Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Friday, December 23, 2005

Rewind 50 years . . .

1938 was an important year in Hampden: it was the 50th anniversary of the neighborhood's incorporation into Baltimore City. Accordingly, a great "jubilee celebration" was held from June 11 to June 14 of that year, and a souvenir book containing "historical data" and a program of events, very similar to the one put together for the 1988 celebration, was published. According to the compilers of the historical data (Andrew Cavacos and Robert Hayes), it was collected hurriedly over four weeks, "obtained by interviews with old citizens, and from books and newspapers." "A Brief History of Hampden-Woodberry" then begins with a recounting of how Hampden got its name (from the Englishman John Hampden, who opposed the levying of taxes by Charles I; this name was bestowed upon the community by Henry Mankin, who during the mid-nineteenth century owned much of the land that eventually became Hampden), followed by a description of the Hampden Association (which was responsible for purchasing the land for Hampden and subdividing it into individual lots), leisure activities (including movies and baseball), the story of Hampden's annexation to the city and the civic involvement of its citizens, banks, the Boy Scouts, a second early building association, camp meetings, and churches. The mills and the Poole and Hunt Foundry are nowhere to be found. Names of people, however, abound: partial rosters of four baseball teams, members of the newly organized North Baltimore Hunting and Fishing Association, councilmen, mayors, legislators, magistrates and other public servants, bank directors and business owners, and Boy Scout troop masters were all listed by name.

In the paper that Dave presented at the AAA meetings recently, he mentioned that anthropologist John Hartigan has noted the tendency for working-class people to think of history in terms of people and events, whereas middle-class people tend to think of history in terms of places and objects. Thus, I find it interesting that in the case of the 1938 souvenir book, naming individuals seems to be so important. This is interesting because the compilers were not workers, but rather middle-class residents of Hampden. Cavacos was a pharmacist, and while I don't know Hayes's occupation yet, he later published the periodical Notes On History: Hampden-Woodberry and Other Parts of Baltimore out of his home, so I doubt he was working-class. This seeming contradiction may put into question Hartigan's contention, or it may lead to interesting insights about class and class relationships in Hampden.

I'll take a break from posting next week, seeing as how it'll be Christmas week, but the first week in January I'll post a description of, and my thoughts about, Notes on History.

Friday, December 16, 2005

More on the 1988 Centennial booklet

Some more reflections on the 1988 centennial booklet, as promised . . .

Rather than focusing on those aspects of the community related to the cotton mills, the centennial booklet emphasizes other aspects of Hampden, specifically institutions, a general nostalgia for "the good old days," the importance of family, and consumption. Brief articles printed under the heading “Our History . . .” are on the topics of the Roosevelt Park Recreation Center (pg. 9), Hampden Elementary School #55 (pg. 10-11), Robert Poole Middle School and St. Thomas Aquinas School (both pg. 12), “The Avenue” and the Hampden branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library (both pg. 13), the Hampden Fire House (pg. 14), the Northern District Police Station (pg. 15), and the various churches of Hampden, Woodberry, and neighboring Remington (pg. 16-17). While each of these pieces outline their subjects’ histories, there is often no mention of how they fit into a larger historical narrative about Hampden. The description of Robert Poole Middle School comes the closest, expounding on the Irish immigrant for whom the school was named and his mechanical ability, which allowed him to found the Poole & Hunt Foundry in the mid-19th century and eventually become one of Hampden’s most successful businessmen. One striking characteristic of these short pieces, however, is their emphasis on Hampden’s place within greater Baltimore: The Roosevelt Rec Center was “the first such facility in Baltimore and the forerunner to all subsequent community-recreation facilities;” Hampden was the first area in Baltimore “to receive commercial redevelopment funds” from the city government, for the revitalization of “The Avenue;” the police station is “the oldest of the city’s nine stationhouses still in use.”

While the list of “One Hundred Nice Things about Hampden” contains a notable lack of items related to the area’s industrial past, nostalgia is laced throughout, in such items as “roots,” “old-fashion” barbers and doctors, “corner grocery stores that deliver to your door,” “tree-lined streets,” “war monuments” and “murals dedicated to heroes,” “memories of the dairy,” and “streetcars and trolleys.” Important aspects of a sense of community, including family, religion, and security, are also prominent on the list: “feeling safe,” “caring people,” “churches for everyone,” schools “where teachers are nice and helpful,” patriotism, “good foot-patrol policeman,” “a friendly firehouse,” “an Anti-Drug Program,” “church suppers,” and “American flags,” among other items.

The smorgasboard of advertisements and congratulations also displays a definite concern with issues of stability and family. Many items mention how long a business or organization has been located in Hampden, including Howard C. Heiss, Jeweler (52 years); C.D. Denison Orthopaedic Appliance Corporation (43 years); the Burgee-Henss Funeral Home (five generations); Gilden’s Food market (58 years); the Sheridan-Hood VFW Post 365 (43 years); Machinery & Equipment Sales, Inc. (“A Hampden Firm Since 1962”); and the New System Bakery (“Hampden’s Bakery for 65 Years”). (Despite the emphasis on heritage, very few of these businesses and organizations date from before the 1920s, and indeed most of them were little older than 40 or 50 years in 1988. Notable exceptions include the Burgee-Henss Funeral Home and the Tecumseh Tribe, No. 108 of the Improved Order of the Red Men, active in Hampden since the early 1890s.)

