FROM a table at Love's Restaurant, Richard Love has watched over the 25th and Charles Street neighborhood for more than half a century. Actually, he began his watch in the 1930s as a baby. His parents ran a liquor store a few doors down the street at 2436 North Charles (now Regal Savings and Loan). In 1942 his mother, Mary Love, bought the Campus Inn at 25th and Charles and renamed it.
Richard Love has seen so many changes in that old, dead-center-of-the-city neighborhood, so many once-and-famous Baltimore institutions come and go, so many old Baltimore names get scratched from the record book!
Among them are at least three restaurants that were part of the city's 1950s: Hollander's, at 10 East 25th; Jimmy Wu's (now the Szechuan Gourmet Restaurant), at 2426 North Charles, and the Townhouse (now the 27th Street Station), a few blocks north at Howard and 27th.
For culture, there was the Playhouse Theater, a few doors west of Charles on 25th. It opened as the Homewood and in 1951 became the Playhouse, specializing in foreign films. It is now a church.
And there was the famous (to Baltimoreans through the 1960s) Thomas and Thompson's, the drug store chain. Its most popular and visible store was on the southeast corner of Baltimore and Light -- now a McDonald's -- but there was a busy outlet at Charles and 25th. It closed in 1956. Baltimore's internationally famous PHH (Peterson Howell and Heather) was once located at 2521 St. Paul, which is now the Chaimson food brokerage. Both of those businesses were on the site of the Lakewood Swimming Pool, where white Baltimoreans took their leisure in the late 1930s and 1940s. The area was served by the Nos. 1, 25 and 30 street car lines. The car barn was at Howard and 25th, where Anderson Olds is today.
But back to Richard Love, who has recently sold the restaurant to long-time Baltimorean Hanan Sible, president of Chaimson. Love still takes in the world from Love's, and reminisces: "Up to World War II the only business in the neighborhood was Baltimore Storage. This was a quiet, tree-lined neighborhood of old and well-established families. And until the 1980s this was the only place on Charles Street, from here to Towson, where you could get a drink. The street was residential, all the way up. But I've seen all that change . . ."
Love's was launched in 1942, catering to Goucher students -- Goucher occupied a complex of buildings at St. Paul and 23rd -- and others. Today it is among Baltimore's oldest surviving restaurants.
And Richard Love, 56, sitting in Love's, remains the institutional memory of the Charles and 25th Street neighborhood.