Reservoir Hill Historic District
The Reservoir Hill Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2016, The Gombach Group.
Reservoir Hill is an urban neighborhood just south of Druid Hill Park in north Baltimore, Maryland. The convergence of diagonal and north-south street grids define 32 city blocks roughly bounded by North Avenue, Mount Royal Avenue, Druid Park Lake Drive, and Madison Avenue. The majority of the properties are late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century row houses, but the district includes other historic building types from grand mansions to multistory apartment buildings, a handful of religious and commercial buildings, and a few public monuments. Approximately half of the buildings front on small garden plots or terraced walkways. The community's tree-lined character is enhanced by plantings at sidewalk tree wells. A few older traditional brick row houses with flat facades and refined detailing are extant, but eclectic designs with projecting bays, turrets, balconies, and porch fronts predominate within the area. Six to fourteen-story tall early-twentieth century apartment houses front on Druid Hill Park at the northern edge of the district. Individual mansions built in a variety of styles, two older synagogues and one church, and a few commercial buildings provide a break from the neighborhood's row house character. Some sections of the neighborhood have been meticulously rehabilitated; in other areas, redevelopment and deterioration have taken a toll. Overall, the district retains a good level of integrity, with the majority of its significant streetscapes, buildings, and monuments intact.
While Madison Avenue and Eutaw Place continue the diagonal street grid of older neighborhoods south of North Avenue, streets within Reservoir Hill are a mixture of north-south and diagonal streets. North of Whitelock Street, many of the diagonal streets turn north-south, creating odd shaped blocks. There is a great variety of street widths in the community. Eutaw Place and Madison Avenue are extremely wide, allowing for diagonal parking, while Brooks Lane and Chauncey Avenue are extremely narrow. Cloverdale Road between Eutaw Place and Madison Avenue is paved in brick. Park Avenue includes a landscaped median. The northern portion of Mount Royal Avenue has the character of an access road to the Jones Falls Expressway, while houses in the 1900 block front on a crescent-shaped lane and small park. Through traffic within the community is minimal, as virtually all the streets within the neighborhood stop at Druid Hill Park to the north or the Jones Falls Expressway to the east. The 2000 block of Callow Avenue has been narrowed at the ends of the block to enhance its pedestrian character and a few streets have speed humps to slow traffic.
Reservoir Hill is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Baltimore with regard to housing types. They range from early row houses and a surviving country estate to eclectic porch front rows, individual mansions, high-rise apartment buildings, a group of solar powered townhouses, and early suburban style villas. In spite of this variety of housing types, the character of neighborhood is retained due to its distinct boundaries defined by the Jones Falls Expressway, Druid Hill Park, North Avenue, and Madison Avenue.
Prior to the start of urban development within Reservoir Hill in the 1870s, several country estates were located on large expanses of land. The building at the corner of Park Avenue and Reservoir Street, dating from c. 1790, is the only surviving structure from that era and the earliest house in the neighborhood. Now housing the Reservoir Hill Multipurpose Center, this 2-1/2 story stone house with a gabled roof and dormers was substantially altered after being vacant and converted into non-residential use. It is, however, a rare late eighteenth century surviving house in an urban neighborhood.
Spurred by the creation of Druid Hill Park in the 1860s, some of the earliest houses lined Madison Avenue, the main gateway to the park. Built in the mid-1870s, the houses at 2500-2528 Madison Avenue are classic traditional Baltimore row houses. They feature flat red brick building walls, stone foundation walls, arched door surrounds and sills, double wood entry doors, marble steps, splayed brick lintels, and bracketed cornices. Rows of this type, with sparse ornamentation emphasizing only the entryways, windows, and rooflines, are relatively rare in Reservoir Hill, as early development in the area was slow due to its location on the outskirts of Baltimore. Once full-scale development was underway, eclectic building types, influenced by Victorian and Queen Anne flamboyance, dominated the streetscape.
At first, changes to the traditional rows were minimal. A good example is 2430-2434 Madison Avenue. These houses are quite similar to the earlier houses, but are embellished with some Victorian flourishes. First floor openings feature stone caps with incised carvings. The central window on the second floor is also treated differently, and in fact lintels on each floor levels vary, a break from the traditional house. The distinctions are subtle, but clearly represent a desire by builders to break from the traditional house.
