This morning I was in downtown Baltimore for a doctor’s appointment, and decided to kill two birds by stopping by the nearest branch of the Johns Hopkins Credit Union to close my account out. This account has been open since my first “real” job out of college that didn’t involve a hammer, ladder, or dust mask, as a print designer at Hopkins. The account has been sitting and slowly hemmorhaging money since they screwed up a couple of payments on a loan and reduced my balance below the minimum, so every month they deduct $1.50 for the ATM fee and add $0.90 in interest. Driving to the Bayview campus took me squarely through my old neighborhood, so I decided to mosey around and see what was happening.

First off, I read in the City Paper that DeGroen’s Brewery is shutting down. After many years of making the best local beer around, they couldn’t make a profit (and the construction around their location killed their foot traffic.) So my favorite Märzen will cease to exist.

Canton is still dotted with real-estate signs and renovation work trucks; what was Mrs. Bonnie’s Elvis Shrine is now an empty rehab, sporting a vinyl advertisement for first-time homeowners. My old house looks good; the new owner removed the 1950’s-era storm door off and put a gold kickplate and a large lockset on the front door. The whisky barrel continues to rot away next to the steps. My old-skool neighbors are still home—the Cadillac sits gleaming at its parking spot next door, and Nell’s bench is still outside waiting for a group of friends to gather.

The cabinet factory one block over and behind 620 is now a levelled vacant lot, featuring a sign advertising three-floor townhomes (with garage) starting in at $400K. (There were rumors it was to become an outdoor biergarten and high-rise condos.) $400K for a breathtaking view of the Shell station parking lot and American Harry’s roof. sweet. The rehabbed house on the north corner of Fleet, which had been vacant and empty for three years, is occupied again; the back parking pad now houses a motorcycle and gas grill where people used to throw their trash bags. (Note to the new owners: I used to watch bums climb through your kitchen window and piss on your living room floor. Enjoy!) Linwood Avenue now features nose-in parking, which probably alleviated the local lack of parking for about fifteen minutes.

Further up into Highlandtown, the march of Latino culture continues eastwards. Empty storefronts are now brightly colored bodegas and shops (Who knew that “Zapatas Botas” meant “Sneaky Feet?”) and Provident Bank has taken up residence on a prominent corner. The once-beautiful Grand Theater has been razed to make way for a new branch of the Enoch Pratt Library. Old Baltimore still exists, though, in the old guy with the 60’s era plaid pants crossing Eastern Avenue, the combination grocer/electronic store/garden center, and the heartwarming sight of 14-year-old mommies pushing their kids in strollers. Haussner’s is still empty, but the Patterson movie theater is now a neighborhood rec center. Plus ça change, plus ça méme chose.

Date posted: February 8, 2005 | Filed under history | Leave a Comment »

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