Bolton Hill Notes

Better late than not at all on McMechen Street: new pavement

The wait is over.  McMechen Street between Bolton Street and Mt. Royal Avenue has a new coat of asphalt – not exactly freeway-quality, but a big improvement for what has been, arguably, the bumpiest road in Bolton Hill.  City contractors showed up around Thanksgiving and completed the work by Dec. 1, although one small patch seems incomplete.  City Councilman Eric Costello pushed persistently for the roadwork.

So, who was McMechen, anyway? 

According to Wikipedia, George W. F. McMechen was a prominent African American lawyer and civil rights advocate in Baltimore.  In 1891 he enrolled in the first class at what is now Morgan State University, then attended Yale Law School.  He and his family in 1910 bought a house at 1834 McCullough Street, on the white side of what had been a dividing line in segregated west Baltimore.  It led the city council to pass laws forbidding Black homeownership in blocks that were less than 50 percent occupied by people of color, a law that was copied by other cities until federal courts eventually struck them down.

McMechen ran for the city council, all-white in 1915, but lost.  He persisted as a critic of segregation laws.  From 1921 to 1939, he was on the governing board of Morgan State.  He was also the first African American on the city school board, from 1944 to 1950.  McMechen served as a board member of the Morgan Corporation upon the state takeover of the college in 1939.  McMechen died in 1961 at age 90.  It’s not clear when the street was named.  The business and economics building at Morgan State University is named for him, as is McMechen High School in northwest Baltimore.

Sen. Sarbanes slept here

US Sen. Paul Sarbanes, a Democrat who died Dec. 6 in a Roland Park assisted living center at the age of 84, got his start in politics while a resident of Bolton Hill, we’re reminded by neighbor Drew Nilsen. 

Sarbanes entered politics in 1966 with a successful bid for the Maryland House of Delegates, and four years later won election to Congress.  At the time he and his British-born wife, Christine, lived at 1712 Bolton Street.  Neighborhood uber-historian Frank Shivers, Jr. recalled a meeting of the Mount Royal Improvement Association (now BHCA) in the 1970s in which Sarbanes urged the organization’s board to recruit black members.  Sarbanes served 30 years in the Senate, a record for Maryland.

Historic redevelopment just west of us . . .

The city’s Department of Housing and Community Development has asked for developers to submit proposals for restoring a four-level historic property in Marble Hill at 1313 Druid Hill Avenue, adjacent to the newly renovated Marble Hill Park.  The property has 13,300 square feet of developable space, according to DHCD.

Calling for Bolton Hill photos!

Do you have digital photos of people, events, parks, or architecture around Bolton Hill?  Your photos would be wonderful to see on the Bolton Hill website!  Keep in mind that photo credits will not be possible and no guarantee that your photos will be used.  Group photos of people are preferred; photos of individuals will not be posted without consent.  The higher the photo resolution, the better.  Upload your photos here.

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