Bolton Square Celebrates 50th Anniversary

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Green space and fountain inside the Bolton Square development, built in 1967. Photo by Eli Pousson, Baltimore Heritage.

by William Hamilton

The 50th anniversary celebration of Bolton Square will be held on Saturday, Oct. 7, from 1–6 p.m. Come celebrate our neighborhood and this great example of our neighborhood’s resilience.

Bolton Square’s mid-century modern townhouses and gardens will be open for tours from 1–4 p.m., followed by a ceremony and cocktail party on the common green area that faces West Lafayette Ave. between Eutaw and Bolton streets. Enter at 300 West Lafayette Ave.

Admission is $10; company and organizational sponsorships are available. The nationally recognized architect who designed Bolton Square, Hugh Newell Jacobsen, and the widow of Baltimore developer Stanley Panitz, who constructed the 35 units, will attend. Sponsors include Baltimore Heritage and the Maryland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

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Mid-century modern in Bolton Hill. Bolton Square condo fronting Lafayette Ave.

Bolton Square is not just architecturally distinctive. It also plays an important part in our neighborhood’s history. 

In the aftermath of World War II, Bolton Hill was on the skids. Wealthy families who built the 19th-century mansions had given way to absentee landlords who cut them into rooming houses for workers in town to grab jobs in the war economy. Many houses were rundown, and others were abandoned.

The city assumed control of land between West Lafayette Avenue and McMechen Streets, just east of Eutaw Place, and considered knocking down decaying buildings and constructing large-scale public housing. The city hired consultants, including Connie Lieder, an urban economist who still lives in the neighborhood, to do an economic assessment. Her study concluded that there were promising signs of new life as people had begun buying and restoring the old houses. Based in part on that study, the city decided to hold an architectural competition and award a contract for the best design for new housing.

In 1964, Panitz and Jacobsen were awarded a contract to begin construction on the cleared city land, which included closing Linden Avenue to create a common, enclosed green space. The first segment was finished in 1967, and the developer moved his own large family into an end unit. Then came the assassination of Martin Luther King, rioting and white flight. Several Bolton Square units had to be rented because no buyers were interested. The builder persevered, however, and the units all eventually become owner occupied. A year or so later the Linden Green apartments, facing Bolton Square, were constructed, along with what is now the newly renovated Linden Park apartment tower on McMechen and the Sutton Place apartments on Park Ave. Urban renewal funds made it all possible.

Since that time, the neighborhood has regained much of its historic appeal and value. Bolton Square today, like Bolton Hill around it, is home to an intergenerational and interracial mix of professionals, business people and academics. Celebrate it! For further information, contact Monty Howard, Bolton Square Homeowners Association president, at 410-243-2902 or montyhoward@earthlink.net.

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