurobindo. (1700 N. Charles St.; THEATER

Columbia’s Rep Stage puts on Edward Albee’s 2002 Tony Award-winning play, The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, the tale of a man who falls in love with a goat. June 2–27. (10901 Little Patuxent Pkwy.; 410-772-4900;

which tested the legality of a Tennessee act that barred the teaching of evolution. At Everyman Theatre, June 18–26. (1727 N. Charles St.; 410-752-2208; www.everyman Chesapeake Shakespeare Company mounts the Bard’s popular comedy Much Ado About Nothing among the ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park (3691 Sarah’s Lane, Ellicott City). Director Ryan Whinnem has set this production during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. June 11–July11.(866-811-4111;www.chesapeake VISUAL ART

The artifacts, photography, painting, and film in Beyond Swastika and Jim Crow: Jewish Refugees at Black Colleges explores the shared experiences of two disenfranchised groups: Jewish professors who escaped Nazi Germany and Austria and the African American students studying under them at historically black colleges and universities in the Jim Crow South. An accompanying exhibition, Transcending History: Moving Beyond the Legacy of Slavery and the Holocaust, includes artwork by Jewish and black artists from across the country. Both run through September 26 at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum; see website for associated events. (830 E. Pratt St.; 443-263-1800;

art/culture Ryan Patterson. Through September 26. (4545 N. Charles St.; 410-516-0314; www. PERFORMANCE

Artist Susan Lee-Chun, with the help of Maryland Art Place, has put together a faux fitness program (a.k.a. performance art piece), Everybody Suz-ercise! On June 23, participants will don their custom-made workout gear and give a public performance of their routine at the Inner Harbor. (410-962-8565; LITERARY

The Pratt library marks the fiftieth anniversary of Harper Lee’s classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, with a screening of the 1962 film adaptation starring Gregory Peck (June 19 at the central branch, 400 Cathedral St.) and a panel discussion about the book’s significance for modern times (June 23 at the Northwood branch, 4420 Loch Raven Blvd.). The central branch also hosts a reading on June 9 by food writer Novella Carpenter, whose book Farm City details how she transformed a vacant lot in Oakland, California, into a farm; and a tribute to recently deceased Lucille Clifton, former poet laureate of Maryland, on June 24. (410-396-5430; FILM

For the 48 Hour Film Project, teams of filmmakers get two days (June 11–13) to write, shoot, edit, and score an original

movie that includes a specific prop, character, and line of dialogue and falls within a certain genre. Finished films are screened at the Charles Theatre on June 22 and 23. ( SERIES

Creative Alliance’s two-month series Urban/Appalachia wraps up its exploration of the ties that bind Baltimore and Appalachia. Up through June 5 is The Way We Was, an exhibit of Leon Kagarise’s photographs of June Carter, George Jones, and other stars performing in Baltimore; the closing reception on June 4 includes a tribute by Hazel Dickens and other musicians to legendary Appalachian musician Ola Belle Reed. And on June 18, the documentaries Coal Country and Catherine Pancake’s in-progress Coal River Wind are screened, with live country music from Arty Hill. (3134 Eastern Ave.; 410-276-1651; www. The Columbia Festival of the Arts has something for everyone, from children’s activities and a kinetic art parade to live music and wine tastings. Special events include a wine and cheese reception with South African author Shelia Kohler, who will read from her latest book, Becoming Jane Eyre (June 22), and the festival-closing performance by Arlo Guthrie (June 26). June 11–26. (410-715-3044; www.columbia

Evergreen Museum and Library’s sixth biannual Sculpture at Evergreen exhibit, Simultaneous Presence, features ten temporary, site-specific installations that Paul Morella plays legendary criminal “initiate a dialogue on the intertwining of defense lawyer Clarence Darrow in the moments, meanings, and place” and were Baltimore premiere of the one-man show created by fourteen national and local artA Passion For Justice: An Encounter ists and architects, including Baltimoreans with Clarence Darrow. The show covers David Page, Shannon Young, and the team some of Darrow’s most well-known cases, including the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial, of Eric Leshinsky, Fred Scharmen, and C.

