The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland Free & Accepted Masons
Masonic Prince Hall, ca. 1930
Baltimore’s Prince Hall Lodge on Eutaw Street traces its origins to New England in 1784, where Prince Hall, the father of black Masonry in the United States, is credited with making it possible for African Americans to become Masons. In 1960, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge moved to this location on Eutaw Place, under the leadership of Samuel T. Daniels. While much of the organization’s contributions are known only to members, the impact on the Old West Baltimore community is as evident as the architecture of its landmark headquarters, a former synagogue. The Prince Hall Masons prioritize “mentoring, instructing, and inspiring.” The group’s history of providing charitable donations and educational scholarships bares this out and is legend in Baltimore communities…more
The Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum “Mother of Freedom,” Civil Rights Activist
Receiving "Women of the Year Citation" 1951-1952
Dr. Lillie Mae Carroll Jackson (1889-1975) was one of Baltimore’s prominent civil rights activists. She was known to many as “Dr. Lillie,” “Ma Jackson,” and “The Mother of the Civil Rights Movement.” Along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, she is credited with helping implement the non-violent tactics used during the Civil Rights Movement.
Beginning as a second grade teacher at the formerly-segregated Biddle Street School, Jackson later became an organizer of the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP. She served as the president of the Baltimore Chapter from 1935 to 1970. Jackson helped to increase Baltimore’s local chapter membership from 2,000 to 17,600, while raising over $400,000 for the national organization. She also helped facilitate open enrollment for blacks at the University of Maryland Law School and other departments, and bolstered African American voter registration nationwide…more
Douglas Memorial Community Church Oldest in Bolton Hill
Rev. Marion C. Bascom
Douglass Memorial Community Church split from Bethel A.M.E. forming its own congregation in 1925. Long time pastor Dr. Marion Bascom became intimately involved in civil rights. A Baltimore amusement park–Gwynn Oak, which was segregated until August 1963—became a flashpoint of the national Civil Rights Movement. Speaking about his involvement in the July 4, 1963 Gwynn Oak Park protests, Pastor Bascom stated:
“I am the one who said all along I will not go to jail, but I will help others who go. But this morning I said to myself, I have nothing to lose but my chains. So if I do not preach at my pulpit Sunday morning, it might be the most eloquent sermon I ever preached.”…more
The Elks Lodge Serving Baltimore with Charity & Love
Founded in 1900, the Monumental Elks Lodge No. 3 was formed from a club of 30 members, with “charity” as its cardinal principle. Between 1929 and 1932, the Lodge reached a membership of over 2,100. The Elks provided a brotherhood and a platform for black empowerment. In many cases, lodges provided the only opportunity blacks had to “run for office,” manage organizations, and hone their organizational skills. In Old West Baltimore and elsewhere across the country, Elks joined forces with local churches to provide shelter, material support, money and leadership to the Civil Rights Movement locally and nationally…more
Moorish Keyhole Houses Unique Style, Within Blocks of Afro-Centric Landmarks
The Moorish Keyhole Houses have long-been considered architecturally unique and significant, dating to the late 1800s. This row was and is home to many prominent African American Baltimoreans. Among them was J. Howard Payne (1887-1960), a distinguished Baltimore African American politician and attorney who was educated in Baltimore public schools and was a graduate of Howard University Law School. As a member of St. Pius’ Roman Catholic Church and a friend of James Cardinal Gibbons, he provided advice to the Cardinal on matters pertaining to African American Catholics in the Archdiocese. Through his talks and writings, he actively promoted racial understanding and good will…more
Booker T. Washington Middle School 130 Thurgood Marshall’s Middle/Junior High School
The Booker T. Washington Junior High School, MS No. 130 replaced the Old Western High School in 1929. Many renowned alumni have passed through its illustrious halls including civil rights attorney and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, U.S. Congressman and past president- CEO of the NAACP Kweisi Mfume, world-famous bandleader Cab Calloway, the nation’s first female state senator Verda Welcome, Maryland’s first African American Congressman Parren J. Mitchell, and world-renowned jazz singer Ethel Ennis…more
Bethel AME Church Community Builder, Center of the Community
Daniel Coker, founder
In 1850, Baltimore held the largest denominational variety of African American churches in the country. On the eve of the Civil War, a reporter for New York’s Weekly Anglo-African newspaper wrote…“No city where I have been can boast of better churches among our people. Baltimore churches are not a whit behind, either in beauty or attendance for our people are a church going people.”
