North Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland

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Baltimore is a city that bears many similarities to St. Louis, and my recent trip there allowed for the taking of around 400 photographs documenting the sadness and hope that hangs over much of the beleaguered city. No street in Baltimore represents the paradox of the city better than North Avenue, once the northern boundary of the late 19th Century city and now deep within the center of the metropolis. Along its east-west run you can see the worst of Baltimore, but also the best hope for its future. Above is a shot I took from the eastern terminus of North Avenue, high upon a hill where the street dead-ends at Baltimore Cemetery. Its Gothic Revival gates create a forlorn and majestic pinnacle at the end of the street.

Perhaps it is appropriate for the architecture to mimic an abandoned castle in such a desolate place.

Heading west, down the hill, this apartment building sits empty, despite the fact it would surely provide stunning views of downtown and the harbor beyond.

This row of houses represents the former middle class status of North Avenue, which was once a major shopping district. The terracotta elements are fantastic.

This row of houses illustrates typical Baltimore rowhouse construction, with a repeating design forming a pleasant repetition down the street wall.

This wonderful turreted rowhouse would be the perfect centerpiece for a revitalized corner on which it anchors.

This row of houses seems to have become completely abandoned, one by one, decade after decade. They are left standing; one thing that Baltimore does not do excessively is large-scale demolition, leaving these houses to be rehabbed someday.

I captured this man wandering slowly across a massive, weed-filled lot just south of North Avenue; I have no idea of his destination or his purpose.

Not all of the houses along North Avenue are abandoned; this row seems relatively stable and well cared for compared to most of the buildings along the street.

However, not everything is well; this massive, elegant building is sitting abandoned, trashed and forgotten by seemingly everyone.

This row of houses is made of cut limestone, and it has amazing sculpted details.

Looking closely, one can see the beauty of the carving on these rowhouses.

And finally, one of the most fascinating and bizarre U-shaped motels in America. Sometime in the 1950’s or 60’s, the owner of two or three contiguous storefronts simply demolished them and built the motel, complete with a parking lot accessed via a curb cut on North Avenue. Not surprisingly, it now rents by the hour. It is out of this world, to be honest. Only the M is still lit on the neon sign.

Will North Avenue continue to represent all that is wrong and right with Baltimore? We will have to wait and see.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. STLgasm says:

    Great post, Chris. Baltimore is hands down one of my favorite cities, maybe because I feel a kinship between it and St. Louis. They are both almost the same size (metro), both independent cities, both straddle the north and south, and both have similar ethnic makeups. Baltimore's inherent advantage (or curse, according to some) is its unbeatable location on the East Coast a stone's throw from DC, Philly and NYC.

  2. lee.watkins says:

    actually baltimore demolishes thousands of rowhouses every year. The only thing holding them back is the high cost of demolishing brick structures.

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