Wandering through Reservoir Hill on a fall afternoon offers casual observer a glimpse of residential housing as it appeared more than a century ago.
The West Baltimore community -- a mixture of homeowners and renters -- is alive and struggling to combat blight as its residents prepare to celebrate the neighborhood Saturday with its fifth Annual Fall Festival.
The festival, which runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and is centered around the multipurpose center atReservoir Street and Park Avenue, features a flea market, food, education booths and family-oriented musical entertainment.
Reservoir Hill is bounded by Druid Hill Park on the north, Mount Royal Terrace on the east, North Avenue on the south and McCulloh Street on the west.
During the late 1700s, the area was part of the Mount Royal estate of Dr. Solomon Birckhead, a physician who lived in the area for many years.
Well-known for its gardens, the estate first was Dr. Birckhead's summer home that later became his permanent residence. The Birckhead house today is the Reservoir Hill Multi-Purpose Center.
The community offers a wide diversity of houses. Many homes -- particularly the grand ones on Madison Avenue and Eutaw Place -- were built in the 1870s. Three-story houses on Mount Royal Terrace were built in the 1880s and 1890 and two-story homes on Park Avenue date back to the 1930s.
Andrew Colletta, a resident and real estate agent with O'Conor, Piper and Flynn, observed that housing in the community is still a bargain. He pointed to renovated Victorian Baroque homes on Madison Avenue and Eutaw Place with three floors, six bedrooms and three bathrooms. "With between 3,500 and 4,000 square feet, these homes sell for about $150,000, about half what they would cost in Bolton Hill," he said.
He noted that the area has an ample supply of large, newly refurbished co-op apartments in the 2100 block of Linden Avenue and 2100 blocks of Callow and Brookfield avenues.
Jeffrey LaRocque, a Realtor with Meredith Real Estate/Better Homes and Gardens, believes that architecturally the neighborhood is the best community in Baltimore.
"Although prices are increasing in the neighborhood, it is still affordable," he said. "When a good, single-family house comes on the market, it sells in 60 to 90 days."
There are about 3,937 households and some 8,500 residents in Reservoir Hill, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development.
In 1989, the average residential sales price was $26,260 and 49 homes sold at prices ranging from $12,000 to $102,000.
The Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors counts 17 homes in the neighborhood on the market.
Despite Reservoir Hill's attractive features, it has problems that are generally common to most urban neighborhoods. The Upper Eutaw/Madison Association, a community organization founded several years ago, leads the effort to stabilize and maintain the community.
A few years ago it unsuccessfully sought to have the entire neighborhood designated a historic area, a status that would have severely limited the options of developers to alter the appearance and historical integrity of neighborhood houses and apartments.
2 Mary Medland is a Baltimore free-lance writer.