The American Visionary Art Museum gives over its third-floor gallery to Out of this World, thirty-eight paintings by Eugene von Bruenchenhein. The self-taught artist, a Wisconsin native, “believed he was capable of great things,” according to AVAM. Although he didn’t have much success selling his work during his lifetime, Von Bruenchenhein’s body of work (more than a thousand paintings, including Katillmon, pictured, as well as sculptures and photographs) has been increasingly acclaimed since his death in 1983. Through March 2, 2011. (800 Key Hwy.; 410-244-1900; www. Compiled by Marianne K. Amoss

courtesy of AVAM

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Magnet Schools continued from page 43

improved in the elementary grades, with some grades exceeding the state average. (Last year 100 percent of the fourth graders were either proficient or advanced in math, compared with 89 percent statewide.) The school is an inviting place. “I don’t want [my office] to be an old fashioned principal’s office. I don’t want the children to feel like they’re going into a dungeon,” says Waters-Scofield, who goes by the nickname “Dr. J.” “I want to appeal to their better values. I want them to know that we expect them to be responsible for what they do.” Still, the school couldn’t seem to shake its image problem, so when the Greater Homewood Community Corp. approached her about the Neighborhood-School Partnership, Waters-Scofield jumped at the chance to apply. Organizers began their application process for a partnership grant by holding focus groups with young families, most of whom had never set foot in either Margaret Brent or the nearby Barclay Elementary/Middle School. “Almost everything we heard about the schools and about Baltimore schools in general was fairly negative,” says Karen DeCamp, Greater Homewood’s director of neighborhood programs. “Almost every bit of it was second- or third-hand.” Few of the parents had even heard about Alonso’s reform efforts. Parents said they heard the local schools were “very low-achieving: ‘They’re not academically rich places. We don’t perceive them as nurturing places we would want to send our children,’” DeCamp says. Some said they’d even heard there were girl gangs at Barclay. “It’s almost laughable. It’s just not true,” DeCamp says. Jennifer DiFrancesco, whose daughter Ellie was by that time enrolled in pre-kindergarten at Margaret Brent, recalls her husband standing up at one of the meetings. “It’s not like that at all,” he said, reassuring the group about the family’s positive experiences. One person in the room confessed, “This is the first time I’ve heard from anyone who’s been inside of the school.” At the meetings, those inside the schools get a few lessons from outside as well. “I had to broaden my perspective and look at it from the point of view of a young parent,” says Waters-Scofield, who has worked in Baltimore City public schools as a teacher and principal for thirty-seven years. “That was eye-opening. Here I am,

a veteran. I thought I knew what parents wanted, but no, I didn’t know what they wanted.” Parents said they were looking for a school that would focus on the whole child, says Greater Homewood’s DeCamp, one that was more like some of the new public charter schools that were so hard to get into. The group concluded that they wanted the grant to finance a theme-based project curriculum, one that teaches students writing, math, history, architecture, transportation, and other subjects through research and tours of their own neighborhood. The grant money would pay for teacher training and curriculum development. In addition, Loyola University would give the school in-kind professional development. Last December, organizers learned that the community corporation, Margaret Brent, and the Barclay school would each receive $35,000 to develop their new “thematic, project-based” curriculum. DiFrancesco, who plans to send her younger daughter, Maggie, now 3, to Margaret Brent next year, hopes the new curriculum will begin to lure other parents to follow in her footsteps. It might. Laura Scott, a neighborhood resident who has a 13month-old daughter, Avery, is already observing classes at Margaret Brent. She was so impressed on a recent visit by the engaging relationship between the teachers and children, she says, “If I had a child going to kindergarten next year I would send her without hesitation.” Both Scott and DiFrancesco, however, understand that the local school is a tougher sell for other parents who continue to consider the public schools too risky. “They don’t feel like it’s a safe bet yet,” DiFrancesco says. She is working with a group called the Village Parents to help entice local parents. “If you don’t step in and do it, nothing’s going to ever change,” she says. Waters-Scofield knows it’s a challenge to lure in the school’s closest neighbors, but she is determined to charge ahead. “Even if they don’t send their children here, we are going to do it anyway,” she says of the new curriculum. “Maybe they’ll come next year.”■ —Joan Jacobson covered neighborhoods and housing for the Evening Sun and the Sun for twenty years. Her two children attend city public schools.