Similar variations to the traditional house can be found at 601-617 Lennox Street. These houses differ from the traditional house, with rough stone foundation walls, corbelled brick work at the cornice, and small central second floor windows with hoods. A further break from the traditional house can be seen at 607-617 Reservoir Street. Here, the rough stonework extends to the entire first floor and a projecting bay window on the second floor breaks the flatness of the traditional facade.
A group of row houses at the 1900-1920 Park Avenue retain the traditional red brick facade, but these houses have slightly projecting central bays that end in pediments. These houses are unusual because they are extremely wide at 29 feet, but are less than 40 feet deep. In the 1900 block of Mount Royal Terrace, row houses feature Queen Anne details, breaking from the simplicity of the traditional row. At the northern end of the block, houses feature porch fronts, balconies, and a corner tower. Houses in the southern end of the block are even more elaborate. The projecting bays and upper level balconies and porches were designed to maximize views of the Mount Royal Reservoir that was located across the street.
In addition to row houses, some of the earliest houses in the neighborhood were duplexes, reflecting an early time period when lower land values allowed the amenity of a small front yard. One of these duplexes, 2008-2010 Mount Royal Avenue has all the features of a traditional row house except for the Victorian embellished front porch.
At the turn of the century, the traditional red brick row house in Reservoir Hill was replaced with houses constructed of Roman brick, which is tan in color with a harder finish. These later houses made little attempt to duplicate the traditional house, but emphasized design elements popular in the early twentieth century, including projecting bays, porches, tile roofs, upper floor balconies, and small front yards.
In the row that includes 2001-2005 Bolton Street, houses alternate with rounded, squared, and angled projecting bays. Conical end roofs and third floor balconies add further variety to this row. Houses in the 700 block of Newington Avenue feature swell fronts, with rough stone walls on the first floor and the occasional conical or pyramidal roof. A two level upper floor balcony is a distinctive element of the corner row house at Linden Avenue and Ducatell Street. It is part of a row featuring projecting square bays.
Some of the neighborhoods most elaborate row houses are along Eutaw Place. The row at 2301-2359 Eutaw Place features a covered first floor porch, a projecting bay window on the second floor, and an open projecting bay balcony on the third floor. Across the street in the 2300 block Eutaw Place, the row features four story high houses with brownstone at the first floor, upper level projecting bays, and tile roofs with dormers at the fourth floor.
Porch front row houses were popular in the first decade of the twentieth century, a housing type abundant in the Charles Village/Abell Historic District, among other local neighborhoods. While most porches commonly project from the front building walls, some varieties within Reservoir Hill have recessed front porches. A row in the 2200 block of Linden Avenue features a recessed front porch on the first floor, surmounted by a projecting bay window on the second floor, and a decorative third floor window treatment capped with a distinctive roofline. Some duplexes have similar porch fronts, including the duplex at 2235-2237 Linden Avenue. It features a front porch, second floor projecting bay window, and a highly ornamented third floor dormer.
Later row houses in the central section of the neighborhood north of Whitelock Street are smaller in scale and are often set back further from the street. Smaller 3 and 4 building groups, including 2424-2428 Callow Avenue, feature Flemish bond brick walls, stone lintels with emphasized end and keystones, front porches, and tile roofs with dormers. 940 Brooks Lane is a 26-foot wide house with a small front yard, wide porch, second floor projecting bay, and tile roof. 924-34 Chauncy Avenue features a stucco second floor with tile decoration.
The last stages of row house development in Reservoir Hill are two-story high "daylight" row houses, including a group at 2100-2132 Park Avenue with enclosed front porches. A row of extremely wide later row houses at 2134-2156 Mount Royal Terrace were built along a terraced lawn and feature a variety of decorative details, including a stepped roof in the center of the row, arched entryways, and ornamental stone blocks decorated with swags.
