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‘Between Westport and the railroad lines’ lies Baltimore’s tiny Mount Winans neighborhood

Editor’s note: The Mount Winans profile is one article in The Sun’s City of Neighborhoods series, spotlighting Baltimore communities.

It’s a secluded spot of land just 50 acres in size and mere minutes from M&T Bank Stadium, Camden Yards and Horseshoe Baltimore Casino. Yet when Michael Tyson walks the quiet streets of his modest Mount Winans neighborhood, he encounters a mini-swatch of suburbia: foxes, deer and, to be sure, a core of working-class residents mindful of the folks next door.

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“We’re tucked away and unbothered by a lot of [outside] things,” said Tyson, 36, president of the Mount Winans Community Association, who has lived there 11 years. “A lot of homeowners here have old-school values; they take pride in the area and look out for one another.”

A hodgepodge of public housing, single-family dwellings and modest, weathered townhomes of varying age and construction, Mount Winans is “a hidden little neighborhood, lightly trafficked and packaged between Westport and the railroad lines,” said Brooke Lierman, its state delegate. “There’s one way in and one way out. There’s no reason to go there unless you’re visiting someone or going to church, and the residents appreciate that quietness.”

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History

Once a sleepy rural village in Baltimore County, Mount Winans is named for Ross Winans, a railroad inventor who settled in Baltimore in the mid-1800s. Long a predominantly Black enclave — Hall of Famer Leon Day, a Negro League baseball star, grew up on Pierpont Street — the neighborhood became home to Southerners who migrated there to work in factories and steelyards during World War II.

The community abuts Mount Auburn Cemetery, a historic 19th-century African-American graveyard and the resting place of prominent people like Joe Gans, world lightweight boxing champion from 1902 to 1908, and John Henry Murphy, founder of The Afro-American newspaper.

A playground is near the railroad tracks on Paca Street in the Mount Winans neighborhood of Southwest Baltimore.
A playground is near the railroad tracks on Paca Street in the Mount Winans neighborhood of Southwest Baltimore. (Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Physical space

Mount Winans is an isolated tract in Southwest Baltimore bordered on two sides by the tracks of the CSX Railroad; and on the third and fourth, by Hollins Ferry Road and Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Things to do

The area is residential, save for four churches and a small corner grocery. Kids play ball and ride bikes down dead-end streets, shoot baskets on the playground on South Paca Street and watch the trains rumble past.

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Demographics

Mount Winans’ population fell from 1,154 in the 1990 Census to 748 in the 2010 Census, according to an analysis by Baltimore’s planning department — and the city’s total population has fallen more in the past decade. In 2018, Mount Winans’ median household income was $18,125, about 36% of the city’s median income; it had nearly quadruple the unemployment (27%) of the city at large (7%). The median home sales price from 2017-2019 was about $60,000. About 90% of its residents are Black.

Transit and walkability

Mount Winans’ walkability score ranks 33 out of 100, according to Live Baltimore. It is within walking distance of B&O Park, Paca Street Park and Florence Cummings Park.

Part of the Baltimore city skyline can be seen from Paca Street in the Mount Winans community.
Part of the Baltimore city skyline can be seen from Paca Street in the Mount Winans community. (Barbara Haddock Taylor)

Issues

Hidden away as it is, Mount Winans “doesn’t get a lot of the city services or attention that we deserve,” said Tyson, who has long complained of illegal dumping there.

“Outsiders leave truckloads of tires and construction debris in alleys and on empty lots,” he said. “We no sooner get one area cleaned up than they move to another.”

Another headache: Tyson estimates there are 14 acres of vacant, weed-strewn, city-owned lots desperate for mowing.

“Some of the grass is 4 feet tall,” he said. “The land is just sitting there, unused.”

The community’s plan: Clean up the lots and create a self-sustaining urban farm.

“This neighborhood is a food desert, and we’d like to teach people how to grow their own crops,” sais Tyson, a chef at a Washington restaurant. “We’re talking about everything from job training to just having fun and engaging as a community. Our association has tried for three years to buy the land, but it’s been hectic.”

Leadership

Michael Tyson, Mount Winans Community Association president; Phylicia Porter (D), Baltimore City Council, District 10.

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