The Bethel A.M.E. congregation began as a prayer group, the Colored Methodist Society, in 1787. Ten years later, the group became the Bethel Free African Society (BFAS), led by “prayer leaders” Jacob Forte and Caleb Hyland. In 1801 a black preacher named Daniel Coker joined the BFAS prayer group…more
Union Baptist Church Mutual Brotherhood, March on Washington
Union Baptist Church
By 1860 the African American community thrived on the foundation of more than 16 churches and missions throughout Baltimore. By 1900, more than 12 African American churches resided in Old West Baltimore alone. They helped give birth to and nurture almost every civic institution in the community: Provident Hospital, the YMCA and YWCA, the DuBois Circle, Niagara Movement - Baltimore Chapter, Morgan College, the Young People Movement, and many more. Within the walls of the church, a sense of security hovered, eclipsing Baltimore’s often racist society…more
Sharp Street Memorial Church Descendant of Baltimore’s 1st Black congregation
Named in honor of its original location, Sharp Street Memorial United Methodist Church descends from the first black congregation in Baltimore. In 1797, blacks gathered at 112-116 Sharp Street where the Maryland Society for the Abolition of Slavery opened the Baltimore African Academy, the City’s first prominent day school for blacks. The Society sold the property including the lot and building in 1802 to the black congregation. The church then constructed a new building on the property, which quickly became a community hub where people gathered to worship, discuss abolitionism and African colonization, raise money to purchase the freedom of slaves, hear advocates speak, and receive schooling.
In 1864, the church hosted the first regional conference for African American Methodists, resulting in the first appointment of black pastors and creation of a black governing board. Following its congregation into northwest Baltimore, the church erected the present building designed by Alphonsus Bieler in 1898. In 1921, Arthur M. Segoin, one of the few black architects in the country, designed the adjacent Community House, the first of its kind in Baltimore…more
Henry Highland Garnet School Attended by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall
View of school from Division Street
Built in 1877, the Henry Highland Garnet School/PS 103 was the elementary school attended byThurgood Marshall from 1914-1920: his first six years of segregated public school education. Marshall, the first African American Justice on the United States Supreme Court, was born in Baltimore in 1908, grew up in this community and formed his enduring moral and legal viewpoints. It was in the segregated schools of Baltimore that Justice Marshall memorized the Constitution and first learned and understood the principles of equal protection under the law. Marshall won his first civil rights victories in Baltimore…more
The Royal Theatre Marquee Monument Pennsylvania Avenue: The Street of Royalty, a Black Entertainment Wellspring
Ellington, Armstrong and others
Royal Theatre, ca. 1949
Built as the Douglas in 1921, the theatre was renamed the Royal Theatre in 1926. With seating for more than 1,000, it became Pennsylvania Avenue’s biggest entertainment jewel but sadly was demolished in 1971. According to journalist James “Biddy” Wood, the Royal Theatre was “a citadel for the finest black entertainers, who could not showcase their exceptional talents elsewhere in Jim Crow America.” The Afro-American Newspaper, 1992
All of the biggest stars in black entertainment, including those in jazz and blues, performed at the Royal including greats such as Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Redd Foxx as well as the first integrated all-female band the Sweethearts of Rhythm: a 40-piece band that toured with Count Basie and featured some of the best female musicians in the world. A “must play” venue for African American “stars” – Pearl Bailey debuted as a lead singer for the Sunset Royal Band here as did comics such as Moms Mabley and Slappy White…more
Billie Holiday Plaza “Lady Day” Sings
Billie Holiday revolutionized jazz singing with her relaxed approach, rhythmic attack, laconic phrasing, and the use of blues devices. Her legendary beauty and innovative style continue to be widely imitated.