Although row housing predominates in Reservoir Hill, there are many duplexes and significant individual houses. The porch front, gable end duplex at 2200-2202 Mount Royal Terrace is built of green serpentine sandstone, a material rarely seen on residential buildings. One of the earliest surviving individual buildings in the neighborhood is the Second Empire frame house at 2408 Linden Avenue, already listed in the National Register as the Bachrach House. 2317 Linden Avenue features many architectural elements that are found on the Roman brick Edwardian rows that line Reservoir Hill. It has similar brickwork, a small front porch, and corner tower with a conical roof. The individual stone Romanesque house at 2448 Eutaw Place is representative of urban mansion along Eutaw Place. These wide, deep houses are built on a massive scale, while the similarly huge Isaac Emerson House at 2500 Eutaw Place, an opulent Queen Anne design built of Roman bricks with a wide porch and varied roofline, is more suburban in appearance. Following this suburban trend is the Hendler Mansion on Druid Park Lake Drive, a Tudor Revival design with a double gable and central overhanging pediment. The district also includes a Georgian Revival mansion at 2318-2324 Mount Royal Terrace that is more typical of Guilford than Reservoir Hill. It features a neo-classical entrance, Flemish brick walls, slate roof, and stylized dormers. These individual houses and duplexes add variety to the urban row house character of Reservoir Hill. Although other city neighborhoods of this vintage, Charles Village for example, include some individual houses within a row house context, the diversity of styles and housing types within in Reservoir Hill supersedes any Baltimore City neighborhood.
In addition to rows, duplexes, and individual houses, Reservoir Hill includes several apartment buildings. The wide three-story brick apartment building with neo-classical styling at 2401 Linden Avenue (fronting on Whitelock Street) is representative of mid-size apartment buildings in the community. Other apartment buildings are smaller, with 6-10 units, including the series of three-story brick apartment buildings with central entrances, flanked by massive brick balconies lining the 2400 block of Callow Avenue. Several six to fourteen-story high apartment buildings located in the northern end of the district overlook Druid Hill Park. The Emersonian, Temple Gardens, and Esplanade are grouped along Eutaw Place and Madison Avenue and comprise a small National Register Historic District. The recently renovated Riviera and Lake Drive Apartments at 901-903 Druid Park Drive, directly across from Druid Lake, are six and eight stories in height respectively. Tall early-twentieth century apartment buildings are rare in Baltimore City. Only Mount Vernon, Charles Village, and Tuscany-Canterbury are comparable to Reservoir Hill in the number of these buildings.
Beginning in the 1960s, portions of Reservoir Hill underwent redevelopment, with the razing of some older structures. They were replaced with mid-to-late twentieth century buildings. A late nineteenth century John Eager Howard School was replaced with a new school building and recreation center in 1961. This modernistic brick building with bands of horizontal windows stands in sharp contrast to the surrounding row houses. The school-recreation center complex takes up an entire block near the southern edge of the neighborhood. Nearby, a large section of buildings on the north side of North Avenue between Linden and Park avenues was razed and replaced by subsidized three-story high garden apartments. The development also included a two-story building that housed a ground level supermarket with an elementary school above; both have closed. Other North Avenue commercial and residential buildings were replaced with low buildings housing a day care center, medical offices, and an auto parts store. A group of two-story houses topped with solar panels were built at 2310-2320 Madison Avenue in the 1970s. Lakeview Towers, a modern 14-story tower for the elderly, overlooks Druid Hill Park along Druid Park Lake Drive between Lakeview and Callow avenues. Demolition has cleared the 900 block of Whitelock Street is vacant, and has left a gap-toothed appearance in the 2400 block of Lakeview Avenue.
Before 1870, Reservoir Hill was home to a few large estates and tenant farms. The growing city of Baltimore, with a population of more than 250,000, had not yet reached North Avenue (Baltimore's city limits until 1889). The establishment of Druid Hill Park in 1860 and the Mount Royal Reservoir in 1862 provided attractions for city residents to travel beyond city boundaries, yet urban development would wait until well after the Civil War.
The earliest building in the neighborhood dates from c. 1790, when Dr. Solomon Brickhead established Mount Royal as his summer home at what is now the intersection of Park Avenue and Reservoir Street. This large 20-room stone house stands on a hilltop and originally overlooked terraced gardens. Members of the Bond family later occupied the house. Other early landowners included Chauncey and Walter Brooks, Robert Whitelock, and George W. Gail.
