Permanent roots, and a sense of community Immigrants didn't go far from the ships in settling Locust Point

Neighborhood Profile

June 23, 1996|By Jill L. Kubatko | Jill L. Kubatko,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Locust Point is named for the trees that used to flourish on the Baltimore peninsula. But the name could refer to the community of 1,100 families along the mile-long stretch of East Fort Avenue from Lawrence Street to Fort McHenry.

Most residents in the area have put down permanent roots.

"People have lived here all their lives," said Ron Zimmerman, a real estate broker for 35 years in South Baltimore. "It's a very old, ethnic community. The children marry and stay here."

"We're one big family down here," added Betty Brown, who moved to the area 40 years ago with her husband, Frank. The Browns had come to Locust Point to care for Frank's ailing mother. Today, their son and grandson live with them, and the couple's two daughters live within a block of their home.

Along East Fort Avenue are several streets lined with Formstone-covered rowhouses. The streets -- such as Hull, Armour, Andre, Decatur and Towson -- are named after maritime merchants and military men.

Many residents either work as Longshoremen or at the grain elevator, Country Mark co-op, Southern States, the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. or Domino Sugar Corp., said Joyce Bauerle, president of the Locust Point Civic Association.

Bauerle says she has many reasons for staying: the people, the convenient shopping and her duty as president of the association. She works part-time at Domino Sugar.

"It's just the type of neighborhood where you know everyone. It's just a close-knit neighborhood," said Bauerle, 54.

Her mother and mother-in law still live in Locust Point. "We all live within a block of each other. A lot of people here move from block to block; they just move to another street," she said.

"I think it's the fact that the neighbors are fantastic people," she added. "They really care about each other and are very active politically and in the association. We keep them involved in everything. It's a safe neighborhood. It's basically the camaraderie."

"Anything that affects this neighborhood, we are well aware of. If it affects the neighbors, we get involved," Bauerle said. "They can really raise Cain."

The citizens of Locust Point fought to keep a bridge being from built, resulting in the Fort McHenry Tunnel; they saved their park and playground for the children and stopped helicopter tours from flying low over Fort McHenry.

"There has been many a march I went on and many a trip I made to City Hall," Betty Brown said. "It was hard but we won. We saved the park, playground and soccer field."

One battle they lost was to keep their firehouse.

The peninsula of Locust Point stretches from Key Highway to Fort McHenry, between the Northwest Branch and Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.

Three original land grants for Locust Point were called Upton Court, David's Fancy and Whetstone Point. From the early 18th century, the peninsula saw the arrival of thousands of European immigrants, mostly Germans, Czechs, Poles and Irish. By the late 1860s, more than 10,000 immigrants were landing annually in Locust Point from throughout Europe.

In the 18th century, the area was known as Whetstone Point, named for a park in London. Oceangoing vessels docked at the point more than two decades before Baltimore was founded as a town. By the 1870s, industry on Locust Point was fully developed with busy railroad yards, grain elevators and docks.

Today, along the North and South Marine Terminals are finger piers used for bringing in everything from kitchen sinks to paper and steel.

Tourists can ride the trolley or water taxi from Harborplace to Locust Point to Fort McHenry. Other attractions include the American Visionary Arts Museum, featuring works by artists outside the mainstream.

A Canton-to-Locust Point waterfront promenade is being built.

The Baltimore Museum of Industry is undergoing a $3.5 million expansion and renovation. An immigration museum/welcome center, a dream of Mr. Zimmerman's, will be included in the renovations.

Fort McHenry is creating a new visitor center and restoring its ramparts. Key Highway is being upgraded to serve as a southern gateway to the city.

Churches have always played an important part in the residents' lives. Our Lady of Good Counsel had a beacon light at the tip of its spire to guide ships. Today this church and two others, the Church of Redemption and Christ Evangelical and Reform Church, work together for the betterment of the community.

New families are looking into the area because it is near the water and cheaper than Federal Hill.

"The average price of a home is around $75,000," Zimmerman said. "It's a location you have to take people to. If you say 'Locust Point' they don't know what you are talking about. If you say Fort McHenry is there and once you show the area to them, a lot of them will buy."

"We do have some new families," Bauerle said, "and they seem to really like the area. Years ago a house went by word of mouth, and now you see a new influx of people. They all seem to like the neighborhoods."

"We really care down here and that's the name of the game," Bauerle said. "If you live here you have to care, and that's what we do best."

Locust Point

Population: 2,536 (1990 Census)

Public schools: Francis Scott Key Elementary and Middle and Southern High

Shopping: Southside Shopping Center, Harborplace and Cross Street Market

Points of interest: Fort McHenry, Latrobe Park, U.S. Naval Reserve Office, Domino Sugar Corp., American Visionary Arts Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Industry.

Average price of a home: $70,000

* Based on 17 sales during the past 12 months through Mid-Atlantic Real Estate Information Technologies Inc.

Pub Date: 6/23/96

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