Middle East, Baltimore

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Middle East, Baltimore
Neighborhood of Baltimore
Row homes in Middle East, June 2014.
Row homes in Middle East, June 2014.
Middle East, Baltimore is located in Baltimore
Middle East, Baltimore
Middle East, Baltimore
Coordinates: 39°17′55.68″N 76°35′16.08″W / 39.2988000°N 76.5878000°W / 39.2988000; -76.5878000
Country United States
ZIP Code
Area code(s)410, 443, and 667

Middle East is a neighborhood in the heart of East Baltimore, Maryland.

It is the site of a conflict between residents and the city's plans for creating a biotech park to serve nearby Johns Hopkins Medical Center. The neighborhood has suffered from extensive urban decay and housing abandonment, crime, and racial rioting. Its residents are mainly lower income African Americans; the neighborhood was a filming location for the Baltimore-based HBO drama The Wire. Middle East is also noteworthy as being a location for the filming of scenes of the television series Homicide: Life on the Street and the 1991 film Homicide (no relation to the TV series) featuring Joe Mantegna. The swath of land between Johns Hopkins Hospital and Frank C. Bocek Park, which includes much of Middle East, is often referred to as the "Down the Hill" neighborhood by local residents.[1]


A empty field close to Johns Hopkins that once held a city block of rowhomes. The block was demolished to make way for a future Johns Hopkins-related development, May 2019.
Former location of the building that housed Bohemian and Moravian Presbyterian Church and Freedom Temple AME Zion Church, May 2019. The building was demolished in 2016 after being purchased by Johns Hopkins to clear room for a future medical-related facility.
St. Wenceslaus, June 2014.
New Pilgrim Baptist Church on North Washington Street, also the former location of Mount Tabor Bohemian Methodist Episcopal Church, May 2019.

The neighborhood formerly had a white working-class Czech-American majority and is home to St. Wenceslaus Church, a historically Czech parish that is now majority African-American. The Middle East neighborhood and surrounding areas were then known colloquially as "Little Bohemia."

By 1969, the Czech-American community in what is now the Middle East neighborhood was predominantly composed of ageing homeowners who lived alongside more recently arrived African-American residents. However, many of the older white Czech-Americans harbored racist attitudes towards black people. According to a reporter with 'The Baltimore Sun', "The older people of Bohemian extraction still live in the houses they own...but they share the neighborhood with black people whom they do not seem to appreciate or understand." This was the last generation of Czech-Americans to remain in Little Bohemia in large numbers, with the neighborhood transitioning into a predominantly African-American neighborhood by the 1970s and 1980s.[2]

The name "Middle East" came about in 1978, when low-income African-American residents of the neighborhood requested funding from the city to repair the urban decay. There were 200 vacant homes in Middle East in 1978. Over a period of three years, $800,000 of federal grant funding was allocated.[3][4]

As of 2019, only a few traces of the Czech-American community still remain, as many Czech-Americans have moved to the suburbs primarily due to white flight and the decline of industrial manufacturing jobs. St. Wenceslaus is a thriving parish, as the ethnic character of the congregation has undergone a gradual shift from a mostly white working-class Czech parish to one that is multicultural and multiracial, first as many Poles and Lithuanians moved into the neighborhood, and then as the neighborhood shifted to having an African American majority. The neighborhood has suffered from extensive urban decay and housing abandonment due to poverty and crime, as well as the after-effects of the Baltimore riot of 1968, and now has a largely poverty-class and working-class African-American majority. The neighborhood was one of the hardest hit in Baltimore, as the white-working class and middle-class African-American tax base left and the area was effected by epidemics of heroin, crack cocaine, and HIV, along with an intensification of gang activity fueled by the drug trade. The predatory practices of lenders, landlords, and property flippers have also contributed to the spiraling cycle of decline and disinvestment. By 2000, Middle East was the second poorest neighborhood in Baltimore, with a median household income of $14,900, less than half the city’s median. Less than half of all adults were employed in the labor force and over a third of households had poverty-level incomes. Crime and domestic violence rates were double those of the city as a whole, and the incidence of lead poisoning and child abuse were among the highest in Baltimore.[5]

Middle East is the site of ongoing and extensive gentrification and many buildings have been leveled to make way for the expansion of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. In 2002, the East Baltimore Development Initiative (EBDI) was founded, becoming one of the most aggressive and ambitious initiates for urban redevelopment in recent American history. There have been many delays and controversies over the past 17 years, as Johns Hopkins has attempted to transform the neighborhood into a biotech hub amid accusations of gentrification. 740 families have been displaced and relocated, making way for a new public school, planned amenities including shops, and a public park, in an attempt to attract top scientists and entrepreneurs from around the world and transform the urban landscape from a working-class African-American neighborhood into one that is mixed-income and mixed-race. These effects have been criticized as racist and classist and have been referred to as a "big institution pushing out a vulnerable community for its benefit" by Lawrence Brown, a critical urbanist at Morgan State University. Marisela Gomez, an activist against gentrification, has claimed that black, brown, and low-income residents are being unfairly targeted.[6]


Middle East is bordered by East Biddle Street to the north, North Broadway to the west, Bradford Street to the east, and East Fayette Street to the south. Clockwise from the northwest, it is bordered by the neighborhoods of Oliver and Broadway East to the north; Biddle Street, Milton-Milford, McElderry Park, and Patterson Place to the east; Butchers Hill and Washington Hill to the south; and Dunbar-Broadway and Gay Street to the west.