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Breaking the Silence continued from page 51 president of the Friends of Druid Hill Park. Druid Hill, in comparison, is a jumble of hills tangled with trees and criss-crossed by a spaghetti of roads. “You come in, and you have no idea where you’re going to go,” Orth says. “We get stopped all the time, and people ask us, ‘We’re looking for basketball court 3?’ Unless you know the park really well, you’re not going to know where basketball court 3 is.” Patterson Park also benefited from its proximity to gentrifying Canton and the Johns Hopkins medical institutions—which helped seed the area with young, active professionals—and an aggressive and forward-thinking community development corporation. (See “The Color Line,” Feb. ’10 Urbanite.) Twelve years after the park’s Friends organization was created, it has three full-time and two part-time paid employees and more than 650 dues-paying members. In the neighborhoods of the greater Mondawmin area around Druid Hill Park, in contrast, one-third of households earn less than $15,000 a year. The Friends of Druid Hill Park are all volunteers with full-time jobs that rarely have anything to do with parks. (Orth is a real estate agent.) The group has no office or central headquarters and just 150 members. Making matters worse, the Recreation and Parks department has seen its budget and staff whittled away over the years. The department was once funded by a trolley tax and boasted superintendents and police forces dedicated to individual parks. Today, it is a shadow of its former self and has lacked strong central leadership; there have been fourteen department leaders in twenty-three years. (See “Recreation Rebound,” June ’06 Urbanite.) Calvin Buikema, who was parks director for thirteen years in the 1980s and ’90s, credits the turnover to the stress of the job, exacerbated by budget cuts: “It’s a very stressful job in good times, and in bad times, you can’t pull things out of thin air.” The agency appears to have avoided another round of deep cuts floated in April by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake that would have slashed the budget by roughly one-third and shuttered more than half of the city’s fifty-five recreation centers. And the divide between Druid Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods runs deep. “I was at a meeting once,” Orth recalls, “and people from the neighborhoods surrounding the park were talking about getting a rec center. They were saying, ‘We need a rec center! We need a rec center!’ And someone from our group stood up and said, ‘You have 750 acres of rec center across the street.’” Still, there has been progress. The Friends of Druid Hill Park has helped bring events and gatherings to the park. For the past few years, the park has hosted an annual gay pride festival, a Caribbean festival, and a multi-terrain cyclo-cross bicycle race, as well as the EcoFest, April’s kickoff party for Baltimore Green Week. Once a week in spring and summer, Recreation and Parks rents bikes for $2 through its Ride Around the Reservoir program. Orth says the new Jones Falls Trail, which winds through Druid Hill, has “brought a lot of positive energy back into the park.” He credits the folks behind Baltimore Green Map, who produced a map of the park highlighting bike trails and natural and historic features, for a recent surge of interest. Draddy says that today she sees more people “riding, walking, and running both around the reservoir and through the park” than at any other point during her ten years as a Recreation and Parks employee. The Friends of Druid Hill Park is gearing up for a weekend-long celebration of the park’s 150th anniversary in October, featuring history lectures, speeches, and tree plantings, as well as a sports day, biking and walking tours, live music, food, and drink. Some of the physical infrastructure is being upgraded as well. The city has promised to upgrade the soccer fields by August. The Three Sisters Ponds, former attractions now dried up and hidden among overgrown vegetation on the back side of the park, are slated for reconstruction starting in September. The Maryland Zoo, despite major damage from this year’s snowstorms, has recently seen a slew of improvements, including restoration work on historic buildings

on zoo grounds and a new, $2.6 million miniature train that makes a 1-mile loop through the forest. And the nonprofit Parks & People Foundation is in the process of pouring $12 million in public and private money into restoring the dilapidated former park headquarters and its grounds—a largely overgrown, trash-littered triangle of land near the main entrance. Perhaps most importantly to the neighborhoods surrounding the park, some of the barriers that have walled off Druid Hill are coming down. A wheelchair-accessible sidewalk, recently paved, will soon connect the park with the Mondawmin Mall subway station. The city has promised five new park entrances, projected to be finished by September, to make access easier by car. On Druid Park Lake Drive, the archway on Madison and Cloverdale will be refurbished. Improved crosswalks and pedestrian traffic lights will soon usher residents safely across to the wooded hills on the other side.


