For bloggers, Rochambeau wasn't just 1 more building


September 24, 2006

As the name would suggest, most so-called New Media types don't spend a lot of time dwelling on the past.

But several local bloggers have made an exception for the Rochambeau.

As the slow demolition of the historic Mount Vernon apartment building enters its second week, people continued to express their dismay online and criticized the Archdiocese of Baltimore for razing the building in favor of a prayer garden.

"Apparently the Archdiocese didn't get the memo explaining that the era of tearing down magnificent historic landmarks ended a 30 years ago. Preservationists did what they could; the Church simply doesn't care," wrote Beyond DC (

"It was a part of the fabric of the city I knew and, like so many other things, it's now gone forever," added Daniel at From the Marble Bar (

"With the destruction of every building like the Rochambeau, real Baltimore is vaporizing," he wrote.

"When as a 22-year-old as I rode by the Rochambeau on the bus each morning, it was my dream to live there," a 38-year-old Ellicott City resident named Kerry wrote on her MySpace blog ( "Right smack on Charles Street in the hum of city life, breathing the same air as John Waters, I couldn't have imagined better. Having gone to college in uniformly pink and teal Boca Raton, Florida, I appreciate such things."

She concluded with: "Well, enjoy your prayer garden. It won't have near the same character."

Online opinions on the demolition of the prominent 100-year-old structure at the corner of Franklin and Charles streets were decidedly one-sided, probably due in part to the fact that no one from Cardinal William H. Keeler's camp appeared to be blogging on the archdiocese's behalf. But the opposition to the Rochambeau's demolition wasn't entirely united.

"I do not think that building should be torn down, but I'm not on the save-historic-buildings-just-to-save-them bandwagon," wrote one person in a discussion on JWERblog ( "I can't say I wept bitter tears over the Odorite building" - the building torn down to make way for a University of Baltimore student center - "as the new building pulls the architecture of the entire neighborhood together."

Back on Beyond DC, one skeptical commenter wrote: "Is this building really historic? In all my years of driving up Charles Street and walking around Peabody, I can't once remember noticing it. It doesn't strike me as it ever was or ever would be a particularly elegant building anyway."

But another person responded: "Award-winning architecture isn't really the point. The Rochambeau is the sort of vernacular urban-fabric building that make cities cities, and specifically make Baltimore unique from Houston. The more of them we destroy, the more we destroy the essence of what it means to be, well, us."

With the Rochambeau in ruins, two weeks into its six-week deconstruction, there is no turning back. So all essays and comments lashing out at city planners and church leaders were academic - to a point.

If recent history is any indication, then those responsible for the Rochambeau's demolition should take note: A blogger's enemies list can be a dangerous place to be.

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