A ride down Howard

Baltimore Glimpses

February 04, 1992|By GILBERT SANDLER

EARLY in April (opening day for the Orioles, as a matter of fact), the new light rail line will swing into operation. It will leave the JFX at North Avenue, pass the Lyric and enter Howard Street at Dolphin.

What you see today of Howard Street in its rebuilding phase is a strong and promising hint of what it's going to be. But from the trolley running down the same route in 1950, you would have seen a much different Howard. Here are just four blocks the way they're fondly remembered by many:

Beginning at the 400 block, over on your right there's the Stanley Theater, that once and famous, red velvet, gilt and rococo movie palace, and in the same glance, the Mayfair Theater. On your left (the east side), you'll cruise by Grand Rapids Furniture and probably the most famous music store Baltimore has ever known, Fred Walker's.

Things are coming alive now as you glide down into the 300 block; on your right, Wyman Shoes and Hess Shoes, the Oriole Cafeteria and Schleisner's, one of the era's most prestigious women's fashion stores. On your left, Pollack-Blums.

Now you're in the 200 block. On your left, Oscar Caplan, Stieff Silver, Mano Swartz Furs, the Awrach and Perl delicatessen and Jacobi's Jewelers.

Crowding the four corners closer to Lexington Street are Read's drug store ("Run right to Read's") and the giant, family-owned department stores: to the right, Hutzler's and Hochschild's, to the left, Stewart's.

Moving toward Fayette, on the right are the May Co., Howard Street Jewelers (still there!) and, across the street, the Howard Theater. On the corner, Thomas and Thompson -- which, with Nates and Leon's, was an all-night operation where you could get a 5 a.m. breakfast.

The light rail trip from Hunt Valley to the new stadium covers a distance of roughly 13 miles. Unless fares are raised by April, the trip shouldn't cost much more than $1 -- easily worth the memory jog for those four blocks of Howard Street alone!

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