Born in Philadelphia in 1915 as Eleanora Fagan, her mother, Sadie Harris, returned to Baltimore with her infant daughter soon after her birth. They lived in Baltimore’s Fell’s Point, Old Town, and Old West Baltimore.
Holiday’s singing career began in the Harlem night clubs in 1933, when Columbia Records producer John Hammond wrote in Melody Maker Magazine, April 1933:…more
Macedonia Baptist Church A Monument to Community Growth
Macedonia Baptist Church started out in the loft of a Vincent Alley stable. Much of the credit for founding the church goes to W. Charles Lawson, Leander Jones and others, all former members of Union Church, who started with Sunday school and a prayer meeting in 1874. On September 29, 1874, a meeting was called to organize their new church. The church grew rapidly. First they remodeled the stable, replaced the floor and then installed seats.
At the meeting after prayers by Brother W.H. Hamer, sixteen members of Union Church presented a letter of commendation…more
Comedy Club Ike Dixon: Baltimore-born, Musician, Bandleader, and Entrepreneur
Born in Baltimore in 1896, Ike Dixon’s dreams brought him to Pennsylvania Avenue, where jazz and the arts took root. Dixon’s favorite instrument was the drums, but he also played the soprano sax and the piano. By the 1920s, he led his own band called Ike Dixon and the Jazz Demons. Duke Ellington claimed in his autobiography, “Music is My Mistress,” that Ike Dixon had the best band in Baltimore.
In 1934, Dixon retired from the road and opened The Comedy Club in the former Savoy Ballroom. The club was the oldest black night club in existence south of the Mason-Dixon Line. A mainstay for both local and national black artists, the club attracted jazz legends such as Della Reese, Dinah Washington, Erroll Garner, and Miles Davis…more
Trinity Baptist Church A Post Emancipation Congregation
Reverend Dr. Waller
Founded in June 1888, Trinity Baptist Church sprouted from a Sunday school in East Baltimore and in 1920 moved into the former St. Paul Lutheran Church building. Its founder, Reverend Dr. Gamett Russell Waller, started with 14 members. Trinity Baptist grew to become an influential congregation which helped pioneer a kindergarten teachers training program, an evening training school for ministers, and the Baptist Ministers’ Conference. Trinity also became integral in the Baltimore Civil Rights Movement. Dr. Waller was Maryland’s representative to the Niagara Movement, a national civil rights organization founded in 1905 and spearheaded by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois that predated the NAACP…more
YMCA Among Early African American Assets
Provident Hospital, ca. 1950's
A diversity of businesses and institutions in West Baltimore gave birth to such venerable institutions as Provident Hospital and the Colored Branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The first Colored YMCA meeting occurred in 1885 at Union Baptist Church. Frederick Douglass headlined the three-day event. Then in 1910 Julius Rosenwald, President of Sears, Roebuck and Co. and devoted philanthropist, offered $25,000 in matching funds to all black YMCAs in the U.S., spurring a nationwide fund-raising campaign that resulted in the construction of twenty-four buildings for African Americans. The plan in Baltimore was to raise $25,000; instead the City raised $31,000. With these funds, the Colored YMCA grew from organizational meetings in private homes to the current facility on Druid Hill…more
Ideal Savings and Loan Maryland’s Oldest African American Financial Institution
Teackle Wallis Lansey
Founded in 1920 by Teackle Wallis Lansey to help African American families buy homes, the Ideal Federal Savings Bank is the oldest continually-operating African American financial institution in Maryland. Lansey and several black community leaders, including a janitor, high school principal, and a chauffeur, committed $100,000 and opened the bank across the street from Lansey’s Laundry Company, which had a contract to wash linens for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
"I think there is still a need for minority and multicultural financial institutions, because these institutions are sensitive to their customer base more so than others," said [Dina Curtis] of America's Community Bankers.Baltimore Sun, June 29, 2003
