Hampden Heritage

Archaeology, History, and Heritage in Central Baltimore

Saturday, February 23, 2008

An interesting random tidbit

Hi folks,

It's been a long time since I've posted anything, so I figured I'd better get back on track. In the next few weeks I will begin to follow Dave's lead by posting portions of my dissertation proposal, followed after that by portions of the first draft of my actual dissertation. In the meantime, however, I thought I'd share an interesting piece of information related to our field site from last season that I came across completely by accident while doing some background reading.

Recall that our site from last year (3833-3839 Falls Rd.) was once part of the large property holdings of developer Martin Kelly, who, upon his death, passed it to his sons Edward and Dennis. At some point thereafter, one or two of the individual lots were sold to Mr. Albert G. Eichelberger, a dry goods merchant, who lived there from the late 1870s into the early 1900s. We know a little bit about Eichelberger from a newspaper article we found describing a boycott of his store by local labor activists who were upset that Eichelberger refused to sell only union-made cigars. So, Eichelberger was clearly no friend of the working class.

Well, while perusing a history of Baltimore published way back in 1912, I came across a single line reference to a Mr. A.G. Eichelberger of Baltimore. In 1896, alcohol prohibition was becoming a huge national issue, and a political party was formed for the purpose of running a candidate for President on a prohibition platform. This party, however, was split between two factions: one that believed in the gold standard for the monetary system, and one that believed in the silver standard for the monetary system. Generally speaking, both of these issues--prohibition and the gold-standard vs. silver-standard debate--broke down along class lines, with the middle class supporting prohibition and the gold standard while the working class supported the opposite. To get back to Mr. Eichelberger, he is named in this history of Baltimore as being Maryland's representative to the national committee for the pro-gold standard faction of the National Prohibition Party--like his refusal to sell only union-made cigars, two public stances in one that were sure to arouse the ire of Hampden's workers.

Here are some references for more information:

Hall, Clayton Colman. 1912. Baltimore: Its History and Its People. 3 vols. Lewis Historical Publishing Company, New York and Chicago. (The reference to Eichelberger is in volume 1, pg. 301.)

For more information about the politics of 1896, including both the National Prohibition party and the gold-standard vs. silver-standard debate, see http://projects.vassar.edu/1896/1896home.html.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Dissertation Proposal, the good parts. Part 2

Here is the second in an occasional series abridging my dissertation proposal. I feel like I've said this a lot before - one begins to feel like a bit of a broken record - but I think it bears repeating. The point here is not to slam anyone in particular (well maybe 1 person in particular), but to shine some light on the process of gentrification, which has its good and bad points, but seems to me to be inherently unfair to a lot of people. As far as my dissertation proposal goes, this is section in which I build a context for my research and try to demonstrate why I think the project is necessary.
Enjoy! (or get mad. whatever).

Contemporary Hampden

Beginning in the 1980s, area developers began to renovate the old mill buildings as artist studios and offices. The influx of artists, according to Zukin (1995: 23), places a neighborhood squarely on the road to gentrification, and that gentrification has occurred with increasing intensity over the past several years. Housing prices are on the rise as affluent families (often referred to as “yuppies” by longtime residents) move into the area. A merchant’s association, with the aid of a large federal Main Streets grant, has altered the look and character of the city’s main shopping street, installing expensive boutiques, restaurants, and bars, meant to attract visitor consumers from elsewhere. An annual street festival known as “Honfest” purports to be a celebration of working-class women, but can be read alternatively as a minstrel show that lampoons all working class people (Gadsby 2006). A recent issue of National Geographic Traveler (Stables 2005:20), showcasing Hampden as an “up and coming neighborhood” attests to the increasing draw of places like this as tourist destinations. Recently the Hampden Village merchants association has paid to have the neighborhood listed as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places (City of Baltimore 2005).

