In an unusually strong statement, Baltimore Heritage has come out against the city’s efforts to force the residents of the Poppleton neighborhood to leave to make way for redevelopment.
“We’re telling the city NO to this intentional displacement and demolition,” board president, Krista D. Green, says in a video filmed in front of the brightly painted rowhouses in the 1100 block of Sarah Ann Street.
Inhabited by Black families since they were built in 1870, the houses “provided an affordable place to live for working class people and they’re still doing that today,” Green says.
“It doesn’t seem right to force them out to demolish their historic homes.”
Baltimore’s unique alley houses “are a rare endangered species,” Baltimore Heritage’s executive director, Johns W. Hopkins, says – explaining that the unique structures, numbering 6,000 in a 1987 census, are now down to “a couple hundred.”
The video is one of the more than 100 “Five Minute Histories” that the nonprofit historic preservation and architecture group has been posting periodically online in recent years.
Most of these feature fascinating tidbits about historic city buildings, churches, parks and neighborhoods. There’s one on the history of the stucco-like rowhouse cladding, Formstone. Another tells the story of the Little Tavern Hamburger shops.
But this video features passionate remarks by Poppleton resident Sonia Eaddy, who is fighting city efforts to take her house through eminent domain, and by several of the Sarah Ann Street residents who were told by city officials that they are going to have to leave and offered forced relocation packages as required by federal law.
“Poppleton is not just a community. It’s our home,” 30-year resident Angela Banks says. “We raised our children here.”
“Save our homes,” says Sarah Ann Street resident Vanessa McBride. “We love this block – I want to stay here.”
Viewers are even directed to sign the petition to save the Sarah Ann Street houses and stop the displacement of Poppleton residents.
Pressure Ratcheting Up
Officials from the Baltimore Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) have brushed aside concerns about demolition, telling The Brew “this block is historic, so the houses can’t be demolished.”
But the structures could soon be in jeopardy.
In 2007, then-mayor Sheila Dixon, HCD and New York developer La Cité signed an agreement with the Maryland Historic Trust calling for the preservation of the Sarah Ann houses and several other historic Poppleton structures.
But that agreement, renewed by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in 2016, expires at the end of this year.
On the heels of a rally last weekend on behalf of Poppleton residents – followed two days later by the surprise demolition of three historic rowhouses around the corner – residents and their allies are firing back now, in part, with these with videos.
In addition to the Baltimore Heritage video, another by Eyesore Productions is being circulated by the group OrganizePoppleton.
It features Eaddy’s remarks from the Saturday Save Our Block rally, while across the screen flows footage of the decimated neighborhood, including boarded-up houses, weedy lots where homes used to be and a fenced-off recreation center, closed since the 90s.
“They have left our community devastated . . . We had neighborhoods! We had families! And with eminent domain they came in and wiped that out,” Eaddy thunders.
“Ask those people if they wanted to stay. They all wanted to stay!”
“We were homeowners! 160 plus!” she says. “The rest of it got blighted because the city owned the rest of it.”