|“Harlem, the Country House of Dr. Edmondson,” |
by Nicolino V. Calyo, 1834.
Courtesy Winterthur Museum Collections, 1968.0060 A.
source: Baltimore Heritage
This is to say two things: Firstly, diminishing City power and resources required ever new initiatives to augment what the old structure of governance used to do but couldn't do anymore. Secondly: The need for green spaces and action in the neighborhoods has been recognized for quite some time.
Lisa Millspaugh's Parks & People organization does a lot of things. One of them cleaning up green spaces in Harlem Park which had been created in a then much disputed act of urban renewal going back to 1961 even before the nearby "Highway to Nowhere". Inner block renewal began with "the block 314 demonstration project". The demolition project included also the planting of 800 new trees.
One of the most ambitious elements of the urban renewal plan for Harlem Park was the city’s goal of demolishing the hundreds of four and five-room houses on Woodyear Street, Vincent Street and other back alleys. Decades of neglect created difficult conditions for tenants. Some houses still lacked indoor toilets or other plumbing facilities. The neighborhood’s urban renewal plan (adopted in 1961) envisioned replacing these homes with 29 small parks and playgrounds. Demolition started in the 1960s, requiring the relocation of hundreds of local residents, but development of the parks proceeded slowly. Debate over which city agency should maintain the parks contributed to their disuse. (Baltimore Heritage)
Mayor William Donald Schaefer negotiating with Harlem Park
community leaders Carmena F. Watson, Barbara C. Ferguson, and
Madeline Pullen, 1983 (source: Baltimore Heritage)
Uncontrolled the Harlem Park inner block spaces became nuisances instead of being common playgrounds and gathering spaces for the neighbors on the block. Even a controlled space in back, though, would be more of a suburban concept, counter to the urban culture of communing from front steps and front porches on the public street.
|Harlem Park Community Clean-Up|
(Harlem Park Community Association)
For the astonishingly rich history of Harlem Park visit Baltimore Heritage which has taken a special interest in West Baltimore's Squares, the gorgeous urban parks in the front of houses.
Harlem Park is a microcosm reflecting the full sequence of all the problems that continue to vex Baltimore to this day, from red-lining to abandonment. The study of this history reveals that current demo plans combined with project CORE and the Green Network seem to be very close to the same urban renewal that has been tried so many times before.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
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