Thus, Hampden has begun to transform into a caricature of itself. It has not reached the state of a fully consumption-based ”pleasure citadel” (Harvey 1991a: 237) such as Baltimore’s Inner Harbor (Harvey 1994: 247-248) or New York’s Times Square (Zukin 1995: 133-145). It is instead something between the “genuine article” of a working class neighborhood – working class people still, to an extent which remains largely undetermined, live and shop there – and a complete fake. The direction of development seems to be headed toward the latter however, and as developers and merchants march gentrification forward, a new symbolic economy based around the neighborhood’s working class image has begun to evolve. Events such as “Honfest,” and restaurants and shops on Hampden’s main street lampoon an imaginary blue-collar experience by disseminating inaccurate and cartoon-like images of working class men and women. They capitalize on the “kitsch” of working-class lives and homes and parody the styles of working class people in public performance. In this new Hampden, working class people are abstracted, sketched as cartoons, and relegated to the no-man’s land of Hampden’s working past. They are thus safe and unthreatening, but retain an illusion of authenticity. The commodification of Hampden’s working-class heritage cannot be seen as some kind of passive process. It is detrimental to the public political voice of working people and thus has material and political and economic consequences.

Zukin’s analysis of urban gentrification is based on the symbolic economy, in which agents of gentrification and commerce in American cities rely on “culture” and “style”, including art, heritage and history, to create urban spaces where citizens can consume commodities and businesspeople can conduct their business (Zukin 1995:13). This has meant the transformation of public places such as parks and streets into public-private places. In turn, the democratic processes that formerly governed the management of such places has been co-opted by private interests, and that the voices of developers, businesspeople, and other elites are privileged over those of most citizens. Additionally, elites, under the auspices of the historic preservation movement, have taken control of the histories of those transformed places, and used those histories as tools to further gentrification (Zukin 1995:124).

History and heritage, then, become no small problem for people in Hampden. As Zukin (1995: 124-5) notes, historic designations can raise the cost of living in a neighborhood dramatically. University of Texas anthropologist John Hartigan (2000) 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 (any) 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.

Most importantly, history of this kind can be marketed, as in the case of the multi-million dollar Clipper Mill redevelopment in the nearby neighborhood of Woodberry. Here, developers have explicitly used the heritage of a nineteenth century foundry as a selling point for their new luxury condominiums:

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 and the surrounding area, including the beloved Woodberry Forest. Their aim is to create a new urban corporate campus and upscale residential community (Streuyver Brothers, Eccles and Rouse 2005).

This kind of marketing simultaneously elides the role of working people in the creation of the neighborhood now being gentrified and hijacks their history as a history of place over people. People who live in surrounding neighborhoods – people with a stake in how redevelopment goes, are left out of the process.

The work performed in preparation for this dissertation has been done under the auspices of the Hampden Community Archaeology Project. The goal of our project is to increase awareness of the historical agency of the working class, particularly with regard to its role in the development of the political and social institutions of the neighborhood. The project is self-consciously activist, advocating for democratic participation in real estate development and other private sector incursions into the public sphere.

Gadsby, D. A.
2006 Remembering and Forgetting Baltimore’s Industrial Heritage: Archaeology, History and Memory . In American Anthropological Association, San Jose, CA.

Harvey, D.
1994 A View from Federal Hill. In The Baltimore Book, pp. 227-250. Temple University Press, Philadelphia.

Stables, E.
2005 [Neighborhood Watch] Hampden Baltimore, MD. National Geographic Explorer 22(3):20.

Zukin, S.
1995 The Culture of Cities. Blackwell, Malden Massachusets.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Spring Workshop Series planned for 2008

The Hampden Community Archaeology Project (HCAP) announces its Spring 2008 series in public history and archaeology. Following hot on the heels of our January oral history workshop comes a series of three workshops designed to educate and foster discussion about Hampden’s rich heritage. The first workshop will focus on the ongoing archaeological project, with a brief lecture and slide show depicting the project’s ongoing activities. The second workshop will consist of a “Historic Hampden” walking tour, to be held in conjunction with Maryland Archaeology Month. The spring series will culminate with a workshop hosted by noted Hampden scholar and industrial archaeologist, Mr. John McGrain. Mr. McGrain will discuss his many years as a researcher of Hampden and Baltimore history. All workshops are free of charge and open to the public.