During the Great Depression, however, people demanded withdrawals. Many banks…more
Baltimore Masjid Baltimore’s Oldest Islamic Place of Worship
Elijah Muhammad & Dr. King
Baltimore’s faith-based community finds strength in its diversity. The Islamic community has been a part of Baltimore since 1943. In 1956, Baltimore’s Masjid was established as Muhammad’s Temple of Islam Number 6, the Nation of Islam, first located at 1000 Pennsylvania Avenue. In 1959 the Temple moved to 514 Wilson Street. Upon the death in 1975 of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam, the Nation transformed itself, and Temple Number 6 adopted Sunni Orthodox practices, including services in Arabic, identical to services in the Middle East and ultimately renaming the organization Masjid…more
Justice Thurgood Marshall’s Childhood Home Denied Law School Admission, becomes U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Thurgood Marshall receiving NAACP Plaque, ca. 1956
Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993), the grandson of a slave, who became the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice in 1967, grew up in Old West Baltimore, attended segregated public schools, and during his teenage years worked in a Pennsylvania Avenue hat shop. As a young boy, Marshall’s family lived in this house.
In 1930 he was denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School (UMLS) because of his race. Instead he commuted to Howard University Law School where Charles Hamilton Houston, Marshall’s mentor and law school professor, instilled in him the desire to apply the tenants of the U.S. Constitution to all Americans. Marshall began practicing law in Baltimore after his 1933 graduation from Howard University. Two years later, he took UMLS to court on behalf of Donald Murray. He won the case, forcing the university to admit Murray, its first black student since the 1890s…more
Romare Bearden Mural Paying homage to Baltimore’s African American musicians
The celebrated African American artist Romare Bearden’s most famous mosaic, “Baltimore Uproar,” adorns the Upton Metro Station, and rightly so. The mosaic features a jazz group composed of Baltimore native Billie Holiday and six instrumentalists, setting the tone for Baltimore’s once-famous musical venues. The 14’ x 46’ Venetian glass mosaic was unveiled on December 15, 1982 in the Upton Metro Station.
In 1935 Bearden (1911-1988) became a weekly editorial cartoonist for The Afro-American Newspapers where he graphically captured the African American experience until 1937.
Bearden’s life and art covered a spectrum of interests, including music, performing arts, history, literature, and art. He also was a renowned humanist, supporting young, emerging artists. Within his extensive education portfolio, he attended the Art Students League…more
The Arch Social Club “Friendship and Brotherly Love”
The Arch Social Club is one of the oldest African American social clubs in the United States. During the early 1900s African Americans’ social activities were restricted and access to insurance was difficult. To counter these racist practices, the Arch Social Club was incorporated in 1912 “for the social, moral and intellectual uplift of its members and in order that charity may be practiced in a Christian-like spirit…” Club members visited the sick, attended funerals and supported widows, orphans and local charities. Benefits were paid to members during sickness or at time of death.
Formerly located in downtown Baltimore, the club moved to the present site in 1972. Prominent African Americans came through the doors regularly. John Kier, formerly of the Duke Ellington Orchestra, led the Club’s band…more
The Sphinx Club A Half-Century of Entertainment and Community Sponsorship
Established by Charlie Tilghman in 1946, the Sphinx Club was “the place” to be on the “hot” Pennsylvania Avenue, and one of the nation’s first minority-owned membership night clubs. The Afro-American Newspapers wrote in 1995 around the end of the Club’s nearly half-century of operation, “It had a certain air about it... a pronounced style that set it apart… the one spot where if you wait long enough, you are certain to meet everyone who is anyone.”
