Madison Park revival resumes

March 29, 1994

Among the little-known gems of Baltimore City's in-town neighborhoods is Madison Park. Bounded by North Avenue, Laurens, Morris and Tiffany streets, it is a melange of architecturally intriguing town houses that were influenced by Second Empire, Queen Anne and Romanesque Revival styles. Some have mansard roofs, conical towers and fancy window configurations.

It was built around the turn of the century. At the time the area was predominantly Jewish. A block to the east were the mansions of boulevard-like Eutaw Street and the substantial homes of Bolton Hill. After suburbanization started, Madison Park became one of the city's first black middle-class neighborhoods, populated by the professionals and businessmen of the segregation era.

When the black middle-class in turn started moving to the suburbs, many of the Madison Park houses stayed in the hands of old families. They were discovered by their sons and daughters, who renovated them into showpieces. The names of the young black professionals who lived in the neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s read like a veritable Who's Who, starting with Parren J. Mitchell, who was to represent Maryland in the U.S. House of Representatives.

There is now good news from Madison Park. The boarded-up old Madison Avenue YWCA building, which has long been an eyesore, is being converted into condominiums. The principals of the development group, appropriately, include such leading African-American businessmen as Kenneth O. Wilson of the Baltimore Inner Harbor Marina, Harbor Bank president Joseph Haskins Jr., and Andrew D. Bryant, an architect.

We hope that this project will step up other renovation efforts. Although many Madison Park blocks are in fine shape, there are still several derelict properties blighting the area. Among them are big, boarded-up apartment houses as well as town houses.

Moreover, such nearby thoroughfares as McCulloh Street and Druid Hill Avenue are in a sad shape. Once populated by Baltimore movers and shakers, these streets are today pockmarked with vacant and vandalized homes, whose numbers have alarmingly increased in recent years. This is an historic area: Many notables, from the late Thurgood Marshall, before he became a Supreme Court justice, to Tom Smith, the legendary Democratic boss, lived in houses along these tree-lined streets. The past needs to be better taken care of.

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