During the Civil War, Camp Belger (also know as Camp Birney) was established north of the corner of Madison Avenue and North Avenue. Among the troops that trained here were the 4 U.S. Colored Troops, one of the earliest Civil War African-American companies. Christian A. Fletcher, a Baltimore born freeman who won the Congressional Medal of Honor during the war, was mustered into service here. An article in the New York Tribune of August 17, 1863 described the presentation of flags to the regiment by the "colored people" of Baltimore.
In 1868 the Tuscan Doric sandstone entrance gate to Druid Hill Park was completed at Madison Avenue and Cloverdale Avenue. John H.B. Latrobe and George A. Frederick designed the European styled gateway in 1865. After streetcar lines were extended to Druid Hill Park, the first row houses were built along Madison Avenue, taking advantage of both the scenic beauty of the park and rapid transportation to downtown. By 1877, much of the west side of Madison Avenue north of Whitelock Street had been developed, as seen in the Hopkins Atlas of Baltimore County. The earliest houses were traditional Baltimore rows with flat facades and little decoration, except for arched entrances, splayed brick lintels, marble sills and foundation walls, and bracketed cornices.
While the western edge of the community began developing in conjunction with the main gateway to Druid Hill Park, the Mount Royal Reservoir influenced the development in the southeast corner of the neighborhood. The circular reservoir, 500 feet in diameter, was completed in 1862 and was a favorite scenic overlook. By 1874, a fence enclosed the grounds and in 1884 the city purchased land adjacent to the reservoir, creating the park-like setting of Mount Royal Terrace. A semi-circular drive was laid out in the 1900 and 2000 blocks of Mount Royal Terrace, directly fronting the reservoir. Between 1885 and 1886, the first Queen Anne and Eastlake style houses were built overlooking the reservoir. Most of the houses featured balconies, porches, or upper floor projecting bay windows to enhance occupants' views of the reservoir. Although the reservoir was removed in 1924 and part of the site was replaced with the Jones Falls Expressway, the park-like character of Mount Royal Terrace has been maintained with the creation of a small park facing the semicircular street.
Still, the central portion of the neighborhood was slow to develop until Reservoir Hill was included within a large area that was annexed into Baltimore City in 1889. By that time, most of Bolton Hill to the south had been filled in largely with row houses. Baltimore's population increased from 434,000 in 1890 to 558,000 in 1910. By the turn of the twentieth century, housing spread past North Avenue and most of the neighborhood south of Newington Avenue was built up. Houses on west side of Eutaw Place and Madison Avenue approached Druid Hill Park.
The row houses built in the 1890s differed from the earlier traditional rows. They features bowed fronts, projecting bays, corbelled brickwork, and terra cotta decorations. Hard faced tan colored Roman brick replaced the traditional red brick, and some first floors were built of brownstone. Conical and pyramidal roofs capped facades. Many of the design elements were influenced by the proliferation of national architectural journals and photography in magazines and newspapers that spread the popularity of new architectural styles.
As development in the neighborhood increased in the early twentieth century, the row houses of Reservoir Hill continued to evolve. First floor front porches offered a place to view street life and enjoy a shaded outdoor space. Small front yards provided some relief to the urban character of the neighborhood. Roofs with Spanish tiles added a Mediterranean element to the Baltimore row house. In the 1920s and 1930s, two story high, wider daylight houses with enclosed front porches were built north of Whitelock Street.
The row houses of Reservoir Hill were the work of some of Baltimore's best-known builders of the era. Francis E. Yewell was responsible for hundreds of houses in Reservoir Hill and Charles Village, among other Baltimore neighborhoods. He built his own house at 2402 Eutaw Place. Other builders included Robert Chambers, William L. Stork, and Edward Gallagher.
Reservoir Hill is not only significant for its many fine row house examples depicting the evolution of this housing type from 1870 through 1940, but it includes many excellent examples of individual houses, duplexes, and early twentieth century apartment buildings. Many of the individual houses were built on Eutaw Place, Druid Park Lake Drive, and Mount Royal Terrace. These houses vary in design and include Second Empire, Queen Anne, Romanesque Revival, Renaissance Revival, Colonial Revival, and Tudor Revival styles. The architects include George Frederick, the designer of Baltimore's City Hall, and Joseph Edward Sperry, the architect of the Eutaw Place Temple and Bromo Seltzer Tower.