ut as the physical barricades come down, more difficult challenges may come into clearer view. The neighboring communities—Reservoir Hill and Greater Mondawmin in particular— are themselves undergoing an uphill revitalization battle, and unless the community can rebound, history suggests that any renaissance in the park will be short-lived. Vacant houses, families in crisis, drug addiction, and crime continue to plague the neighborhoods south and west of the park. “When you have people worrying about getting their next meal or paying their car insurance, they’re not worrying about the garbage in the park,” says Buikema, a longtime Reservoir Hill resident. But Arnett, the former president of the Greater Mondawmin Coordinating Council, says there’s movement there, too. He has been working for more than a decade to turn the area into what he calls “a model urban space.” Working with the nonprofit Healthy Neighborhoods, the council has renovated houses and spruced up some of the better blocks in the area. Arnett is now working as a consultant for the group under a related grant from the Goldseker Foundation that helps local organizations market well-performing neighborhood schools. (See “Magnet Schools,” p. 38.) The area has also attracted substantial private investment in recent years, most notably from General Growth Properties, which led a $70 million renovation of Mondawmin Mall. Two colleges in the neighborhood—Coppin State University and Baltimore City Community College—are both in the midst of major expansions. “In the next five to ten years, this academic complex will change this area significantly,” Arnett says. He envisions the area as one large campus, with pathways, green spaces, and spruced-up homes and yards. “The whole idea of parkland and green space is central,” he says. “It’s something we have. It’s not something that has to be built from scratch.” Arnett acknowledges that Greater Mondawmin has the whole range of urban problems. But he is guardedly optimistic. “The whole idea of Healthy Neighborhoods is to go into these neighborhoods and work from places of strength. We’re still in the middle of that, I’d say. But we have tilted toward the positive. “In some neighborhoods, the odds are against them,” Arnett says. But thanks to “places of strength” such as Druid Hill Park, “in this neighborhood the odds are in our favor.” ■ —Rebecca Messner recently moved from Baltimore to New York City work on a a documentary film, The Olmsted Legacy, which tells the story of Frederick Law Olmsted and the birth of America’s urban park movement in the late 19th century. Go to for more information. On the air: A conversation about urban parks on The Marc Steiner Show, WEAA 88.9 FM, on June 30. w w w. u r b a n i t e b a l t i m o re . c o m j u n e 1 0



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Mitchell School of Fine Arts offers fine art instruction to adults and children. The emphasis is on training artists in the classical european tradition of the old masters and modernist painters, with youth and adult classes.

Contractor of the Year, MD Home Performance with Energy Star. Our customers have saved over $2 million in energy costs. 1500 Bolton Street, Baltimore, MD 21217 410.225.5040

Mitchell School of Fine Arts 6247 Falls Rd • Baltimore, MD 21209 410-296-0077

Register Now for Summer Classes

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urbanite june 10

Lenny’s Famous Trays for All Occasions Dairy • Deli • Fried Chicken Salads • Sandwiches • Desserts

Deli Check Out Our Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner Menu

9107 Reisterstown Road

at McDonough Rd. Valley Village Shopping Center Owings Mills • 410-363-3353

1150 E. Lombard Street Baltimore • 410-327-1177

Alicyn DelZoppo Realtor®

CUT, COLOR, COUTURE! A two-week summer camp experience for young fashionistas, ages 9-12! June 21 - July 2 July 5 - July 16 Register Now Space is limited

www.marylandacademyof 410-560-3910



“Give yourself a rest and leave your home a mess.”

Detailed cleaning using only non toxic/eco friendly products. Pre/post parties, move in/out, laundry, and dishes. Light clutter to hoarding: NAPO member. Free estimates and consultations.

410-592-2597 • 410-913-5724

I filmed my own sex tape and “accidentally” sent it to everyone.

William knows all too well what pop music can do to your life. If you or someone you know is dealing with a pop addiction, there is hope. WTMD 89.7. STOP THE POP INSANITY.

LIstener supported radIo from toWson unIversIty

The pop made me do it.

eye to e y e

To look at a modern situation through a lens from the past is a fascinating idea—one that Anne Nielsen, a Maryland photographer, has used to make a series of tintype portraits of present-day Native Americans. Using a wooden camera and an 1864 Voigtländer lens, she momentarily confuses us, distorting our sense of time. These are not the predictable tintype subjects, although we might not notice that at first. These are people of our time; they are of the present, although romanticized. The subject of this photograph is a young man of the Nause Waiwash Band of Indians from the Eastern Shore. Outfitted with emblems of his history, he seems to ask us for consideration. As he stares at us, seemingly out of the past, with fi xed eyes and clenched jaw, we ask, “What world is he confronting?” And of ourselves, we ask the same. —Alex Castro


urbanite june 10

Anne Nielsen Boy with Fox Head Piece, Nause Waiwash Band of Indians 2006 7 x 5 inches tintype photograph

MARYLAND • COLUMBIA • TIMONIUM • GREENBELT • ROCKVILLE 800.490.1627 • © 2010 University of Phoenix, Inc. All rights reserved.


Show me one flooring contractor who’s capable with all surfaces, who can handle any size project, who’s responsive with estimates, who takes pride in installations, who knows value engineering, who builds lasting relationships, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

410-329-9680 • 10709 Gilroy Road, Suite 150 • Hunt Valley, MD 21031•

June 2010 Issue  

Suprise Inside, A Bullet Train for Baltimore?, Aummer Fun Guide, Fells Point Taco Tour