MHT File Photo
Union Square-Hollins Market Historic District
Baltimore, Baltimore City
The Union Square/Hollins Market Historic District is a dense area of rowhouses and commercial structures located approximately 10 blocks west of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore. The district contains approximately 1321 buildings with about 31 structures which do not contribute to the district. Bounded by Schroeder, Pratt, Fulton, and Baltimore Streets, the area is built on a grid street system which conforms to the original 1818 layout of the area. The terrain gently slopes down from west and east. There are two major features in the district. Union Square Park, a speculative park and housing development of the 1840s, lies in the west; it is a block-size park containing an ornate fountain and Greek Revival pavilion. In the east end lies Hollins Market, an Italianate style market house built in 1838 and 1864, the oldest market building in the city. The remainder of the district developed after 1830 mainly as housing for workers in nearby industries. These structures consist of low scale, two and three story brick vernacular dwellings while larger, high-style rowhouses surround the park. Commercial structures were built around Hollins Market, along South Carrollton Street, and along West Baltimore Street (opened in 1807 as the Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike). After the residential construction ended in the 1880s, the commercial, as well as institutional, development continued and these later buildings exhibit the architectural styles of the early 20th century. Economic decline in the area beginning in the mid 20th century eventually ended development thereby preserving the original appearance of the neighborhood. Demolition of deteriorated structures and the construction of a few inappropriate buildings created the existing intrusions on the district. In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, a broad-based effort began by residents, the city, and developers to revitalize the area, including restoration of the park and the market, shopsteading along Baltimore Street, and residential and commercial rehabilitation. Consequently, the area’s original, historic character remains remarkably intact, and thus represents the 19th century urban character of Baltimore.
This district is significant for its architecture and history, which clearly illustrate the character of Baltimore’s 19th century working class neighborhoods. The significant quantity of well preserved vernacular rowhouses show the evolution of three early 19th century styles of housing built in Baltimore: the Federal, with its Flemish bond brick, square proportions, steep gable roofs and dormers; the Greek Revival, with its attic windows and shallow gable roofs; and the Italianate, with its vertical proportions, shed roof, and decorative cornices. The result is a distinctive environment of low scale brick houses which create cohesive visual rhythms of windows, doors, and roof lines. The creation of the B&O Railroad and its shops just to the southeast in 1833, and the subsequent growth of nearby industries, created a large need for labor and inexpensive workers’ housing. As a result, immigration and construction rapidly expanded from the 1830s. The end product was industrial neighborhoods such as that represented by most of the housing in the district: small, simple houses on every available lot occupied by large numbers of foreign residents. The Baltimore-Frederick Turnpike also generated commercial activity, and Hollins Market, established in 1838, provided a farmer’s market for residents and spurred commercial endeavors around it. The Park itself illustrates a slightly different type of real estate speculation. In this case, the Donnell Family donated a square of land to the city as a park in 1847 in order to raise the value of adjacent land, attract wealthier buyers, and realize a greater financial return. In this sense, then, the district physically illustrates the commercial forces which helped create it. The park also shows the character of the first type of park development in the city: it was a private donation, small in scale, square in plan, and created mainly to promote housing development. The Union Square/Hollins Market Historic District clearly embodies the distinctive characteristics of a 19th century working class neighborhood in Baltimore, and it physically shows the impact of industrialization that shaped the city’s streetscape.