Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Monday, February 28, 2005

David Harvey, Gentrification, and Democracy

I went to a talk by noted geographer social theorist, and former Hampden resident David Harvey this morning. Harvey has been working since the 1960's to understand how cities work in the era of de-industrialized capitalism in which we now find ourselves, and has dealt to some extent with issues of economic equality. His talk today was along those lines. He briefly discussed the development of Baltimore as a city, stressing an increasing collaboration of government interests with private industry - including the land and tax giveaways in the Inner Harbor area with which we are all familiar. He made three important points about Baltimore in general, which - I think - apply very well to Hampden in particular.

1) He said that along with the transformation of Baltimore into a post-industrial city whose economy centers on tourism, shopping and consumption rather than production, has come an ever-increasing gap between the incomes of wealthy people and those of working and poor people.

2) Accompanying this income dispartity is an increase in the well-to- do moving into traditionally working class neighborhoods like Hampden. This drives up housing prices and makes it more difficult for less wealthy people to afford to live in them. In the case of Hampden, it means that people can sell their houses for much more than they bought them for, but leaves them with the problem of finding an affordable place to move to. It also means that the traditional fabric of the neighborhood is beginning to wear a bit thin.

3) He noted that along with these other transformations comes a significant decrease in the ability of people to make their voices heard in the democratic process. Commercial interests seem to constantly have the ear of politicians, drowning out the voices of individual citizens. This means that increasingly, the development plans of the commercial interests, whose focus is primarily on profit, win out over the voices of individuals or civic organizations, whose primary concern is the quality of life in a city or neighborhood.

Gentrification is a major focus of the Hampden project. It certainly has its good points. But it also often happens at the extent of the traditional communities in which it occurrs. One of the reasons that we exist is to try to amplify the voices of people in the community who aren't being heard in the conventional political process - people who see their neighborhood being reinvented as something unrecognizable. This includes the traditional community of Hampden - people who are often left out of decisions about what will happen to the neighborhood that _they_ built. Harvey tells us that in order to increase the democracy and equality of development processes we have to re-imagine the development process itself. We have to strive to hear the voices of all of the stakeholders.

One of the ways that we can do this is through public discussion. Our project hopes to raise such discussion around issues of heritage and public memory. Perhaps we can create some common ground by educating everyone involved about Hampden's rich and fascinating history. I'm interested to hear other views about this. What can we say about the way that development is proceeding in Hampden? What steps can we take to see that the process becomes more democratic?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Hampden Archaeology Research Design on the Web

Our research design, outlining our plans for community-based archaeology in Hampden over the next couple of years, is now available , on the CHRS Website. It is a downloadable PDF, so that you can have your very own copy! Please check it out and leave any comments on the blog.

Mt Vernon Lithograph

Mt. Vernon Lithograph
Originally uploaded by Dave G..
I've been slowly amassing a collection of Hampden photos, maps and so forth, which I'll be posting periodically. Many of them are available at the Baltimore County Legacy Web. This is a ca. 1860 lithograph of the Mount Vernon Mills, made by the A. Hoen co. In the foreground are shown a number of mill worker houses. I'm a little perplexed as to which direction this was taken from. It seems that the artist has flattened the topography considerably and broadened the streets. Feel free to post comments about the image. Also, If you have photos of Hampden, historic or otherwise, that you'd like to share, please drop me a line.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Welcome to the Hampden Heritage Blog

Welcome to the blog for Archaeology and Heritage in Hampden.

This program, Directed by Bob Chidester, Dave Gadsby, and Paul Shackel of the Center for Heritage Resources Studies , is designed to create a broad public conversation about heritage in the Baltimore Neighborhood of Hampden. The three project directors are all archaeologists who hope, through the tools of archaeology and history, to make study of the past relevant to contemporary conditions in Hampden.

For those unfamiliar with Hampden, it is a traditionally working class, traditionally white neighborhood in central Baltimore, located on a ridge between the Jones Falls and Stony Run. The earliest historic era communities in the area were worker's villages that formed, beginning in the 1820's, around the grist mills there. In response to Baltimore's booming 19th century shipping industry, mill owners converted their grist mills into textile mills in the 1830's and 1840's. The workers in the mills produced cotton duck, or canvas. By the 1870's eight mills and a large foundry employed over 3,000 people. During this period, worker-management relations were guided by a system known as paternalism, in which the companies provide workers with much of what they need to live, at the cost of low wages and a lack of freedom. Institutions in the paternalist system included a library, a public park, and several churches, as well as housing and company stores. All of these institutions still exist on the landscape today.

In the twentieth century, mill owners, citing struggling markets and a more adversarial relationship with workers gradually closed many of the Hampden mills and moved their operations elsewhere. Hampden was transformed from a working community to a primarily residential community with a reputation as an isolated place. As many as three generations of families have lived in the same house, and many young people born in Hampden stay here. Geographers have called this phenomenon "residential stability," a term which implies not only a stable community, but also an insular one, resistant to change.

In recent decades, however, Hampden has been forced to confront change. A commercial renaissance led by businesses near and along 36th street (the Avenue) has brought a new influx of affluent families, and driven housing sharply upward. While this has meant many economic benefits for people in the neighborhood, it has also created a rift between "Old Hampden" - the area's traditional residents - and "New Hampden."

One of the goals of our project is to engender productive and positive conversation about Hampden's history of labor and industrial heritage, and to bring that discussion to bear on Hampden's present. We hope to do this through public programs - site tours, lectures and volunteer opportunities - surrounding a summer archaeological project. Another is to ensure that we, as archaeologists, bring our craft to the service of the community. This means ensuring that members of the Hamdpen community have input into every stage of the project, from initial planning, to excavation , to analysis and public interpretation. To this end, we've created this blog, which will serve as a forum for us to update readers on the project, but also provides a way to reach us by leaving comments.

Those seeking more information can check out our Hampden Heritage Web Page. If you'd like more information about Maryland's labor history and archaeology, check out Bob Chidester's research. If you wish to contact us directly, you may do so by email.