For the second year, The Sun asked readers to nominate the biggest and brightest home decorating jobs of the season, and we received about 100 calls.
Reporters and photographers traveled the Christmas light circuit compile this 1994 edition of suggested driving tours to take in the electrified tradition.
We chose not only the shiniest suggestions of readers, but also paused to check out bright attractions located en route, and checked up on some locations in last year's list that were not specifically re-nominated this year.
We tried to create logical driving routes to link whole neighborhoods that blaze brightly. But in some cases, a single home or two may be worth the trip.
1. The electric bill in Hampden zooms in December as !B seemingly the whole neighborhood is illuminated for the holiday season. Brightest of all is the 700 block of W. 34th Street. The houses and tiny front yards are positively encrusted with manger scenes, candy canes, Santa Clauses and reindeer. Not only that, but strings of lights run high above the entire block. We have a feeling this bright spot in Baltimore can be spotted from the space shuttle.
2. Also in Hampden, check out the ever-ambitious decorators at 3660 Buena Vista Ave., which can be reached by going west on W. 36th Street, passing through the intersection with Falls Road, and soon turning right onto Buena Vista. You can't miss the manger scene on the porch roof, and the reindeer and other North Pole trappings that have taken over the big-by-Hampden standards yard. And while you're in the neighborhood, cruising through the side streets will reveal many other decorated houses that would be champions in less competitive parts of town.
3. If the hard-working folks in Hampden go all out, their counterparts on the northeast side of the city put on a pretty good display, too. On your way over, if you're heading eastbound on Northern Parkway, a few blocks east of its intersection with York Road look for the lights dramatically strung through the trees beside a house at Reverdy Road and Northern Parkway.
4. As Northern Parkway reaches Harford Road, there are plenty of houses in Hamilton that are all decked out. A possible route is to proceed south on Harford Road until you reach Glenmore Avenue. Take a right and pause at 2926 Glenmore to watch the mechanically moving Santa and his elves toiling in their snug workshop. Then turn around in this dead-end block, re-cross the intersection with Harford Road and travel east on Glenmore until you reach Walther Avenue. Turn right on Walther and take it south for a few blocks before turning left onto Raspe Avenue, where the 3700 block is done up proud. It seems like every porch rail and post has something Christmas-y affixed to it.
5. You can now proceed south on Walther Avenue, remaining on it as it merges with Harford Road, then taking a left onto Erdman Avenue and heading in a southeast direction. A few blocks beyond the intersection with Sinclair Lane (the site of Archbishop Curley High School), take a left off of Erdman onto Wright Avenue. The houses in Armistead Gardens may be modest in size, but those at 5129 and 5131 Wright have their yards full of Christmas stuff and Santa is up on the porch roof.
6. There are various routes from here over to Highlandtown. If you head into that neighborhood of tidy rowhouses, a charming seasonal make-over has been done to 11 N. Luzerne Ave., located just off of E. Baltimore Street at the northern edge of Patterson Park. From the Christmas tree inside the front window to the exterior trimming of greenery and red ribbons, this is a tasteful, Currier and Ives-style treatment.
7. The city's working class neighborhoods often feature the best decorations, with perhaps a bit of the greenery added by the yuppie influx of the past decade. If you swing around to the south side of the city, head south on Hanover Street, take a left onto Fort Avenue and then a quick left onto tiny Patapsco Street. The "Santa Stops Here" sign on the two-story rowhouse at 1444 Patapsco St. is no idle boast. From the carolers and other seasonal figures at sidewalk level to the dolls in the windows and the star-topped nativity scene on the roof, this is a house that will make you gasp and giggle.
8. Now get yourself back onto Fort Avenue and head east into Locust Point. Turn left onto Hull Street and admire the 1100 and 1200 blocks, where many houses have wrapped doors, greenery trimmed windows and other holiday cheer.
9. If you then double back on Fort Avenue until you're again at its intersection with Hanover Street, those who are into extended drives may want to head south on Hanover until they're in Brooklyn. Follow the road around until turning left onto Patapsco Avenue, proceeding for a long stretch until then turning right onto West Bay Avenue. Tucked away behind Benjamin Franklin Junior High School, to your left, is Monroe Circle. The seasonal spirit is epitomized by the Santa atop a flag pole at 1154 Monroe Circle.