The Culture and History of Upton
Upton is one of Baltimore’s historic neighborhoods and enjoys a reputation as one of the nation’s premiere centers of African American history and culture. Beginning after World War I, Upton was home to Baltimore’s growing African American middle class, many of whom continue to have long-standing ties to the community and plan an active role in its political, social and cultural institutions. Upton can claim numerous local and national “firsts,” many of which were born out of racial and discriminatory policies and attitudes. Although separated and excluded by race, it was these patterns and practices that enabled the community to create its place in history.
The Civil War through World War I marked the urbanization of Upton. Investors built the majority of three-story homes along Druid Hill Avenue and McCulloh Street, which were intended to attract wealthy residents. Many of Upton’s churches were built during the 1870’s and reflect the community’s growth and prosperity. This era also marked beginning of a strong African American community presence in Upton, many having moved to the area from the South to Baltimore.
Upton’s distinction as the “Harlem of Baltimore” was earned between World War I and World War II. Professionals purchased homes along Druid Hill Avenue, while Pennsylvania Avenue became the community’s commercial and cultural district. By 1917, a majority of the city’s black property owners and most of its African American teachers, clergy, government workers and shopkeepers made Upton their home.
- Build on strengths. Upton has a wealth of assets.
- Preserve the existing character of the neighborhood. Upton’s strongest assets is its housing stock
- Create a mixed-income community. Historically, successful neighborhoods have a range of incomes, services and housing types.
- Capitalize on the community’s African American Heritage. Cultural and heritage tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of the tourism industry.
- Provide amenities that meet the physical and economic needs of professionals, families and senior citizens. Successful neighborhoods offer institutions and services for their residents.
- Build a critical mass of residents that encourages a viable commercial district. Successful commercial districts require strong economically residential areas.
- Concentrate new development on vacant land. New development should be directed t the vacant parcels as a strategy for preserving the neighborhood’s existing character.
- Minimize displacement. Both new development and rehabilitation of existing buildings should be scheduled in a way that minimizes displacing residents.