Apartment buildings in the neighborhood range from smaller Renaissance Revival three-story high buildings to eight to fourteen-story high towers. Along Eutaw Place and Madison Avenue near Druid Lake Drive, the Emersonian, Esplanade, and Temple Gardens apartment buildings overlook Druid Hill Park. A few blocks to the east, two other tall apartment buildings, the Riviera and Lake Drive Apartments, overlook the park. Although different in style, each apartment building featured luxury units. Individual apartments of the Esplanade were as large as a three-story house. In the Emersonian, units had four bedrooms, three bathrooms, and servants' quarters. Architects of these apartments included Joseph Evans Sperry, Edward L. Palmer, and Edward Glidden, who also designed the Marlborough and Washington Place Apartments. At the north end of Callow Avenue and other parts of the northeast section of the district, smaller three-story apartments were constructed with central entrances, flanked by mammoth brick balconies on three levels.
Among the notable non-residential buildings in the neighborhood are two synagogues, a church, and a former streetcar barn. While Reservoir Hill was overwhelmingly residential, it was a complete community, with places to shop, attend school, and worship. The survival of the streetcar barn, though altered, is a physical reminder of the importance that streetcar transportation played in the development of the neighborhood.
The historic architecture of Reservoir Hill features a level of design and craftsmanship not found in contemporary housing. Houses feature picturesque stone and terra cotta decorations, stained glass windows, ornate carved woodwork, intricate parquet floors, and decorative fireplaces. The predominance of balconies, porches, and bay windows along Mount Royal Terrace is unique in Baltimore City.
Architects whose work is represented in the district include: George Frederick, Joseph Evans Sperry, Edward L. Palmer, Edward H. Glidden and Stanislaus Russell. Francis E. Yewell, Robert Chambers, William L. Stork and Edward Gallagher are among the major builders who were active in the area.
One distinctive characteristic of Reservoir Hill is that it became one of Baltimore's largest predominantly Jewish neighborhoods in the early twentieth century. It is significant that only one pre-World War II church was built in the neighborhood, in comparison to two synagogues and several smaller Jewish congregations located in neighborhood row houses.
Baltimore's Jewish community dates from the late eighteenth century, but the community is estimated as being less than 1,500 strong prior to 1845. By the Civil War, an estimated 8,000 Jews lived in Baltimore, largely due to an influx of German Jews. Synagogues and Jewish communal organizations were established in the downtown area and in east Baltimore in the vicinity of the present day main U.S. Post Office. With the migration of eastern European Jews in the late nineteenth century, the Jewish population swelled to an estimated 25,000.
There was a distinct split between Baltimore's more prosperous and assimilated German 1890s. German Jews often owned the clothing factories where eastern European Jews labored. The rise of unions and socialist groups within the eastern European Jewish community was an anathema to the capitalist German Jews. The differences soon became geographical, as well as social, economic, and religious. The established German Jewish community moved uptown, relocating five major synagogues from downtown and east Baltimore between 1892 and 1905. The center of this community was established within an area northwest of downtown, bounded by Lanvale Street, Bolton Street, North Avenue, and McCulloh Street (just south of Reservoir Hill). The newer eastern European Jewish community moved into east Baltimore, at times establishing new congregations in the synagogues built by the older German Jewish community.
From this central northwest location, Baltimore's upwardly mobile Jewish population has moved out towards suburban neighborhoods in a northwesterly direction, first to communities surrounding Druid Hill Park, and later along the Park Heights and Liberty Road corridors. By the early twentieth century, Reservoir Hill was home to many Jewish residents. Approximately 40% of the people listed in the 1912 Jewish Social Directory lived in Reservoir Hill.
At first, the community was entirely of German-Jewish origin, but as eastern European Jews prospered in their new country, they followed their co-religionists to the northwest. Local journalist and historian Gilbert Sandler called the "Lake Drive" area of Reservoir Hill the first "German-Russian" Jewish neighborhood in Baltimore. Some of the first eastern European Jews in the area included prominent business leaders Jacob Epstein, a wholesale merchant, and L. Manuel Hendler, the owner of Hendler's Ice Cream Company.
