|Notes on "Flight to the Suburbs: Suburbanization and Racial
Change on Baltimore's West Side" Chapter 10 of The Baltimore
Book: New Views of Local History ed. Fees, Shopes & Zeidman
- During the 19th century Whites and Blacks had
lived in relatively close proximity in Baltimore,
but by the turn of the century residential
segregation had been established by law as well as
- The development of new transportation
technologies (first the trolley and then the car)
led to the new availability of housing opportunities
beyond the limits of the 'walking city' which became
increasingly industrialized and congested during the
first decades of the 20th century. Neighborhoods
full of the classic Baltimore row house began to be
- Blacks lived predominantly in two neighborhoods
in Old West Baltimore and in East Baltimore along
the North Avenue corridor.
- The population of these neighborhoods grew to
the bursting point during the Great Migration of the
first half of the 20th century; as a result on the
Westside, blacks began crossing into previously
white neighborhoods in the 1950's.
- To the 1940's Fulton Avenue remained the
dividing line between white and black neighborhoods
on the West side.
- Key Supreme Court decisions (Shelley v. Kramer;
Brown v. Board of Education) led to the formal
ending of de jure segregation. The expanding
demand for housing by blacks led to
blockbusting real estate tactics and, from 1950 to
1970, a near total racial turnover took place in
large sections of the city.
- Older black neighborhoods east of Fulton Avenue
deteriorate and lead the city to justify the
construction of a new east-west highway ( I-170)
through the old black neighborhoods in the 1960's.
- Displaced residents move into new high-rise low
income housing: Lexington Homes and Murphy Homes:
the new centers for concentrated poverty in the city
during the 1970's and 1980's.
Expansion of the City's West Side (1880-1940)
- 1880's: Fulton Avenue was the Western border of
the city. Beyond it was countryside where elite
Baltimore businessmen built summer houses.
- 1888- The city boundary is extended two miles
west and Edmondson Village is opened up for
- 1890's- Electrification of the laying of street
trolley lines make rowhouses marketable to white
middle income buyers.
- 1910: Keelty Brothers take advantage of housing
boom to develop Edmondson Village: "Splendidly
convenient to street cars, churches of various
denominations, schools, stores and banks, and but a
quarter hour's drive to the city." (Orser 218)
- 1915: Gwynn Falls Park is opened
- 1940's Edmondson Village Shopping Center
developed by the Meyerhoff family: one of the first
regional shopping centers in the country: "a
landmark of Baltimore progress" (Orser 218)
- Pull: After WWII, huge federal investments in
the nation's highway system and the GI Bill's
provisions for low interest housing loans created a
new vogue for detached housing units in suburbs
within driving distance of the city center. In
Baltimore, neighborhoods in Catonsville and Towson
were opened up for development.
- Push: The huge housing demand of black residents
in Old West Baltimore combined with the fall of
legal barriers to segregation and the desire of
middle class blacks to participate in the suburban
dream. The color line had moved further and further
west to Poplar Grove Avenue, and finally in the
ealry 1950's black families began moving into homes
west of the Gwynn Falls in Edmondson Village.
- Population of Edmondson Village:1950: 99% white;
1960: 62% black; 1970: 97% black
- Blockbusting Methods:
- Offer price over and above the
median price to a few whites in the
- Rent those houses to black tenants
- Purchase houses from frightened
whites at discount prices.
- Jack up the rates to above market
value to black buyers.
- Once the turnover had taken place, the new black
community found it hard to maintain the middle
income character of the neighborhood due to high
demand and to limited career opportunities open to
black middle class.
- Slow steady decline of the median income rates,
- Hoschild Kohn closes in Edmondson Village
Shopping Center and the Meyerhoffs open a new
shopping center at Westview Mall.
- By 1970 the new racial divide is at the Beltway.