Furthermore, the non-business congratulatory ads also emphasized family and longevity. One full-page ad proclaims “Good Luck and Best Wishes from Six Generations of Hampdenites” (with pictures of one person for each generation) (pg. 23), while another sixth-generation Hampden family, the Arnolds, was content just to list names (pg. 99). Genealogies running three of four generations were also printed, as for the Hankin and the Jeunette families (pg. 26-27). The Cavacos family, long prominent in Hampden, bought a full page ad (pg. 67) in which they noted the many ways in which they have served the community (“Confectioners, Pharmacists, Business People, Real Estate Developers, Political Activists, Magistrate, Attorney”) and their devotion to the area (“5 Generations . . .Since the turn of the century continually committed to HAMPDEN and environs”). Senator Paul Sarbanes even included a photo of his family in his congratulatory ad (pg. 81). Even some businesses felt the need to emphasize their family orientation (or at least a willingness to participate in the rhetoric of familial relations): Top of the Tower Restaurant, owned by the Goodman family (pg. 97); Hansen’s, run by Butch, Patty, Melissa and Little Butch (pg. 85); J&B Wine and Liquor Mart, belonging to John, Brenda, Jack, Grace and Bernie (no last names needed) (pg. 64); the E-Zee Market Family (pg. 60); TV station WJZ13, which “is proud to be a part of the Hampden family” (pg. 49); the Drs. Wallenstein and the Drs. Hoffman & Associates (pg. 47); the Chestnut Pharmacy, Inc., “[n]ow in the 2nd generation of caring pharmacists . . . very proud to be the only family of Registered Pharmacists in Maryland who are all serving the same community” (pg. 43); and, again, the Burgee-Henss Funeral Home, established by Horace Burgee in 1899 and passing through the hands of his son to his grandson, joined in 1982 by the third Burgee’s daughter and son-in-law (pg. 24).

In the middle of all of the advertisements is a small section under the heading “Do You Remember . . .” The first two and the fourth pages (pg. 72-73, 75) consist of random trips down memory lane for older Hampden residents, including such things as old businesses, movie theaters, Christmas, and community activities such as the local ball club. Consumption is a big theme, represented not only by the simple enumeration of businesses, but also by the fond memories of shopping for Christmas (one woman remembered her usual Christmas list, including the stores she went to and the prices she paid); of going to the movies every week; and of shopping at the various stores along The Avenue. There are only two mentions of the mills or anything associated with them. One is the recollection by one man of “the boarding house at the corner of Ash Street and Clipper Mill Road” (pg. 72). The second is a memory of “the street car on Union Avenue that would deliver people that worked at the mills” (pg. 75). Also seemingly rather out of place in this primarily Anglo-Saxon community is the recollection of “the great smell of the Chinese Laundry on 36th Street” (pg. 75).

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Heritage for Sale

This post is an excerpt from a paper I presented last week at the Annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association.

Last summer, Bob Chidester and I participated in a public history event at a Baltimore retirement community. During the hour long talk, we discussed the history of Hampden, a central Baltimore neighborhood and mill village, along with our plans to conduct archaeology there. Two other speakers, one a local amateur historian, and the other –the moderator – a retired local schoolteacher participated in the talk with us. We discussed the neighborhood’s history as a mill town. We recounted how it developed from a series of mill-owned villages in the 1820’s, through its boom years in the 1870’s and into the hardscrabble era of the mid-twentieth century. Bob talked at length about the strike of 1923, an incident that is either left out of Hampden’s history or blamed for forcing mill owners to move their facilities to the South, where cheaper labor could be found.

Toward the end of the hour, we fielded questions from the crowd. The discussion turned to the topic of company-owned worker housing in the mill town, and the system of paternalism, or welfare capitalism. I made a comment that the paternalist system robbed people of freedom by linking their economic wellbeing to their good behavior in the mills, a fact that has not been lost on Hampden historians. I have presented this argument a number of times without much controversy, so I was a little surprised when the moderator came out with a rather angry attack against it. Instead of my class analysis, she asserted something to the effect of “The mill owners were kind and gentle leaders who built this town and you have no business defaming their character.” Such a statement, is not, of course merely a statement, but the instantiation of a particular, middle class discourse about Hampden history: one that says that the history of Hampden ultimately resides in its relic mills, and not its living people.

In moments such as this, narratives about the past come to bear on contemporary politics. Hampden may have roots in its working class history, but histories that stress the agency of the middle class have for some time elided those of the working class. In part, this is because the early documenters of Hampden’s history were middle class newspaper reporters or official business chroniclers. But, it is also to due to an unmistakable silence, or silencing of alternatives. More recently, developers have appropriated the notion of heritage in Hampden in order to amplify sales in a booming housing market. They have cooperated with the local merchant’s association to create a historic district centered on Hampden’s commercial Avenue, 36th street. Merchants are currently lobbying for legislation that would make chain stores illegal on the avenue, even though they are conscious that it will probably remove basic services from the area.

