AFSIVA Students in Harlem Park reached new heights during stilt walking workshop!

The Friends of West Baltimore Squares joined Augusta Fells Savage Institute for Visionary Arts staff and students for their AFSIVAscape art show and community food drop off on Thursday May 2, 2013. [AFSIVAscape is a play on the widely known and popular music and art festival in Baltimore called Artscape.] The Friends donated a Nana Projects stilt walking workshop for 25 students, as well as offered students service learning hours to help clean-up Harlem Park before the event. Many of the students volunteered their time without accepting service learning hours and residents passing by also joined in to help gather … Continue reading AFSIVA Students in Harlem Park reached new heights during stilt walking workshop!

Full & Fit presents EARTH WEEK in Lafayette Square

Full & Fit Presents EARTH WEEK April 25, 2013 Community Clean-up 9:30am to 10:30am Full & Fit Community Event 1:00-4:00pm includes free lunch, HIV testing & linkage to care, blood pressure screening, social workers to assist with PAC insurance application, legal referrals, nutrition & healthy lifestyle planning, and fitness on-site. at Metropolitan United Methodist Church 1121 W. Lanvale Street Brought you to by Metropolitan UMC University of Maryland Nursing Students Maryland Food Bank Continue reading Full & Fit presents EARTH WEEK in Lafayette Square

3rd Annual West Baltimore Squares Spring Celebration, begins April 19th! [UPDATE]

Spring is here and we’re celebrating in West Baltimore Squares – Franklin Square, Harlem Park, Lafayette Square, and Union Square – and in many of our historic neighborhoods! We are putting on a series of free, fun events running from April through July. We decided that this year we wanted to offer a couple of series events to provide more opportunities to have fun in the West Baltimore Squares! Plus, we have been dying to test out our new outdoor movie equipment and popcorn machine! These series include a “Film Friday”,  “Music Monday”, a Park Cleanup series, as well as … Continue reading 3rd Annual West Baltimore Squares Spring Celebration, begins April 19th! [UPDATE]

Full & Fit Community Outreach Program in Lafayette Square

Services Offered: Free lunch HIV Testing + Link to Care Nutrition & Healthy Lifestyle Planning NEW! Housing Workshopon Site (local Social Workers (Legal Issues) at 1:30pm referrals +service & legal PAC Insurance Applications (bring 2 forms of ID) Where: Metropolitan UMC 1121 W. Lanvale St. Baltimore, MD 21217 When: Thursday’s March 28th and April 25th 2013 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m Also: April 7: Family & Friends & Founder’s Day at Metropolitan UMC Sponsored by: University of Maryland Nursing Students ~ Metropolitan UMC ~ Maryland Food Bank Continue reading Full & Fit Community Outreach Program in Lafayette Square

Morgan State University studio architecture class looks at recreation and community in Harlem Park

Morgan State University students and faculty are responding to the recent closure of the Harlem Park Recreation Center with a new project to create conceptual designs for a new Harlem Park Recreation Center. We provided an introduction to the neighborhood with a walking tour including a stop at the historic Harlem Park Community Baptist Church. Enjoy this post on the project thanks to Fred Scharmen: Instructors Katherine Melluish and Fred Scharmen are asking their third-year graduate architecture students to reinvent the Community Recreation Center for the 21st century postindustrial city. The studio, conducted at Morgan State University’s School of Architecture … Continue reading Morgan State University studio architecture class looks at recreation and community in Harlem Park

Celebrate National Trails Day with a fun ride through West Baltimore Parks

West Baltimore’s unique landscape of parks and gardens feature everything from a monument to Francis Scott Key to innovative bioswales for sustainable stormwater management. The best way to get to know all these local treasures? Hop on your bike and join us for a free National Trails Day ride through West Baltimore parks! West Baltimore Parks by Bike Saturday, June 2, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm RSVP today! Meet at the Francis Scott Key Monument – Eutaw Place and Lanvale Street. Parking – Street parking available in surrounding area. Transit – UB/Mt. Royal Light Rail Station, the State Center Metro … Continue reading Celebrate National Trails Day with a fun ride through West Baltimore Parks

Teen Leaders for Change from Harlem Park advocate for Baltimore schools

Thanks to Community Law in Action for allowing us to share this great post on Charleesa Curtis and Tyrell Brown, active members of Teen Leaders for Change (TLC), attending Baltimore Talent Development High School in Harlem Park. TLC an after school program developed by CLIA to give students the opportunity to direct their own advocacy projects in Baltimore City. “Tyrell, you have a lot to say. It sounds like we should have you introduce your group to the legislators,” urged Ms. Arlene Fisher, a community organizer in the 44th District. Ms. Fischer, keenly observing Tyrell’s inclination to talk, helped him … Continue reading Teen Leaders for Change from Harlem Park advocate for Baltimore schools

Get ready for the West Baltimore Squares Spring Celebration!

