Bricks scattered Thursday as a yellow excavator nudged the top story of a decrepit Wilson Street rowhouse, one of six set to be demolished in Upton this week as part of the city's effort to reduce blight.
"It's bringing tears to my eyes," said Rick Sussman, the head of the Pennsylvania Avenue Merchants Association, whose family has operated a business next door since 1919 and who has pushed the city for years to tear down the eyesores. "I'm having flashbacks to all the people who have lived here."
The demolition of the properties, just off Pennsylvania Avenue near the Upton metro station, adds to almost two blocks of open space created by previous demolitions. Sussman said he hopes the city will "at its convenience" invite developers to build on the spot.
"I hate to see it because I like old buildings .... (But) it needs to be done because it's a hazard," said Paulette Hardy, who has lived in the area for 33 years and runs the Strawberry Fields urban farm next to the crumbling structures.
Since 2010, when the city launched its Vacants to Value initiative, more than 700 properties have been demolished, according to the city.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake said Thursday the demolition was part of a larger effort to make people feel secure in their neighborhoods.
"You can't feel safe walking in a community when you have this type of property in our midst," she said.
Building inspector Chris Henderson said crews would take down four buildings by the end of the day. Five of the six properties were privately owned and one belonged to the city, said Michael Braverman, a deputy commissioner at Baltimore Housing.
As the excavator claw scooped marble steps and knocked boarded up windows, 5-year-old Chardea Falcon, who lives nearby, watched wide-eyed.
"I'm not scared of the houses anymore," she said.