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Bastion of Baltimore’s Black elite, Ashburton neighborhood is quiet and like a suburb

The Ashburton Area Association, in the Ashburton neighborhood.
The Ashburton Area Association, in the Ashburton neighborhood. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

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

For decades, Ashburton in Northwest Baltimore has been the base of Baltimore’s Black elite. Former mayors Kurt Schmoke, Sheila Dixon, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Catherine Pugh have all called it home, as have doctors, lawyers and entrepreneurs. The small neighborhood’s tranquil, upper-class vibe is distinguished by a preponderance of English-style architecture; think steep, slate roofs, stone or stucco walls, stained-glass windows and manicured lawns.

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History

Named after a distinctive mansion along Hilton, the neighborhood has long been considered unique, charming and beloved. Ashburton has been nestled in Northwest Baltimore for almost a century. At first, the neighborhood was predominantly white and Christian and barred minority families from moving in. But between the 1930s and ’40s, the neighborhood slowly integrated with a growing Jewish population. And between the 1950s and ’60s, Ashburton’s demographics shifted again with more Black families moving into the community and owning properties.

In 1959, as Ashburton’s Black population was 5% and increasing, an article in the Saturday Evening Post called it a “changing neighborhood.” One resident was quoted saying the racist, yet common for the time sentiment, that the difference in skin color did not bother him, but the economic threat Black neighbors posed to the community did. Others quoted thought that if more people of color moved in, property values and the quality of houses would go down.

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Six decades after that article was published, Ashburton is now 90% Black.

Physical space

Ashburton is bounded primarily by Callaway, Liberty Heights, Sequoia and Wabash avenues and Hilton Road.

It’s a quiet neighborhood some say is like a suburb with a range of single-family ranch-style houses, cottages and mansions with stained-glass windows.

“There are robust trees and it’s very close to a reservoir,” said Oliver Patrick, a visual artist who has lived in the area for nearly 40 years. “It’s an area that feels like you have to drive miles out of the city just to get there.”

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Demographics

Ashburton’s population fell from 2,833 in the 1990 Census to 2,520 in the 2010 Census, according to an analysis by Baltimore’s planning department — and the city’s total population has fallen in the past decade. In 2018, Ashburton’s median household income was $53,343, about 94% of the city’s median income; it had lower unemployment (5%) than the city at large (7%). The median home sales price from 2017-2019 was about $130,000, well above the city median sales price of about $80,000.

Homes on Ellamont Road in the Ashburton neighborhood.
Homes on Ellamont Road in the Ashburton neighborhood. (Karl Merton Ferron/The Baltimore Sun)

Transit and walkability

The walkability score ranks 50 out of 100 according to Live Baltimore. Rideshares, bike and scooter rentals are readily available.

Issues

Twenty-eight percent of the crimes within the past year were burglaries.

The schools in the area are performing between average and below average with rates between 1 to 5 on a scale of 10, according to greatschools.org.

Things to do

There are several places of worship including Liberty Grace Church of God, Heritage United Church of Christ and the Hasuna Allahu Islamic Center mosque. If driving, Ashburton is nine minutes from the Maryland Zoo, 10 minutes from Druid Hill Park and 15 minutes from Baltimore’s downtown. Residents can also stroll down to Hanlon Park and sit by the 10-acre body of water, Lake Ashburton.

Leadership

James Torrence, (D), Baltimore City Council, District 7.

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