Govans, Baltimore

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Govans
Govanstown
CountryUnited States
StateMaryland
CityBaltimore
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)EDT
ZIP code
21212
Area code410, 443, and 667

Govans is a neighborhood located in northeast Baltimore, Maryland. It includes the communities of Mid-Govans, Rosebank, Lothian, Benninghause, Woodbourne McCabe, Winston-Govans, Homeland, and Richnor Springs.

History[edit]

The area of Govans, was originally granted to William Govane, a wealthy Baltimore shipowner, in 1755 by Frederick Calvert the sixth Lord of Baltimore.[1] Govans named his land “Drumquehastle,” (aka drumcastle) after the family’s estate in Scotland.[1] William’s son, William James Govane inherited the estate, and built a store around the current intersection of York Road and Woodbourne Avenue.[2] The Govane estate was divided up and sold off after James’ death in 1807, yet the Govane name remained, and the area eventually became known as Govanstown and then Govans.[2] In 1808 the York-town turnpike, running from York, Pennsylvania to Baltimore harbor was established through in the area over a historic Indian route.[3] Soon the road was one of the main thoroughfares out of Baltimore and the area of Govans became a popular resting destination for traveling farmers from Pennsylvania.[4]

Prominent residents and industry[edit]

The oldest remaining building in Govans is the former Govanstown Hotel, just on the west side of the York Road at the intersection with Bellona Avenue, that was built in 1840 to house the area’s influx of travelers coming south and north between Pennsylvania and Baltimore.[4]. It was renovated into Epiphany House of senior citizen housing apartments by a local neighborhood consortium of churches. Bellona Avenue going to the northwest from the old York Road became another important route from the large Bellona Gunpowder Mills, further north of Govans on the Jones Falls stream which flowed from Baltimore County's north.[2] However, most of Govans was still a rural agricultural farmland that lured some of the city’s most prominent citizens with several large country estates and working farms.

The Perine family owned an extensive estate in present-day Homeland, while on the other west side of Govans, Baltimore hardware merchant, banker, steamship owner and philanthropist Enoch Pratt, (1808-1896) owned 95 acres of agricultural land where he built his “Tivoli” country mansion and estate. Pratt was also the founder of the city's public library system in 1882, constructing a central library and four neighborhood branches in the four corners of town in 1886 and adding two more branches by the mid 1890s for his Enoch Pratt Free Library. This included one later for Govans in 1922 with Branch #22 on Bellona Avenue, built in Colonial Revival style (and renovated 2000s) with grant money from the famous steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie (who endowed library buildings all across America, inspired by his visits with Mr. Pratt at his home and central library).

Just north was railroad investor, philanthropist and art collector William T. Walter’s (1820-1894), “St. Mary’s” house and estate. His son Henry Walters (1848-1931), continued his father's collecting avocation and increased it tremendously and built an art gallery building on North Charles Street / Washington Place at West Centre Street in 1909, just around the corner at the Washington Monument from their townhouse mansion. At his death in 1931, he deeded the family's extensive incredible collection and gallery to the city and the public to enjoy when it opened in 1934.[5][6]

The neighborhood was also home to a thriving flower-growing horticultural industry.[2] The York-town turnpike was expanded by the Yorktown Turnpike Railway in 1863 which began streetcar traffic. By 1890, electric streetcars under the newly merged city-wide system of the United Railways and Electric Company nine years later, replaced the horse drawn cars and greatly improved transportation from Baltimore into the expanding suburbs.[7]

20th century urbanization[edit]

Towards the beginning of the 20th century, Govans was becoming increasingly urban, including expanding residential neighborhoods and business blocks along the York Road corridor. The automobile quickly replaced the streetcar and connect Baltimore even further into the surrounding county. In 1918-1919, Baltimore officially annexed Govans from surrounding Baltimore County, as part of a 35 square mile expansion to the city limits in the Third Major Annexation Act.[8] After the Great Depression, York Road undertook new developments such as the grand Art Deco Senator Theatre built in 1939.[9] In 1948, Baltimore department store, Hochschild, Kohn, opened their second branch location in Govans at the corner of York Road and Belvedere Avenue, in what was deemed one of Baltimore’s most prosperous neighborhoods.[10] Yet by the mid-1960s, Govans was facing the economic hardships prevalent throughout the city.

1980s decay and subsequent revival[edit]

The neighborhood experienced an influx of black residents that was countered by white flight from the area.[11] The Hochschild Kohn store closed in 1984, along with dozens of other stores along the York Road corridor.[10] The Belvedere Market was built in 1987, but closed in 1995.[12] Over the last couple of decades, community activists and organizations have helped bring new development and finances into Govans.[11] Belvedere Square shopping center on East Belvedere Avenue (just a block east of York Road) reopened in 2003 and the historic 1939 Senator Theatre reopened after extensive renovations in 2013.[13] In 2013, the York Road Corridor Collective, led by nearby Loyola University Maryland, hired a consulting team to blueprint long term improvements for Govans and the York Road corridor.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b John Brain (1996). "Govanes of Govanstown". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. pp. 13–14.
  2. ^ a b c d John Brain (1996). "Govans Village". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. pp. 9–12.
  3. ^ John Brain (1996). "The York Road and Turnpike". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. pp. 24–27.
  4. ^ a b John Brain (1996). "Wagon Houses". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. pp. 28–31.
  5. ^ John Brain (1996). "Enoch Pratt and "Trivoli"". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. pp. 20–21.
  6. ^ John Brain (1996). "The Walters and St. Mary's". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. pp. 22–23.
  7. ^ John Brain (1996). "Streetcar Days". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. pp. 32–35.
  8. ^ Arnold, Joseph L. (June 1978). "Suburban Growth and Municipal Annexation in Baltimore, 1745-1918". Maryland Historical Magazine. 73: 123.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ John Brain (1996). "The Senator Theatre". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. p. 90.
  10. ^ a b Michael J. Lisicky (2012). "Better Try Hochschild, Kohn". Baltimore's Bygone Department Stores. The History Press. pp. 45–64.
  11. ^ a b John Brain (1996). "Four Govans Organizations". Govans Village and Suburb. John Brain. pp. 63–73.
  12. ^ "About". The Belvedre Square Market. Retrieved 2014-12-18.
  13. ^ Julie Scharper; Chris Kaltenbach= (October 9, 2013). "Now playing, the Senator". The Sun. Retrieved December 18, 2014.
  14. ^ Alexopulos, Nick (April 16, 2014). "Fr. Linnane, Mayor Rawlings-Blake announce contract award for York Road corridor commercial plan". Loyola News. Retrieved December 18, 2014.

Coordinates: 39°21′46″N 76°36′35″W / 39.36278°N 76.60972°W / 39.36278; -76.60972