Thursday, January 20, 2011

Excerpted from MonumentalCity.Net
Bits and Pieces of Neat Bits of Baltimore's Past - Baltimore Ghosts
Pretty Fair for a Square
Photos by Adam Paul
Even in the height of constructing a booming city a century ago, the city's forefathers and builders recognized the importance of dotting the landscape with open space to alleviate the area from becoming a bleak brick metropolis. Taking otherwise valuable real estate and reserving it for parkland would only serve to increase the value of the surrounding blocks, as access to these recreational areas would certainly be desirable to the homesteaders entering these newly built areas.

These entire city blocks would form the basis of what would be known as the number of "squares" in both East and West Baltimore. With their Victorian styling, and appointments of statuary, fountains, and lazy shade trees, they were the ideal oasis in the days before air conditioning and the X-Box.

With its stately entrance ways, one can make no mistake that they're entering a special place when taking in the joys of Union Square.
So how have the squares fared over the past century plus? It varies. Some, such as Lafayette and Union greatly retain a number of their vintage trappings and remain among the nicest of the squares. Others, like Johnston and Madison survive, but lack any real trace of their original landscaping. City Springs and Jackson in East Baltimore are today lost under redevelopment. And Perkins today, looks better than it has in decades, though carrying only a hint of its originalty.

Researching the squares' oft turbulent histories of survival is not always easy, but a retelling of what can be discerned about them follows below...

Near the Stricker Street side of the square lies this gazebo, designed by John Hoss.  It plays host to several community events during the year.
It's hard to pick any ONE square to start with, and hard to pick a favorite, but if pressed, one can certainly see the merits in Union Square in Southwest Baltimore (SoWeBo). Bordered by Hollins, Stricker, Lombard, and Gilmor Streets, Union Square, perhaps more than any other square, offers the most authentic glimpse of the flavor of the squares in their early days.

With shady winding trails, and a functional fountain, Union Square, dating to at least 1850, packs a lot of interest into a single city block. It offers a charm that no modern park can ever hope to replicate, in particular thanks to the stately Italianate homes that front its North, East, and South sides. Today, the square still offers a pleasant respite to its community, as it has for over a century and a half.
The fountain, though functional, was not in operation on the day I snapped this photo.
The exterior of the fountain is adorned with cast replicas of H.L. Mencken's books, the author of which lived nearby.

See the full article with details about other Baltimore Squares including Lafayette Square, Harlem Park, Franklin Square (the city's oldest from 1845), Perkins Square, Collington Square, Johnston Square, and Madison Square: Bits and Pieces of Neat Bits of Baltimore's Past - Baltimore Ghosts

BONUS: At the end of the article, there's a link to a secret, hidden square in West Baltimore: Locke Square - plus the lost location of Lincoln Square. That article can be found at: West Baltimore's Secret Square


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