Workshop I:
Hampden Community Archaeology: What We Found and What We’re Finding Out

Presenter: David Gadsby, HCAP co-director
Location: Roosevelt Recreation Center Auditorium
1121 W. 36th Street

Date: Thursday, March 13, 2008, 7:00p.m.

Gadsby will present a brief talk and slide show on the nearly three years of excavations at five Hampden sites. Discussion to follow, light refreshments to be served

Workshop II:
Walking Tour: Historic and Industrial Hampden

Presenter: David Gadsby
Location: Meet in front of the Roosevelt Rec. Center
1121 W. 36th Street
Date: Saturday, April 19, 2008, 11:00 A.M.

April is Maryland Archaeology Month. Celebrate by taking a one-hour walking tour of Hampden’s historic landscape. Bring comfy walking shoes and be ready to some fairly long distances. Rain or shine, and bring your own refreshment.

Workshop III:
Researching Hampden’s Industrial History
Presenter: John McGrain
Location: Roosevelt Recreation Center Auditorium
1121 W. 36th Street
Date: May 22, 2008, 7:00 PM

John McGrain has spent many years researching the history of Hampden and its industrial past. He will present a brief talk on his research, and then lead discussion.

More to come - stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Dissertation Proposal, the good parts. Part 1

I've decided that, in order to have some stuff to post in the low season, I'm going to post some of the less boring parts of my dissertation proposal, which my committee approved early last December. The whole thing's nearly 70 pages long, and a lot of it is academic drival, so I'm just excerpting the good bits. Here's the history part.

Hampden is a neighborhood of Baltimore City, situated on the slopes and ridge between the Jones Falls (rivers and streams in and around Baltimore are often named “Falls”) and Stony Run approximately three miles north of the city’s Central Business district. It lies along the transition between the coastal plain and piedmont regions known in the mid-Atlantic as the “fall line.” The area lies within the Upland Section of the Piedmont Province, specifically Maryland Archaeological Research Unit 14: Patapsco-Back-Middle Drainages (Hall 1999: xii; Shaffer and Cole 1994: 77). Soils in the area are generally well-drained sandy loams, primarily Legore, Joppa, and other urban land complexes.

Nineteenth-Century Hampden: Class, Paternalism and Industry

Hampden’s early economy depended upon its topography, and particularly the ready supply of hydrologic energy available to run machinery. The “suburban factory village” of Hampden began in the 1820’s as a series of water-driven grist mills in the valley of the Jones Falls about three miles upstream of the booming shipping town of Baltimore. In the early years of the nineteenth century, while Baltimore’s waterborne commerce was booming, farmers interested in bringing their goods to market in Baltimore suffered the perils of poor roads: “miery sloughs, dreadful precipices…impassible streams” and other difficulties (Federal Gazette 1804 cited in Olson 1997).

To aid inland trade, Maryland’s government began the construction of a series of turnpike roads. Included among these was the Falls Turnpike Road, which, after 1809, connected mills along the Jones Falls grist mills to the hub of international trade a few miles to the south (Olson 1997: 47-48). By the 1830’s, the construction of the Baltimore and Ohio railroad not only improved this link, but also fueled real estate speculation throughout the region and spurred construction along the Falls Turnpike (Olson 1997: 71-77). In 1833, Lloyd Norriss and William Tyson advertised the sale of a 238-acre parcel on the Jones Falls. The parcel contained a mansion house, a farmhouse, a tavern, and a brick and stone gristmill capable of producing 120 barrels of wheat per day (Baltimore American 1833). Ten years later that Woodberry Mill was one of 18 in the Baltimore area and one of at least three in the immediate locality. Another, White Hall Cotton Factory, was still water-driven (Baltimore American 1843) . However, by 1850, Gambrill Carroll and Co.,White Hall’s owners, had begun the conversion to steam drive. By this time, there were also 27 dwelling houses for mill workers erected on mill property (Baltimore American 1850). The paternalist system that would flourish in Hampden after 1870 was already putting down roots (Baltimore American 1850).

