Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

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.


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