A WALKING TOUR OF RESERVOIR HILL
Welcome to Reservoir Hill!
As a premier, turn of the century neighborhood, Reservoir Hill embodies a wide range of architectural styles. Because there has not been any wholesale demolition or much in the way of new intrusive construction, most of the eclectic rows and single homes in the neighborhood remain intact.
Starting the Walk
Begin your walk on Mount Royal Terrace at North Avenue. This architecturally unique district set in a park-like setting originally fronted on a circular lake known as the Mount Royal Reservoir. Although the houses now front on a small, semicircular park, the special design features used to maximize the view of the reservoir still exist. Many homes feature second floor porches and excellent woodwork often highlighted by slate roofs and cresting. One of the original entrance markers to the old park remains, the other long gone to make way for the North Avenue ramp to the Jones Falls Expressway.
As you climb northward you will catch a glimpse of Druid Hill Park. The town homes end and large single homes begin. These homes were completed at the turn of the century by families such as Rosenbloom (Baltimore Colts), Hecht and May (department stores), and Levi (Levi-Strauss jeans).
Turn south on Park Avenue, the center of the annual Garden Tour. At 2001 Park Avenue, the stone mansion on the hill at Park Avenue and Reservoir Street, you will see the original summer home of Dr. Solomon Birckhead, one of the areas first residents. It was completed around 1792 but almost destroyed by fire in 1836. It was rebuilt within its original exterior walls. Christine Birckhead married Dr. Thomas Bond, a wealthy physician, and they had one son, Hugh Lennox Bond, who lived his whole life at the Mount Royal Mansion. As a practicing attorney he defended rich and poor alike, was a champion of civil rights, and a staunch supporter of Lincoln and emancipation. In 1870 President Grant appointed him Judge of the Circuit Court of the United States. He organized the first public school system for Blacks in the United States. For this reason the estate became known as the "Bond House", a name that has remained through several owners. For many years it was also known as the Norwegian Seamen’s Home, owned by the Norwegian government as a resting place for travel weary sailors. In 1974 it was purchased by the city and now houses Metro Delta Head Start and Reservoir hill Improvement Council.
Proceeding south, turn right up Lennox Street to the 700 block and visit the ghosts of baseball past! Wander up the alley alongside 702 Lennox where Babe Ruth would drum up an impromptu game of catch with Johnny and Louie Steinman when the Yankees were in town. Proceed north up the alley to Reservoir Street and turn left. At Brookfield Avenue you'll notice the architectural styles change, sometimes in the middle of the block1.
'Turn right on Brookfield Avenue, then left on Ducatel. Most of the streets in Reservoir Hill are named for the owners of the original estates. Turn right on Linden Avenue, named for the lovely Linden trees painted by G.W. Gail, founder of American Tobacco, whose estate featured wonderful gardens full of priceless statuary. Only a few of the stately Lindens remain. Cross over Whitelock Street, and to the left, at 2403 Linden Ave. you will find the Gertrude Stein House. Built in 1886 by photographer David Bacharach, this house has hosted an array of famous and infamous artists and "free-thinkers". Stein, herself, lived here following the death of her parents in 1892, and visited frequently while she attended Johns Hopkins University from 1897 until 1901. The Bacharach family has photographed every president from Taft to Johnson as well as many world leaders. The lot this house (originally free-standing) was built on was purchased from the Whitelock family who had brought it from the Gails. It was the first house on Linden Avenue. Across from the Stein house stands the St. Francis Neighborhood Center. Re-located from Whitelock Street when demolition occurred in the mid-1990s, the Center has been in Reservoir Hill more than 40 years.
Backtrack to Whitelcck Street and look east. Once the commercial district of Reservoir Hill, this street has known many transformations. Originally a farm road for the tenant farmers on the Whitelock estate back in the 1700's, it has been the scene of some hard times, including the riots of 1968 and looting during the blizzard of 1979. When the buildings that once stood on these vacant lots were demolished, many of the store fronts were boarded up and most were caged.
Head west on Whitelcck Street to Madison Avenue and turn north. In this area bordered by McCulloh Street (one block west) and Eutaw Street (one block east), the architectural styles include Italianate, Queen Anne, and Renaissance Revival, but maintain a common scale and proportion. It is known as one of the most architecturally distinguished late nineteenth to early twentieth century neighborhoods in Baltimore City.
Stroll up Madison Avenue to Druid Park Lake Drive and turn east toward the Jones Falls Expressway. By the early 1900's, the Druid Lake area became the favored site for luxury apartments to accommodate an emerging class of wealthy merchants. These families lived with their entourage of servants in grand lakeside dwellings, the most prominent of which were The Esplanade, the Emersonsonian, and Temple Gardens. The tenant roster of these buildings included Max Hochschild (of Hochschild Kohn), Isaac Hamburger (apparel stores), Joel Hutzler and Alexander Hecht (department stores), Nath Katz ( S. and N Katz jewelers), and Isaac Hess (shoes).
As you meander back to Mount Royal Terrace, take some time to gaze across the street over the park, and try to envision how it looked at the turn of the century. Young ladies riding sidesaddle with their long skirts sweeping the white gravel of the bridle path around the lake. Carriages could be rented for 3 cents a day for touring the park which teemed with deer and wildlife. Families picnicked among the many elaborate fountains and statuary. At the end of the day people would gather around the lake to watch the fountain, for back then the water rose so high in the air it fell onto what is now Druid Lake Drive, where you are standing.
Reservoir Hill is truly a beautiful and historical community.
From 1680 when Englishmen David Jones settled along the river which new bears his name, through the many land grants and subdivisions, grand estates and rows of homes, this area has survived as an architectural and cultural marvel. The people of this community are working hard to unify Reservoir Hill, to restore it, and keep it a place of beauty and friendly living for people from all walks of life. Thank you for visiting Reservoir Hill. Come back soon.