By 1860, Hampden-Woodberry hosted a large foundry and the area was sufficiently populated to warrant the construction, by mill workers, of a library (Baltimore Sun 1860). In the early 1870’s the village had blossomed into a full-fledged mill town, albeit a rustic one. Simultaneously, an apex of industrial development and a backward suburb lacking even paved streets, Hampden played host to no less than five steam-powered cotton duck, or canvas mills, and supported as many as 8,000 inhabitants (Baltimore Sun 1874; Baltimore Sun 1872). It was in this condition that the Maryland’s cotton mill labor delegates found the town on the night of their meeting:

Saturday night, while everything was activity in Woodberry, the people on their several errands were walking up steep and unpaved streets and groping in the dark, the only light in the place being that coming down from the windows of the cottages. With 8.000 inhabitants, large churches of various denominations, a daily newspaper, public halls, numerous large cotton factories and engine works and stores of all descriptions, Woodberry, situated three miles from the heart of Baltimore City has no gas, little or no supply of water, and the most meager kind of communication with the city, to which of necessity one half of the population have business every day (Baltimore Sun 1874)

That meeting signals the beginning of real labor consciousness in Hampden-Woodberry. Throughout the 1880’s and 1890’s, organized labor gained strength, particularly under the auspices of the Knights of Labor, and won a series of strikes, culminating in a successful strike of 1918. This era, from the 1880’s through 1920, can be viewed as the era in which labor was most successful in Hampden. Despite its victories, however, mill operatives continued to make what seem like impossibly low wages: in 1885, men working in the picking room of Maryland cotton duck mills made real wages of just over $1 per day. Women and children made substantially less (Weeks 1886: 167) and the era of labor activism seems to have ended in Hampden in 1923. After a winning a lengthy strike in that year, mill corporations began the slow process of closing their operations and moving them south. While the twentieth century saw the introduction of some light industry to the region, even that began to dissipate by the 1970’s. During that period, Hampden lost all but a few of its manufacturing jobs and much of its service sector.

A series of transformations in world capitalism, famously described by Harvey (1991) including the gradual transformation of the American economy from one centered on production to one centered on consumption, made their mark on Hampden. The movement of the textile mills to the Southern piedmont has altered the neighborhood’s character over the last several decades. Between the 1950’s and the 1970’s, the mills’ decline forced many of Hampden’s blue-collar residents to take jobs outside of the neighborhood. Others set up businesses in the neighborhood - pharmacies, beauty parlors, grocery stores, and so forth, to provide services for the neighborhood’s residents. This constituted a first phase in the transformation of Hampden into an economy driven by consumption.


1804 . In Federal Gazette triweekly vols, Baltimore.

A Library at Woodberry
1860 . In Baltimore Sun, Baltimore.

[Description of Baltimore Mills]
1843 . In Baltimore American, Baltimore.

Hall, C. L. a. L. M. V.
1999 Yearbook of Archaeology 1999, edited by S. H. A. Maryland Department of Transportation. Office of Planning and Preliminary Engineering, Project Planning Division, Environmental Planning Section.

Labor Meeting at Woodberry: The Ten Hour System in the Factories - Speeches by the workingmen, etc.
1874 . In Baltimore Sun, Baltimore.

Olson, S. H.
1997 Baltimore : the building of an American city. Rev. and expanded bicentennial ed. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Md.

Shaffer, G. D. and E. Cole
1994 Standards and Guidelines for Archaeological Investigations in Maryland, edited by D. o. H. a. C. Development. Maryland Historical Trust Technical Report.

The Rockdale Factory for Sale at Public Auction
1850 .

Tour of Woodberry Mills
1872 . In Baltimore Sun.

Valuable Mill and Farm for Sale
1833 . In Baltimore American, Baltimore.

Weeks, T. C.
1886 First Biennial Report of the Bureau of Industrial Statistics and Information of Maryland, 1884-1885, edited by B. o. I. S. a. Information. Guggenheimer, Weil and Co, Printers.