1982 was a momentous year for the Mount Royal Avenue area

Not only did Artscape begin, but the Meyerhoff opened and the Lyric underwent renovations

July 15, 2011|Jacques Kelly

The organizers of this weekend's Artscape seem to be fascinated by 1982, the year the outdoor festival made its debut. Let's consider 1982 Baltimore. A double feature of "Poltergeist" and "Star Trek" was playing at the Hippodrome; Barry Levinson's "Diner" was at the Senator and later at the Pikes.

The first Artscape was held in June along Mount Royal Avenue, signaling a momentous year for the neighborhood. The Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall would open that September. The Lyric simultaneously underwent a dramatic renovation that gave it an enlarged lobby and a rearranged orchestra seating. The Lyric's rickety old seats, which were bolted to a wooden floor for removal for the annual debutantes' Bachelors Cotillon, were finally chucked. A new floor and a changed seating arrangement came in. A production of "Show Boat" played to money reviews that fall.

By the end of that year, Baltimore had two arts halls on either side of the old Mount Royal Station. I counted the 1980s Harborplace opening, followed by the National Aquarium in 1981 and the 1982 Meyerhoff-Lyric as the triple successes of that era. The Mount Royal area has continued to rack up gains, most recently with the Angelos Law School and Fitzgerald apartments and garage.

It was also the year that the Baltimore Museum of Art opened an extensive addition that included the restaurant now known as Gertrude's.

It just may have been the year when neighborhood outdoor seating caught on. Dominick "Nick" Vacarro, then a 26-year-old Little Italy baker, set up tables, chairs and canvas umbrellas at Albemarle and Stiles. The trend took off.

What were some of our big deal restaurants? Try Café des Artistes, the Chesapeake, Danny's, Crabtree's, Fiori, County Fare Inn, Green Earth Café, the John Eager Howard Room, Madrid, Stahl 1043, Pimlico Hotel, Harvey House and Torremolinos. An arcade addition to the Lexington Market opened on Eutaw Street and we still had a Hecht's and a Hutzler's downtown. This would change.

Some of downtown Baltimore's traffic mess was channeled into what was then called the Harbor City Boulevard. It opened in 1982 and is now, of course, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

In the harbor area, 1982 was the year of the big push into the redevelopment of Market Place, which has morphed into Power Plant Live. There was also a failed but valiant attempt to woo a Bloomingdale's department store to what became the Gallery at Pratt and Calvert streets in 1987.

The year 1982 was a banner one for Lauraville in Northeast Baltimore, which has only gained in the last three decades. Its first fair was held that spring. A large sign went up proclaiming the neighborhood's name. It became a success story for the greater Hamilton area. More recently, a renaissance of restaurants and bars opened along its Harford Road main street.

Canton got a boost that year. The Anchorage townhouses went up along Boston Street, forecasting the Canton boom a decade later. It was also the year when artists began holding shows in the Hollins Market area of Southwest Baltimore.

I recall the day that Jody Albright, Artscape's prime mover, came into the old News American newsrooms to pitch her idea for the festival. The annual City Fair, held in the fall, was then in full force and seemed to own the rights to this sort of thing. But Jody was a plugger and a pusher and got her Artscape off the ground. For years the two festivals ran, one in the summer and the other in the early fall. Then the City Fair withered and just went away. Artscape prospered and endured.


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