Even as long-time industrial workers are gradually being replaced by affluent young professionals in Canton, Fells Point and Hampden, Morrell Park remains resolutely working class. And its residents dont seem to mind.
Surrounded by railroad tracks and Interstate 95, this Southwest Baltimore community that straddles Washington Boulevard is a reminder of what the city used to be -- a gritty blue collar town. Neighborhoods such as this used to be the norm in Baltimore; now theyre the exception.
Morrell (pronounced moral by the community) Park is home to generations of men and women who worked in the factories that once surrounded the harbor, the old Montgomery Ward and at Camden Yards where Oriole Park now stands. The economy of the city changed but the residents adapted and stayed on.
Maybe because they know that this is the only place in the city where you can own a single-family, detached house and be minutes from downtown and that its hilly terrain gives it one of the very best views of the harbor and the city skyline. Morrell Park is an interesting transition between the urban city and suburban county. Its been called a suburb of Pigtown, its neighbor to the north.
Few places in the city had a better view of the Millenium fireworks on New Years Eve than Morrell Park. Its the kind of place where its good to know a friend or relative on the Fourth of July, said Ruben Gaimoro, a real estate agent with Re/Max Suburban West in Catonsville.
Morrell Park is what Realtors call a repeat neighborhood. Children grow up and buy houses down the street from their parents. Prices vary from $35,000 to $80,000, with the average being in the $50,000 range, which is good for first-time buyers, according to Larry Alsid of the Pikesville office of Long and Foster Real Estate Inc. They can choose from a selection of large, century-old, wood-frame houses west of Washington Boulevard and post World War II rowhouses to the east.
Alsid is currently listing an 1890 home with four bedrooms and a garage for $85,000 on Georgetown Road, while, for $99,900 on DeSoto Road, Gaimoro has an 80-year-old four -bedroom home thats been renovated, including a new kitchen and a Jacuzzi. Hes also recently sold for $69,900 a three-bedroom end rowhouse on Whistler Avenue with a spectacular view of the city. Sales have been exceptionally brisk on the rowhouse side of Morrell Park.
One of the more unusual things about the neighborhood is that its western side abuts an industrial park. While this would be a negative for most neighborhoods, Morrell Park folks arent bothered in the least. Perhaps thats because the residents were used to working in factories very near where they lived.
To the oldtimers, the industrial park is better than the 40 acres of stockyards that once stood there. Jim Mislak remembers the abandoned yards from when he moved to Morrell Park in 1962. It was like something out of the Old West, just acres of corrals, he said.
Ida Ryer, who has lived most of her 83 years in the community, remembers when they were still used. My husband used to take the kids to show them the stockyards.
Residents preferred that the land was developed into an industrial park instead of home sites or apartments. People clear out after 5 oclock and its very quiet, said Mislak. When the large-scale industries -- such as steel and canning -- vanished, the businesses in the industrial park provided a new source of employment for many.
While the residential streets have stayed the same, the business district along Washington Boulevard has changed, according to the oldtimers. Many of the small stores have disappeared, according to Ryer, whose father once had a grocery store there. Some, such as Joes Bar and Restaurant, remain. Joe Marney, who has owned the place for 21 years, still does a healthy business. The lunch and supper business is good, he remarked.
Everyone in the neighborhood is concerned about the increase in crime and littering on Washington Boulevard. They want the city to pay more attention to their main thoroughfare before the problem starts to affect the side streets.
To Mary Lou Kline, president of Morrell Park Community Association, this is a major issue, but she has noticed a change since Martin OMalley became mayor. Since OMalleys come in, the street sweeper has been up and down the Boulevard a lot more often, she remarked.
Morrell Park was originally the land of Charles Carroll the Barrister, a cousin of the signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton. His home, Mount Clare, still stands in Carroll Park just north of the neighborhood. In 1830, on land donated by James Carroll, a descendent of the first owner of Mount Clare, track for Americas first railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio, was laid.
It was only in 1897 that residential development began. The area was part of Baltimore County until 1918, when it was annexed by Baltimore City.
Those familiar with the area say Morrell Park just might have all the elements for revival such as has occurred in Canton and Fells Point -- or be forgotten and fall into decline. Kline is optimistic. We even have our own Web site now, he said
Commuting time to downtown Baltimore: 5 minutes
Public schools: Morrell Park Elementary, Morrell Park Middle School, Southwestern High School
Zip code: 21230