As of the census[7] of 2010, there were 5,352 people residing in the neighborhood. The ethnic makeup of Middle East was 87.5% African American, 4.9% White, 0.9% Asian, 5.9% Hispanic or Latino, 0.3% Native American, 0.6% from other ethnicities, and 0.7% from two or more ethnicities. 35.6% of occupied housing units were owner-occupied. 29.6% of housing units were vacant.

35.8% of the population were employed, 11.0% were unemployed, and 53.4% were not in the labor force. The median household income was $15,493. About 43.7% of families and 45.7% of the population were below the poverty line.

Northeast Market[edit]

Northeast market, which was originally built and constructed in 1885, was one of the cornerstone markets in Baltimore. The layout of this market would pave the way for many more markets that would eventually be built into existence. This style would be adopted and used as a traditional style in 1955 and is still used today. The market has been used as a place for the community around it and has been a vital piece to the style and culture that has grown up in that area. Northeast market has hosted numerous workshops, health gatherings and community outreach. Even though over the years it was called dirty, smelly and unwelcoming, the market had received an award from city paper. City Paper[8] acknowledged the market for being one of the best public markets in downtown Baltimore. It still is one of the largest markets in Baltimore that is completely open to the public, and business owners can easily get a jump-start on their career in the open corridors. The market's walls still have a lot of great art done by artists in the area. The market still has occasional music players who come in to showcase their skill in front of an audience in the center courtyard. Northeast market is close to Johns Hopkins[9] and attracts a lot of their hungry interns who usually want some good tasty eats. Northeast market still has some of the best food and grocery markets that you will find in all of Downtown Baltimore. Baltimore which is known for their crabs and unbelievable seafood, can also find some great options here as it is one of the markets best crab and shrimp stand in Baltimore. Northeast market is a one-story complex that is hard to find in Baltimore still and still carries its charm from the 80's. The market has received two renovations since its original build and construction in 1885. The market in 2013 has received over two million dollars in renovations to keep the market open and up to date as one of Baltimore's great markets. Northeast market even started focusing on healthy eating as the market not only fixed the exterior, it also added seven new stalls that promote healthy eating and exercising. The market has been able to withstand a lot of battles from the recession of grocery shopping thanks to online shopping. Northeast Market still has the marble and glass face structures originally made from the front entrance and the side entrances. The market has been said to have fortress like openings that to some people may seem as very unfriendly and unwelcoming but the inside still seems to open eyes to the greatness of Baltimore cuisine. Maryland Institute College of Art students even have been able to create morals and pictures to put in this market to bring some of the arts backs to the market. Northeast market has even had a huge upgrade with the renovated parking lot to give the market more spaces that are secure and available to use for guest to come and see the wonders in the market. The artists that have posted and made their creative artwork here have been able to lighten the mood here and make this market a place to see here in Baltimore.[10][11]


  1. ^ "D. Watkins Finds Stories in the Streets". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2019-05-17.
  2. ^ "Baltimore's Czech and Slovak Festival is a surprising reflection on heritage". Baltimore City Paper. Retrieved 2017-08-07.
  3. ^ "The Value of the Times: Reshaping Baltimore City Middle East Neighbourhood". ArcGIS. Retrieved 2019-05-18.
  4. ^ "From 'Middle East' to 'Eager Park', a community is rebranded". Retrieved 2019-05-18.
  5. ^ "The East Baltimore Revitalization Initiative: A Case for Responsible Redevelopment" (PDF). Annie E. Casey Foundation. Retrieved 2019-04-27.
  6. ^ "Gentrify or die? Inside a university's controversial plan for Baltimore". The Guardian. Retrieved 2019-04-27.
  7. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  8. ^ http://www.citypaper.com
  9. ^ http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org
  10. ^ "The Baltimore Experience Virtual Itineraries Baltimore’s Markets." Baltimore’s Markets, http://explorebaltimore.org/the-baltimore-experience/experience/virtual-itineraries/baltimores-markets. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
  11. ^ "Northeast Market". Explore Baltimore Heritage Team. Retrieved 2019-04-27.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°17′56″N 76°35′18″W / 39.29889°N 76.58833°W / 39.29889; -76.58833