History and heritage, then, become no small problem for people in places like Hampden. As sociologist Sharon Zukin notes in her 1995 book The Culture of Cities, historic designations can raise the cost of living in a neighborhood dramatically. University of Texas anthropologist John Hartigan has written about the propensity of working class whites to regard history in terms of people and events in the past, while middle class whites tend to regard it as being related to material culture, particularly houses. In the second formulation, houses are of course also imbued with elevated monetary value because of their possession of a general history. Thus, what was once particular history – the history of working class struggle, or alternately of neighborhood unity– is transformed into a generic kind of history that is assumed to exist in old houses. Places become worth something not because they are associated with a particular person or event, but because they have “something about them,” “character” or “style” that speaks to the aesthetic sensibilities of middle class gentrifiers.

More importantly, history of this kind can be marketed. Archaeologists Yannis Hamilakis and Eleana Yalouri argue that archaeological remains possess symbolic capital, which can be exchanged for actual or monetary capital. Developers have certainly attempted to cash in on the symbolic values of ruins at the multi-million dollar Clipper Mill redevelopment in the nearby neighborhood of Woodberry. Here, they have explicitly used the heritage of a nineteenth century foundry –partially burned in 1996 - as a selling point for their new luxury condominiums. An advertisement for the new development reads as follows:

In 1853, a modest machine plant was born on Woodberry Road, just north of a nameless branch of the Jones Falls at the foot of Tempest Hill. The new plant, coined Union Machine Shops, housed Poole & Hunt's general offices, an iron foundry, erecting and pattern shops, a melting house and stables. Instantly it became the backbone of the Woodberry/Hamden community, employing thousands of men as it grew to become the country's largest machine manufacturing plants.

Today, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, Inc. is redeveloping Clipper Mill, creating a new urban corporate campus and upscale residential community.

This kind of marketing simultaneously erases the role of working people in the creation of the neighborhood and hijacks their history as a history of place over people. Notice the language that the ad uses: a machine plant, not a community or a person was "born" in 1853. People who live(ed) in surrounding neighborhoods – people with a real stake in how redevelopment goes, are dropped from the process.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Hampden Heritage

I recently took a look at the souvenir booklet published for Hampden's 100th anniversary in 1988 (actually, this was the anniversary of Hampden's incorporation into Baltimore City, not of Hampden itself) and discovered some interesting stuff regarding how Hampdenites represented the community in the 1980s. What follows are my observations on the representation (or lack thereof) of Hampden's industrial heritage in this booklet; next week I'll post about some other themes in the booklet that seem to have been really important to the people who put it together.

The opening commentary states that Hampden is “a strong, working-class, residential community [in which] many of the attitudes that existed in the early mill community persist today including a strong sense of community and family” (pg. 3). Indeed, most of the rest of the booklet that is not taken up with advertisements is devoted to brief histories of community institutions such as schools, libraries, churches, the Roosevelt Recreation Center, and the fire house and police station, as well as public spaces like movie theaters and “The Avenue.” Even on a list of “One Hundred Nice Things About Hampden,” the first three items listed are friends, family and home. Not until item #75 is anything related to Hampden’s industrial past mentioned, the item being “stone houses” (in Stone Hill, the oldest part of Hampden). Craftspeople are item #86, right before “mill factory memories” at #87.

The only other acknowledgment of working-class or industrial heritage in the entire booklet is one page titled “The Craftsman” (pg. 8—in the “Our History” section) and devoted to Mill Centre, a former textile mill that has been renovated for commercial use by “artists, craftsmen and small businesses.” Interestingly, this vignette, written by historical geographer D. Randall Beirne (a professor at the University of Baltimore and author of a dissertation and several scholarly articles on Hampden), weaves back and forth between being an advertisement for the new Mill Centre and a description of Hampden’s industrial past. In addition to describing the industrial history of Hampden’s mills, this short piece emphasizes the importance of family. Beginning with a colorful description of Hampden during its early years, the author describes how the neighborhood “echoed from the sounds of clanging lunch pails and the voices of small children carrying the noon meal to their families in the mills.” Families, being preferred by the mill owners as a stable source of labor, worked together in the mills; houses and churches were built by the mill owners for families; and many people living around Mill Centre can still claim family ties to the textile industry there. Furthermore, the difference between skilled and unskilled labor is again minimized. While the author mentions that machines once did the work of weaving and spinning in the mills, while today the work in Mill Centre is performed by “skilled artisans,” he nevertheless draws a parallel between work then and work now: “Today the sounds of cheerful voices and humming machines in the new Mill Centre are reminiscent of the Hampden of a hundred years ago that claimed to be the fastest growing community in Maryland.”

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Urbanite story on the web!

The Urbanite story has made it onto the web. Unfortunately you can't see the pictures in the HTML version, although they are very nice. You can, however, read the text, written by Baltimore freelancer Alice Ockleshaw. In order to see the photos, download the pdf document from Urbanite's home page, or pick up a copy around Baltimore.