The first synagogues in Reservoir Hill were established in the 1920s. Chizuk Amuno moved from the 1500 block of McCulloh Street to the 2500 block of Eutaw Place in 1922. At roughly the same time, a new congregation, Mishkan Israel, built a synagogue in the 2300 block of Madison Avenue. Chizuk Amuno was a German Jewish congregation, while Mishkan Israel was founded by Jews with eastern European lineage. In his comprehensive listing of Synagogues, Temples and Congregations of Maryland, Earl Pruce lists some other smaller congregations that located in Reservoir Hill. They include Zichron Abraham Nachman and B'nai Abraham on Brookfield Avenue, and Anshe Ernes and Mishkan Shlomo on Linden Avenue. Other Jewish institutions in Reservoir Hill included a chapter of B'nai B'rith and the Clover Club, a social organization, both located on Eutaw Place.
The development of high-rise apartment buildings in this area is directly related to its Jewish population. Most early Baltimore neighborhoods developed as row house communities. The Jewish community and the more traditional and poor eastern European Jewish immigrants lived in the early twentieth century apartment houses of six of more floors that were built exclusively along the Charles Street corridor, where Baltimore's elite lived. They spread from the Mount Vernon area north to the vicinity of Johns Hopkins University and later out towards Towson in the mid-twentieth century. An exception to this rule is the Eutaw Place corridor, from Bolton Hill to Reservoir Hill, extended in the mid-twentieth century to Park Heights Avenue. Generally Jews did not live in the Charles Street corridor due to restrictive real estate practices and a desire to live near the community's social and religious institutions. Luxury high-rise apartment living was appealing to both the Jewish and gentile elite, and separate groups of these buildings, similar to those developed in the Charles Street corridor, were developed in the northwest corridor. The number of high-rise early-twentieth century apartments at the northern edge of Reservoir Hill is surpassed only in the Mount Vernon and Johns Hopkins University neighborhoods.
Reservoir Hill was never an exclusively Jewish neighborhood. The southeastern part of the community, in the vicinity of Mount Royal Terrace, was predominately gentile, and non-Jews lived throughout the area. There were also other significant Jewish communities in Baltimore, ranging from the early neighborhoods of east Baltimore to Eutaw Place below North Avenue, and the more suburban neighborhoods of Park Heights, Mount Washington, Ashburton, and Forest Park. However, Reservoir Hill is significant as one of the first neighborhoods where German and eastern European Jews lived together and forged alliances. It is also significant that large numbers of prominent Jewish families lived in the neighborhood, as indicated in early twentieth century Jewish social directories.
Many significant people, on both a local and national level, lived in Reservoir Hill. They include authors, business leaders, and political figures. Perhaps the most famous person who lived in the neighborhood is Whittaker Chambers, a defector from the Communist Party who accused Alger Hiss of passing secrets to the Soviet Union. The Hiss-Chambers confrontation propelled Richard Nixon's political career. Chambers lived at 2124 Mount Royal Terrace in 1938 under an alias. While living at this house, he made his break from the Communist Party.
Several notable authors lived in Reservoir Hill. James M. Cain, author of The Postman Rings Twice, Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce, lived at 2418 Linden Avenue in the 1920s while working as a local newspaper reporter. Christopher Morley, author of the novel Kitty Foyle, was a literary columnist and founder of the Sherlock Holmes club, the "Baker Street Irregulars." In his definitive preface to the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, he describes walking from his house at 2026 Park Avenue in Reservoir Hill to the central Pratt Library to read the latest Sherlock Holmes adventure. Sydney Offit, the author of Memoirs of a Bookie's Son, is a professor at Long Island University and curator of the Polk awards for journalism. He lived at 2204 Park Avenue. Karl Shapiro, a Pulitzer Prize winning poet and editor of poetry journals, lived at 930 Brooks Lane.
Three notable people are associated with 2408 Linden Avenue. David Bachrach, a commercial photographer who figures prominently in the annals of American photographic history for his contributions to the technical, artistic, and professional advancements in the field, owned the house. Bachrach's niece, Gertrude Stein, author of the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas and a promoter of modern art, lived there in 1892. Ephraim Keyser, a sculptor who was director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art, used a studio at the rear of the property.
