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Violetville is a snug, sequestered slice of Southwest Baltimore whose residents make their own entertainment

Editor’s note: The Violetville 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, Dickeyville, Ashburton, Better Waverly and Highlandtown.

When Ashley Esposito says she lives in Violetville, people brighten up.

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“They say, ‘Oh, that sounds adorable!’ “ she says, as if it were a place in a Pixar movie.

In truth, it’s a snug, sequestered slice of Southwest Baltimore whose gentle name belies the plucky mantra of its residents. Violetville has not one but two community associations and a proactive core of homeowners bent on maintaining their quality of life. When a convenience store sought entry last year, Violetvillians fought it off.

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“We’re old school here, with a small-town vibe,” says Esposito, 36, co-founder of Village of Violetville Inc. “Hear a loud noise and we all go outside asking, ‘What the hell was that?’“

A mix of row homes and single-family residences, many built in the 1950s, dot tree-lined streets in a retro setting.

“It’s stable, safe, affordable and close to everything,” says Sean Tully, 63, president of the Violetville and St. Agnes Community Association, who has been there for 18 years. The neighborhood’s moniker, though unusual, suits him fine.

“Wild violets grow all over here,” says Tully. “It’s a funny name, I know — but it’s a good place to live.”

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History

Once part of a vast English land grant to the family of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, Violetville was carved from smaller estates and farmland in the late 19th century. It was originally called St. Agnes Village after the hospital that was built in its northeast corner in 1862, in the midst of the Civil War.

In her book, “Violetville: The History of a Neighborhood,” author Fran Bartels tells how the community got its current name. In the late 1800s, Carl Fritze, a German immigrant and caretaker of the village graveyard, raised Parma violets, an exotic and imported cultivar, in his private nursery. The plants were a hit with locals, who sold them at city markets.

“The violets were so beautiful that the village was named for them,” says Bartels, 71, a former resident who now lives in Hampstead.

By 1890, 18 families lived in the Baltimore County hamlet as the produce farms and fruit orchards gradually gave way to a landscape with churches, a bakery, shoemaker, corner store and school. Two decades later, residents of Violetville beat a path across Caton Avenue to nearby St. Mary’s Industrial School to watch a young George Herman (Babe) Ruth start his baseball career.

In 1919, Baltimore City annexed much of Violetville, though a portion of the tract remains under county domain.

Physical space

Generally, residents define the community’s boundaries as Wilkens, Caton, Joh and Benson avenues. However, city maps show that Violetville’s southeast tract, comprising mostly industrial parks, extends past Interstate 95 as far as Hammonds Ferry Road.

Things to do

There are two churches, an elementary/middle school and a spacious park that’s due much renovation. A number of residents make their own entertainment, Esposito says:

“One neighbor hired musicians to perform a ‘stoop concert;’ another has demonstrated yoga, in the park. One lady paints blue crab shells and gives them away; another, during the pandemic, organized a parade for her graduating son and others in the neighborhood.”

Demographics

The community’s population was 2,506 in 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2018, a little less than 70% of residents were white, and about 25% were black, according to an analysis by Baltimore’s planning department. More than 46% of residents are of German or Irish heritage. In 2018, the median household income was $41,031, about 81% of the city’s median household income of $50,379. The unemployment rate is 5%, compared with a citywide rate of 7%. Between 2017 and 2019, the median home price was about $95,000; the citywide average was just under $80,000.

Transit and walkability

Violetville’s walkability score ranks 48 out of 100, according to Live Baltimore. The MTA serves Joh, Benson and Wilkens avenues, and St. Agnes Hospital is part of the neighborhood.

Issues

In addition, litter is a nuisance and speeding is a worry, Esposito says:

“We accumulate a lot of trash from people cutting through our streets [to avoid the busy intersection at Wilkens and Caton avenues]. Drivers think we’re a raceway. We’ve had kids hit by cars, and our cars sideswiped in the middle of the night by people flying through here. We’ve asked the city for ‘traffic calmings’ and are waiting for results.”

Leadership

Ashley Esposito, co-founder and board member of Village of Violetville, Inc.; Sean Tully, president of Violetville and Saint Agnes Community Association; Phylicia Porter (D), Baltimore City Council, District 10; state Sen. Clarence K. Lam, District 12.

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