Photo of Hoes Heights rowhouses by Mary Beth Lennon
There's nothing like hearing about a neighborhood from someone who lives there. That's the point of the "My neighborhood, 'tis of thee" project, which kicked off with some neighborhood love for Overlea from a man who's lived there since 1998.
Now comes Mary Beth Lennon, who moved to Hoes Heights in the summer of 2006 when she decided to buy a home. Lennon, director of communications at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, kindly offered to share why she's glad she picked the small northern Baltimore neighborhood.
There's some disagreement about whether the neighborhood is properly Hoes, Hoe's or Hoes' -- you can find it all three ways. Hoes' makes sense for reasons you'll see in a moment, but the city officially has it sans apostrophe, so that's how it's appearing here. (Oh, apostrophe: bane of mapmakers everywhere.)
Here is Mary Beth's take on her neighborhood, in words and pictures. (Find more of her photos, along with the Overlea pictures, at the My Neighborhood 'Tis of Thee gallery.)
The day after I moved into my home in Hoes Heights, I introduced myself to my next-door neighbor, a longtime resident. After exchanging pleasantries, he told me, "We like to keep our lawns nice here." He continued, "You know, we like to keep our lawns looking nice." After a pause, he said, "I’ve got someone who cuts my lawn." Finally, I got the hint and arranged for my lawn to be cut at the same time as his!
That’s the way Hoes Heights is. Residents take care of their homes, and their front lawns and tidy flowerbeds show pride of ownership.
Gracious gardens, low traffic, and non-existent crime contribute to a neighborhood that is increasingly desirable to young professionals and families. An eclectic mix of single-family bungalows, porch front Queen Anne-style duplexes and classic mid-century red-brick rowhouses give folks a variety of home styles and sizes to choose from.
Examples of Hoes Heights homes. Above, a house under renovation. Directly below, a duplex constructed about five years ago. Below that, homes on Dewey Avenue -- Mary Beth says you're not getting the true Hoes Heights lawn experience, thanks to the ravages of winter.
Tucked between Roland Park and Hampden, Hoes Heights began as a large property owned by African-American farmer Charles Grandison Hoes Jr. Bungalows and duplexes now occupy the north side of Hoes’ farm. Large backyards and gardens give the neighborhood a rustic feeling, and an outhouse or two still stands as a reminder of the old days.
On the southern part of Mr. Hoes' property now sits a small rowhouse community. My neighbor told me that many of these neat red-brick rowhomes were purchased by African-American veterans after World War II, for between $6,000 and $7,000. Here these teachers, postal employees, Morgan State University faculty members and their neighbors in still-segregated Baltimore created a tight-knit community in which to raise their children.
They encouraged brothers, sisters, cousins and friends to buy homes in the neighborhood, giving it a strong family feeling that continues to this day. A bereavement liaison of the Hoes’ Heights Improvement Association is responsible for notifying every resident when a death occurs in the neighborhood.
A Baltimore Sun article in 1997 noted that the Hoes' Heights Improvement Association also acted to win basic city services denied to the neighborhood. In the late 1970s, the association banded together with the Greater Homewood Community Corporation. A 1980 editorial in the Messenger noted: "Though householders and taxpayers, they were repeatedly denied basic city services that their white neighbors took for granted, such as ... street lights and well-maintained roads with storm run-offs. When their association leaders went to City Hall to complain, they were brushed off."
Not everyone in the neighborhood is related these days, but the family atmosphere continues. Although Evans Chapel Road is a busy cut-through from Roland Avenue and Cold Spring Lane to 40th Street, side streets are quiet. On a summer night, neighborhood kids often ride bikes and skateboards. Adults gather on their front porches. During the day, retired residents keep a close watch on what’s going on, contributing to an overall feeling of security. And when I go away, good friends faithfully take in my mail and keep an eye on my home.
Hoes Heights is one of the most walkable neighborhoods in the city. A shopping center on 41st Street occupies the site of the old Greenspring Dairy, located next to Hoes Heights. Super Fresh, Rite Aid, Blockbuster, a nail shop, a Chinese carryout, Dunkin' Donuts, a drycleaner, and other small businesses are a brisk walk away. The Rotunda and the busy commercial area at Cold Spring Lane and Keswick are also within walking distance. And located in the heart of the neighborhood is Wine Underground, an upscale wine shop named "Best Wine Store" in 2007 by the Baltimore City Paper. A number of churches are close by in Hampden, including Good Shepherd United Methodist Church and St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church.
The defining feature of the neighborhood, however, is the Roland Water Tower. Built in 1904, it sits between Roland Avenue and Evans Chapel Road. A chain-link fence now encircles the tower because pieces of the structure are falling randomly to the ground. A coalition of community organizations, called Friends of the Roland Water Tower, is working to raise funds to preserve this elegant brick and terra cotta structure.
The neighborhood’s location is yet another of its attractions. Hopping onto nearby I-83 puts me downtown in less than 10 minutes on nearly any day. The #22 and #61 buses also serve the neighborhood, and a group of regulars take the #61 bus downtown to work. Access to Charles Street and University Parkway also puts Hoes Heights close to area colleges and hospitals.
A convenient, friendly and vibrant Hoes Heights is a special place to call home for longtime residents, as well as for newbies. But let’s face it: It can be tough to break into a long-established community. However, I knew that I had been accepted when a neighbor commented on some work I had done to my front porch. She confided, "You know, I really didn’t like your new stone wall at first, but it really looks pretty good now." I stumbled over my reply, but in my heart, I truly felt like a bona fide member of the Hoes Heights family!
Thanks for sharing, Mary Beth. Anyone else out there with stories about Hoes Heights? Comment away.
I'm interested in sharing more personal essays from residents about their neighborhoods in the Baltimore metro area. If you'd like to write about yours and share some photos, or share a lot of photos with some words, email me at jamie.smith.hopkins(at)baltsun.com for details. Pieces from long-time residents, newish residents and residents dishing out some tough love all happily welcomed.