Jacob Epstein, a local business leader and noted philanthropist, lived on Eutaw Place across from Druid Hill Park. Founder of the Baltimore Bargain House, one of the largest wholesaling establishments in the country, he inaugurated the concept of matching gifts to charities and also donated works of art to the Baltimore Museum of Art. Lester Levy, president of the largest straw hat manufacturer in the country, lived at 2352 Eutaw Place. He was a pioneer in American musicology, donating over 30,000 examples of sheet music to Johns Hopkins University. Isaac Emerson, the founder of Bromo Seltzer, lived at 2500 Eutaw Place. He also built the Emersonian Apartments in Reservoir Hill and the Emerson Hotel in downtown Baltimore. According to local lore, the Emersonian was built directly north of his former house to block his ex-wife's view of Druid Lake. Joseph A. Bank, the namesake of the retail clothing, firm lived at 2405 Linden Avenue. Many of Baltimore's leading clothing manufacturers and department store owners lived in the tall apartment buildings fronting Druid Hill Park. They include the Hecht, Hamburger, Gutman, Hoschild, Strouse, Thalheimer, Greif, and Hutzler families.
Deborah Weisgall, a poet, novelist and art critic for the New York Times, wrote a moving tribute to her Reservoir Hill family in her book, A Joyful Noise. The family lived at 831 Chauncey Avenue near the Chizuk Amuno Synagogue. Her grandfather, Adolph J. Weisgal, was the cantor of the synagogue. Her father, Hugo Weisgall (he added the second "l" to his last name), was a noted composer of operas, and her uncle, Fred Weisgall, became a leading civil rights attorney who argued many cases before the Supreme Court.
In 1973, former priest Philip Berrigan established Jonah House, a commune for Viet Nam war resisters, in the 1900 block of Park Avenue. This was the center of his anti-war activities. He and his group had previously poured blood on draft files in Baltimore in 1967 and destroyed draft records in Catonsville in 1968. He married a former activist nun and left the priesthood by 1970. In the 1980s and 1990s, his group vandalized nuclear weapons sites to protest nuclear proliferation. He died in 2002.
By the start of World War II, residential development was complete in the neighborhood, but shortly after the war, many former homeowners left Reservoir Hill for newer suburban neighborhoods. Many of the larger houses were subdivided into apartments. Upkeep and maintenance of buildings generally declined. A new school and recreation center was built on Linden Avenue in 1961. In the 1960s, a notable Colonial Revival house, designed by Joseph Evans Sperry and formerly occupied by Jacob Epstein, was razed. Houses on North Avenue were cleared and replaced with a series of c. 1970 structures for a day care center, subsidized housing, medical facilities, and other commercial uses. A new two-story row of houses on Madison Avenue featured solar panels.
While some sections of the neighborhood, such as Mount Royal Terrace, experienced a rebirth, housing abandonment was pervasive in other parts of the community. A small commercial center along Whitelock Street became an open-air drug market and a haven for criminal activities. It was razed in the 1990s. Other buildings were torn down, most notably along Druid Park Lake Drive and the northern section of the neighborhood. A row on Lakeview Avenue has a tooth-gap appearance due to the demolition of mid-block buildings sharing porch front pediments with adjacent houses.
Despite the demolition of some of the original houses in the area, the dilapidated condition of other buildings, and the construction of non-contributing structures, Reservoir Hill maintains its historic character. The area is primarily comprised of unbroken rows of historic structures. Many of the newer buildings are grouped together along North Avenue, lessening their impact of the district's overall historic appearance. Vacant lots are also grouped together, affording the opportunity for construction of compatible new rows to fill in the gaps.
Overall, the built environment of Reservoir Hill is significant for numerous individual buildings designed by noteworthy local architects, a variety of residential building types representing the evolving character of the district from scattered country estates to an urban row house neighborhood, and distinctive architectural details reflecting a high level of craftsmanship found in architectural styles from the Victorian and Edwardian eras.
† Fred B. Shoken, Preservation Consultant, Reservoir Hill Historic District, Baltimore, MD, nomination document, 2004, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.