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Hampden Historic District - Baltimore | by National Register
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Hampden Historic District - Baltimore

Baltimore Independent City, MD

Listed: 12/29/2004


The Hampden Historic District is significant under Criterion A for its association with the industrial development of the Jones Falls Valley, which was the center of Baltimore's important textile industry throughout the nineteenth century. In 1899 this relatively small geographical area produced more cotton duck than the combined output of any other milling centers in the United States. The district offers a largely intact picture of the development of a self-sufficient working class community, based upon a single major industry, which flourished for nearly a century. The district derives additional significance under Criterion C for its architecture, comprising a broad range of vernacular, working-class housing including an exceptional collection of early company-built workers' housing (for various job levels) dating from the late 1830s into the 1880s. Operating at their peak in the 1890s, the Hampden and Woodberry mills boasted some 4,000 employees. By that time company-built housing could no longer provide for the community's needs, and a host of local builders and investors saw an opportunity to develop the area above the mill villages with owner-occupied houses whose designs continued traditions established in the rural mill town, while filtering national stylistic influences through contemporary Baltimore rowhouse forms.


The first mill buildings and their related housing and settings clearly partook of the romantic, naturalistic ideals of the era. Mill owners acted out the idea of a paternalistic class by providing decent, affordable, and healthy housing for their workers and helped create a community made up of neat houses in their gardens, surrounded by rural lanes, open meadows, company-funded churches, and a company-provided school, all within walking distance of the mills. Company housing took forms created by local builders with some knowledge of various designs and design types published in both local and national pattern books of the 1840s and 1850s. Also, within walking distance were the estates of the mill owners-fashionable Greek Revival, Italianate, and Second Empire homes, surrounded by vast acres of lawns and showy gardens, thus adding to the picturesqueness of the whole and setting stylistic parameters. Despite the intrusions of modem times, much of this early mill village landscape still exists. Groups of houses perched on high hills overlooking the mills and now surrounded by trees still boast the original narrow lanes and roadways winding down the hill, that mill hands took as they left each morning for work, or used to reach the church on Sunday.


By the later 1870s, with the rapid expansion of the mills, a variety of local builders and investors took over the job of supplying reasonably priced, practical, yet still stylish homes for the always growing number of mill workers. Several different building associations were formed to aid workers in acquiring homes as well as provide financing for construction. And just as the first clusters of company housing were grouped around their respective owner's mills, so too did the housing built in the 1870s and 1880s tend to be located to meet the needs of particular mills. It was not really until the late 1890s that the blocks of Hampden located to the east of Falls Road began to fill up and that the commercial center of town, along W. 36th Street, began to take on an urban aspect. From this point on the development of Hampden followed urban models and was influenced by the stylistic forms of Baltimore city architecture. The textile mills remained the main economic force in the area, and the early 20th century development of Hampden reflects the prosperity of that industry through the World War I era to the Depression, and its recovery in the early 1940s supported by the wartime demand for cotton fabric.


The period of significance, 1837-1945, spans the period during which the Jones Falls Valley textile industry was the principal influence on the district's growth and development. After World War II, textile manufacturers began moving their operations to the Southern states, and the community ceased growing.


National Register of Historic Places

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Taken on March 12, 2010