Tilghman mastered the art of night club promotion by a “members only” policy and establishing an aura of ‘the elite.’ A gifted party planner; Tilghman’s themed events became fundamental parts of Baltimore nightlife, such as Old Timers’ Night…more
Saint Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church
Saint Peter Claver Roman Catholic Church was active in the non-violent movement of the Civil Rights era. Serving Baltimore’s black Catholics, St. Peter Claver was the world’s first church dedicated to the newly canonized South American saint known as the “apostle to the slaves,” and its affiliated school is Maryland’s oldest African American private school still in existence…more
Historic St. Mary’s Seminary Chapel & Mother Seton House First Catholic Seminary in United States
St. Mary's Chapel, ca. 1920
The strength of Old West Baltimore’s community-based fabric springs from the practice of faith.
In 1791, at the invitation of Bishop John Carroll — the first American bishop — Sulpician priests came to Baltimore from France to found St. Mary’s Seminary, the nation’s first Catholic seminary.
The Sulpician Fathers built the first significant church in the U.S. in the neo-gothic style, designed by the French émigré Maximillian Godefroy and completed in 1808. In the early 19th century, the crypt of the chapel served as the parish church for area residents, including many Haitian refugees…more
The Afro-American Newspapers Civil Rights Advocates, Regional & National Impact
John H. Murphy Sr.
Since its founding in 1892, The Afro-American Newspapers gave voice to the Civil Rights Movement. Founded by John H. Murphy Sr., a former slave, the paper started as a merger of his church’s publication and by 1922 became the most widely circulated black newspaper along the east coast. Under the 45-year editorship (1922-1960s), of Carl Murphy, one of the founder’s sons, The Afro-American Newspapers rose to national prominence, with Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Richmond, Newark, and North and South Carolina editions; reaching its peak in weekly circulation of 235,000 in 1945. The newspapers’ accomplishments were recognized on March 29, 1944 when the S.S. John H Murphy Liberty Ship was launched at the Bethlehem-Fairfield Shipyard…more
Mother Mary Elizabeth Lange Founder of the Oblate Sisters of Providence
Old West Baltimore claims a possible future Saint who worked tirelessly serving and educating Baltimore’s blacks. Born in the French colony, Saint-Domingue, Haiti, in 1784, Elizabeth Clovis Lange was the founder and first Superior-General of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, the first black Roman Catholic order in the United States. The Haitian revolution forced her to leave her birthplace. After migrating to eastern Cuba, she eventually settled in Baltimore in 1827. Here, she invested her inheritance to open the first school for the City’s black French-speaking immigrants…more
Perkins Square Gazebo 19th century pavilion
The Perkins Square Gazebo harkens back to the grandeur of Baltimore’s 19th century architectural and landscape heritage. As early as 1810, Baltimore purchased the land at the head of the springs, providing the City with an abundant supply of fresh water and allowing for the creation of the City’s first public parks.
In 1871, the Gazebo was built as a spring shelter, the centerpiece for a new park. The reputedly medicinal spring flowed at the rate of 60 gallons per minute and was one of the numerous early Baltimore natural springs. This land had been part of the Chatsworth estate originally owned by Dr. George Walker, one of Baltimore’s original commissioners. As early as the 1850s, the City became interested in preserving the spring and surrounding ground as “a place of public resort for the citizens of Baltimore.” Once triangular in shape, the park became known for its extravagant plantings with luxuriant beds of coleus and petunias planted in shapes of stars, shields and anchors, and rock formations with creeping vines. In the 1950s, Perkins Square became part of the site of a public housing project…more
Orchard Street Church Urban League’s home
Orchard Street Church was founded in 1825 by Truman Le Pratt, a former slave of Maryland Governor John Eager Howard. The congregation originally gathered in Le Pratt’s home, the only place of worship for African Americans in the community. The congregation grew quickly and built Orchard Street United Methodist Church in 1837, formerly known as the Metropolitan Methodist Episcopal Church.
The church provided housing, jobs, medical care and spiritual guidance to African Americans and others seeking freedom and equality. Closing its doors in 1970, the church remained vacant for 22 years until it reopened as the headquarters for the Baltimore Urban League (founded 1924)…more