Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

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).


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