Spring is here and we’re celebrating in West Baltimore Squares – Franklin Square, Harlem Park, Lafayette Square, and Union Square – and in many of our historic neighborhoods! We have five fun free events coming up from April through June with everything from free vaccines for pitbulls, a chance to help a local garden, to a community bike ride and much more! Come out and enjoy the spring with your West Baltimore neighbors or get involved as a volunteer by calling Eli Pousson at 301-204-3337 or e-mail info@westbaltimoresquares.org. West Baltimore Community Pitbull Day at Franklin Square E/MS Saturday, April 7, … Continue reading Get ready for the West Baltimore Squares Spring Celebration!

Remembering the Celestial Ceiling of the Harlem Theatre

Thanks to Baltimore Heritage intern Elise Hoffman for researching and writing this post on the history of the Harlem Theatre. Do you want to share your photos or stories of West Baltimore landmarks? Please get in touch with Eli Pousson at pousson@baltimoreheritage.org or 301-204-337.

The Harlem Theatre, now known as the Harlem Park Community Baptist Church, is a local landmark on the western edge of Harlem Park– one of the city’s most extravagant African American movie theaters with a unique “celestial ceiling” featuring “twinkling electrical stars and projected clouds.” Built in 1902 as the home for the Harlem Park Methodist Episcopal Church, after they out grew their previous building, the structure still retains its ornamental Romanesque style with arched doors and windows made of rough blocks of Port Deposit granite.

B1617 Harlem Theatre. Photograph by A. A. Bodine, Image courtesy the Maryland Historical Society
Image courtesy the Maryland Historical Society, B1617

Harlem Park Methodist Episcopal Church did not remain in the area long however. After the building opened in 1903, two destructive fires — in December of 1908 followed by an even more severe fire in 1924 — led the congregation to sell the building and move out to a new church at Harlem and Warwick Avenues at the western edge of the developing city. At the same time the neighborhood began to transition from a largely segregated white to a predominantly black community, a change that almost certainly influenced the white congregation. In 1928, the congregation sold the church to Emanuel M. Davidove and Harry H. Goldberg, owners of the new Fidelity Amusement Corporation, established to build “a 1,500 seat motion picture theatre for Negroes…to be known as Harlem Theatre.”

The company hired architect Theodore Wells Pietsch, a notable Baltimore architect who also designed Eastern High School and the Broadway Pier. Pietsch took the property’s history into consideration when designing the new building: the theatre was made fireproof through the use of steel and concrete, and a fire extinguishing system was also included in the building’s design. Pietsh’s new design had an elaborate Spanish Mission theme described at the time as one of most elaborate designs on the East Coast and promoted as “the best illuminated building in Baltimore.” The bright façade included a 65-foot marquee with 900 50-watt light bulbs illuminating sidewalk underneath, “tremendous electric signs” around the marquee, and a forty-foot tall sign that could be seen from two miles away.

In October 1932, the owners organized a celebration to open the theater “in a blaze of glory” drawing jubilant crowds of 5,000 to 8,000 people. The jubilant scene was described by a journalist:

“The blazing marquee studded with a thousand lights made the entire square take a semblance of Broadway glamour. The marquees illuminated the entire Harlem Square which was crowded with those who lined the sidewalk unable to gain admittance.”

Over the next forty years, countless numbers of Baltimore residents enjoyed the theatre’s “cavernous three-story high ceiling, a balcony, carpeted floors and thick cushioned seats” and “celestial ceiling with twinkling electrical stars and projected clouds that floated over movie-goers’ heads.” The Harlem Theatre also hosted events supporting the broader community, such as a free “Movie Jamboree” in 1968 for the children of Baltimore workers donated by the theatre’s then-manager Edward Grot, and midnight shows to raise money for the local YMCA. Unfortunately for the Harlem, as movie theatres that previously discriminated against black customers began to desegregate in the mid 20th century, their business declined. By the mid-1970s, the Harlem Theatre had closed.

The building took on a new life in 1975 when Reverend Raymond Kelley, Jr. purchased the old theater and turned it into the Harlem Park Community Baptist Church dedicated on July 6, 1975. The building has been refurbished– the congregation traded in the old theater seats for pews and removed the large marquee–but much of the original historic character remains intact. Of course, the story of the Harlem Park Theatre also remains in the memories of thousands of Baltimore residents and we hope you can share your stories with us in the comments.

Continue reading “Remembering the Celestial Ceiling of the Harlem Theatre”

New Harlem Park/Poppleton Vision Plan from the Red Line Station Area Advisory Committee

The combined Red Line Station Area Advisory Committee for the Harlem Park and Poppleton station areas has published a new vision plan, outlining the a direction for the future of the station area with the anticipated construction of the Red Line. You can download a copy of the report here (PDF) or take a look at the other station area vision plans online. This document summarizes the SAAC’s activities regarding Vision Planning and Station Location. The Vision Plans for each SAAC summarize the first half of the SAAC efforts. The second half of the effort will focus on Station Design … Continue reading New Harlem Park/Poppleton Vision Plan from the Red Line Station Area Advisory Committee