Butchers Hill's 16 square blocks boast a rainbow of races, incomes and housing rarely found in a single urban neighborhood.
Whites, African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics. Blue-collar workers and white-collar professionals. Small, neat rowhouses on alleys, bigger homes with beautiful wood-and-glass double doors, and even bigger cornice-topped homes with lovely gardens and harbor views.
"The most important thing to me is the diversity and the neighborliness," said Catherine Boitnott, who has lived in Butchers Hill for 15 years. "I wouldn't live anywhere else."
Butchers Hill residents are so proud of their neighborhood and so determined to increase homeownership that they organize a house tour every year. The 17th annual tour, which will cover 12 homes, is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13.
Tickets for the house tour are available at the real estate offices of O'Conor, Piper & Flynn in Fells Point and Federal Hill and at Long & Foster in Fells Point. Tickets are $6 in advance or $8 on the day of the tour, which will start at the White House in Patterson Park just north of the pagoda.
Bounded by Fayette Street, Patterson Park Avenue, Pratt Street and Washington Street, Butchers Hill got its name from the dozens of butchers who lived there in the 19th century. The area's elevation allowed the slaughterhouses to do their messy job away from the growing Fells Point population.
The neighborhood was also advantageous for the delivery of livestock from farms east of Baltimore.
Most construction in Butchers Hill occurred between 1850 and 1920, taking advantage of the traffic on the road from Philadelphia into Baltimore Street.
Wealthy butchers lived in some of the grandest homes built in the Queen Anne and Victorian styles.
But after the butchers left and World War II ended, most of these large homes were converted into apartment buildings.
The neighborhood started to decline, as fewer people owned their homes. Starting in the 1970s, new buyers embarked on renovations aimed at restoring homes to their original style. The urban renewal attracted a mix of Johns Hopkins doctors, clergy, artists and lawyers.
One stark indication of the real estate upswing came when a house last year fetched $250,000 -- an unprecedented sales price in Butchers Hill, said Jakob Metz, a real estate agent with O'Conor, Piper & Flynn.
"Property values have increased in leaps and bounds," he said.
Metz, who has lived in Butchers Hill on and off for the past 11 years, said there are 64 properties for sale in the neighborhood. Renovated homes with central air conditioning start around $80,000, but there are sellers asking as little as $14,000 for small, older units on alleys and as much as $275,000 for homes with extra apartments, garages and downtown views.
"As the years go by, I feel it's a neighborhood that native Baltimore doesn't always appreciate, but out-of-towners are very happy with the values they can get," said Bill Cassidy, a real estate agent with Long & Foster. "In so many other downtown neighborhoods, like Federal Hill and Canton, the houses tend to be much smaller."
There is crime -- an inevitable fact of urban life, but which police say is mostly car thefts, drug dealing and an occasional burglary.
One of the neighborhood's greatest treasures is neighboring Patterson Park, which includes a pool, tennis courts, ice-skating rink, basketball courts and softball fields, and the landmark Oriental pagoda, guarded by sculptured lions, which was built by the city in 1891.
The neighborhood has its own, tiny park on Duncan Street between Pratt and Lombard. With five green benches, a picnic table with a checkerboard top, and landscaping, the park is the home of the neighborhood association's annual summer picnic and book club meetings.
The city donated the park but doesn't maintain it; neighbors like Steve Young, who teaches Russian at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and lives behind the park, tend the flowers, pull the weeds and trim the bushes.
Young said he has lived in Butchers Hill since moving from Chicago 10 years ago. He said he was walking around Fells Point, asking people about good places to live, and several suggested nearby Butchers Hill. He rented for several years, then bought a rowhouse on South Chester Street that he said he is gradually renovating.
The little park is "an example of what government can do, and then citizens pick up after that," said Ann Wolfe, president of the neighborhood association, wearing khaki shorts and sandals on a recent walk at dusk.
Butchers Hill's tiny commercial strip on Pratt Street includes a cabinet store, pet groomer and large office. Mom-and-pop grocery stores dot some corners, though some are boarded.
"I wish somebody would buy this," Wolfe sighed, passing a former ice cream shop on the corner of Baltimore and Collington. "We fantasize about a little coffee shop or wine bar."
Wolfe would also like to see developers snatch up some of the empty residential buildings, such as one at Pratt Street and Patterson Park Avenue.
"Our goal is for the whole neighborhood to be owner-occupied," Wolfe said. "We think, modestly, that there's not better real estate value for the amount of space you can get in this fTC neighborhood."
Population: 2,000 (Butchers Hill Association)
Commuting time to Pennsylvania Station: 10 minutes
Commuting time to the Inner Harbor: 8 minutes
Public schools: Commodore John Rodgers Elementary, Canton Middle, Patterson High
Shopping: Corner stores, several nearby supermarkets, Broadway Market
Point of interest: Patterson Park and its pagoda
ZIP code: 21231
Average price of a single-family home: $60,209*
*Based on 24 sales through Mid-Atlantic Real estate Information Technologies' multiple listing service during the post 12 months
Pub Date: 9/29/96