South Central Avenue Historic District
Baltimore, Baltimore City
The South Central Avenue Historic District is comprised of brick two- and three-story industrial and residential buildings. Its variegated streetscapes reflect over 150 years of utilitarian adaptation of buildings and space. As a center of ancillary industry, the district is characterized by relatively small-scale, vernacular industrial buildings that display additive massing and traces of incremental change. Early 19th century rowhouses, late 19th century and early 20th century manufacturing and warehouse buildings, gas stations, stables, car barns, commercial/residential buildings, and corner stores are all interspersed within this dense historic district. Several larger buildings like the Bagby Furniture Building (4 stories), the Strauss Malt House (5 stories), and the Alameda School contrast with the smaller industrial concerns whose compound, low-scale massing often follows historic lot lines. While the district is urban in character with buildings constructed up to the property lines, there are vacant lots serving storage and loading functions. Alterations provide a physical record of the evolution and change that characterized this area. The transformation of existing building stock in this singular precinct testifies both to the importance of this location, the scale and lack of capital often characterizing new or smaller businesses, and the need for continuous operations that result in incremental change to existing buildings. Chapels became foundries, schools became warehouses, rowhouses accommodated small manufacturers and suppliers. Typical changes include new ground floor openings, infilled window openings, replacement windows, and additions. Many rowhouses have been covered with formstone, a typical Baltimore alteration that signals continued owner occupancy. None of these changes impair the overall integrity of the historic district’s buildings.
The South Central Avenue Historic District exemplifies the texture and scale of industrial development that sustained Baltimore’s growth during the 19th century and first half of the 20th century. Comprised of industrial, commercial, institutional, and residential buildings, the district records the evolution of ancillary industries against the backdrop of the urban infrastructure that made their existence possible. The South Central Avenue Historic District is significant for illustrating the evolution of ancillary industries supporting Baltimore’s diversified manufacturing economy. In a fashion often characteristic of 19th century urban land use, industrial development congregated in less desirable areas along the margins of thriving urban settlements. Central Avenue, formerly Harford Run, served as the spine running through an area situated between Fells Point and Jones Town. Fueled by access to transportation and the labor of successive waves of immigrants, this ethnically and racially diverse working class area was a locus of ancillary industrial production servicing Baltimore’s textile, brewing, canning, and construction industries. Marked by transitions in ethnic and racial groups, businesses, and the neighborhood’s place vis-à-vis the city at large, the South Central Avenue Historic District survives to exemplify the commonplace, small-scale industry coexisting with residential settlement that supported Baltimore’s growth during the 19th century through the first half of the 20th century.