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In Southwest Baltimore, Mount Clare uncovers historical gems and beautifies neighborhood

Editor’s note: The Mount Clare profile is one article in The Sun’s City of Neighborhoods series, spotlighting Baltimore communities. Other neighborhoods in the series: Highlandtown, Mount Winans, Stonewood-Pentwood-Winston, Dickeyville, Ashburton and Stone Hill.

On South Gilmor and West Pratt streets, a mural depicting a green hummingbird surrounded by blue, yellow and pink flowers decorates the intersection of the neighborhood of Mount Clare. Arts and Parks, an organization that blends street art and landscaping, worked with residents to transform an overgrown lot into a masterpiece.

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“Illegal dumping here, especially on our vacant lots, is a huge issue, and that affects our quality of life,” said Kintira Barbour, president of Mount Clare Community Council, a nonprofit community advocacy group.

Ten beautification projects are ongoing with more planned through Spring 2022 across Mount Clare. One project restored a World War II memorial and World War I Flagstaff area. Barbour was surprised to uncover this landmark across the street from Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church.

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In August, Barbour, a Mount Clare resident of four years, was honored as a hometown hero by the Baltimore Ravens.

“I can go from one end of Mount Clare to the other, and I’m speaking to neighbors by name,” Barbour said. “It’s a really old-fashioned feel that you don’t get really that much in big cities.”

History

Baltimore’s Southwest neighborhoods were once a diverse community of enslaved and free Black people, European indentured servants, and Native Americans, according to Friends of Carroll Park— a nonprofit that preserves the park which borders Mount Clare. The row homes in Mount Clare were first built during the early mid-nineteenth century to house the labor force that built the B&O Railroad. Another notable landmark is the Mount Clare Museum House, the former home of Charles Carroll, Barrister, a Maryland patriot during the Revolutionary War. Set to reopen in 2022, the museum is undergoing what it calls a reinterpretation, where researchers will include Black experts and descendants of people enslaved at Mount Clare in the governance of the site.

Physical space

Mount Clare is located in Southwest Baltimore. Its boundaries are Carey Street to the east, Carroll Park to the south, Fulton Avenue to the west, and Pratt Street to the north.

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Things to do

Traci Atkins Park is a communal green space with a playground and basketball court. For wellness workshops and coffee, Clay Pots offers GED courses, yoga classes, art and cultural programming. Every third Saturday of the month, the Wilkens Avenue Mennonite Church gives away food. Another community favorite for a good meal is Hey Daddy’s, a Caribbean restaurant on McHenry Street.

Demographics

According to an analysis by Baltimore’s planning department, Mount Clare’s population fell about 20% over the last decade, to around 1,800 residents as of the 2020 Census. Half of residents are Black, a quarter are white and a fifth are Hispanic or Latino. In 2019, the median household income ($24,493) was lower than the city’s ($50,177); it had higher unemployment (17%) than the city at large (8%). The median home sales price from 2017-2019 was $17,500.

Jenny Pena Dias, an instructor at John Hopkins Medicine, notes that Mount Clare has an emerging Latino community. In September, she co-hosted a resource fair for Latinos in Mount Clare with Barbour, and over 80 people attended to find out about healthcare, education, legal and housing assistance.

“Mount Clare is a very distressed community and one of the main things that they needed were social services,” said Dias, who helped a mother reactivate her child’s health insurance and showed another resident how to apply for energy assistance. “Because of the language barrier, they have no way to get those type of services.”

A metal welcome sign stands in the middle of an island at the entrance of West Baltimore's Mount Clare neighborhood on September 29, 2021.
A metal welcome sign stands in the middle of an island at the entrance of West Baltimore's Mount Clare neighborhood on September 29, 2021. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

Transit and walkability

According to Live Baltimore, Mount Clare has a Walk Score of 80 and a Bike Score of 61. With a Transit Score of 57, Mount Clare has easy access to the Ravens’ and Orioles’ stadiums, MARC train station, Carroll Park, and downtown Inner Harbor.

Issues

The Community Council meets monthly and often focuses on improving how the community looks.

“We’re a low income, majority Black and brown community,” said Barbour. “We don’t get the same type of respect from either local government protection agencies as more affluent communities in Baltimore. There’s this misconception that because there’s a lot of trash or dumping or that drug activity is here that we don’t care and that’s simply not true.”

Most crime in the area involves assault and larceny, according to city police data.

Barbour notes the neighborhood does not have a communal building to hold association meetings or a youth recreation center. Traci Atkins Park, the main location in Mount Clare where residents can congregate, has been neglected for years.

“You can see where the gates are falling apart and see where it’s neglected,” Barbour said. “But you can also see where the community keeps it clean.”

Councilman John T. Bullock who represents Mount Clare and District 9, says he’s been in discussions with the neighborhood Association and Southwest Partnership to use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to possibly make some renovations at the park.

Leadership

Mount Clare falls under District 40 and State Senator Antonio Hayes, a Democrat. The House contingent are Democratic Reps. Frank Conaway Jr., Melissa Wells, and Marlon Amprey.

Stephanie García is a 2020-21 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, a national service program that places emerging journalists in local newsrooms. She covers issues relevant to Latino communities. Follow her @HagiaStephia

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