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Bridging The Gap: Sarah Ann Street

Bridging The Gap: Sarah Ann Street
Posted at 6:24 PM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 18:27:03-05

BALTIMORE, Md. — Built in 1870 just after the Civil War, the alley houses in the 1100 block of Sarah Ann Street were home to some of Baltimore’s working-class black residents.

They were built in 1870 by Miles White.

“He was a quaker, so he was against slavery, and he would purchase enslaved people in North Carolina and set them free,” said Nicole King, an associate professor and chair of the Department of American Studies at UMBC. “Some of the early homeowners actually are African Americans from North Carolina.”

This style of homes, called alley homes, were built to provide more affordable housing in mixed income neighborhoods on the city’s narrower streets.

“You have these large, three-story row homes right next to these alley homes. So, people from different income levels can live together,” said King.

After the Civil War, alley streets became more segregated. Sarah Ann Street, originally known as Harmony Lane, was no different. With the exception of two white tailors from Prussia and Bavaria, the block had mostly black residents

“The first homeowner on Sarah Ann Street was Kate Kennedy,” said King. “Kate Kennedy owned this home in 1873 and was a black woman who owned it for numerous years and had tenants and probably used it to build cash in a time that lending practices didn't benefit black people in Baltimore.”

Of the fourteen families living on the block in 1880, four black heads of household drove coal carts, one was a porter in a hotel, one worked in a brickyard, and five were laborers. There were two female heads of household, one kept house, the other and her daughter were dressmakers. Four of ten wives worked outside of the home, three as washerwomen and one in service. All the school-aged children of the black families attended school.

“Just looking at these occupations can attest to you know, not just black mobility, but the upward mobility just black families in the 1880's,” said Poppleton resident Curtis Eaddy.

“What these homes represent, is the ability for, you know, black in inter-generational wealth and building wealth and autonomy, it was very difficult to do that,” said King.

In a bid to have the row of houses listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Dr. Mary Ellen Hayward emphasized the significance of the surviving houses as ‘heightened’ because alley streets with black residents in the late 19th century were scarce and because now many have been torn down.

“We have not preserved black history in the same ways we have preserved white history in the city of Baltimore,” said King.

In the early 2,000’s Baltimore began acquiring properties in Poppleton by eminent domain for a New York-based developer eventually displacing dozens of residents, some who have lived there for more than 30 years. After being put on hold for several years the project is back on. Residents on Sarah Ann Street received relocation notices in March of 2021. Within the last year one side of the block has been demolished, at least 10 families relocated.

“Just to know the residents lived here just last summer, you know, we was having cookouts kids was playing together,” said Eaddy.

Nearby residents say the homes were supposed to be preserved but the city never followed through.

“Those properties were supposed to have been rehabbed for home-ownership,” said Poppleton resident Sonia Eaddy.

Others facing displacement say because the residents were renters, they were essentially forced out.

“Because we're property owners we’re able to fight for a little longer stay here. They weren’t property owners on Sarah Ann Street, they were renters. So, it was owned by the city, and these were the first people to be removed from the neighborhood.”

Other homes like the Eaddy family home are in jeopardy as well.

Sonia Eaddy has been trying to keep her home for more than a decade. It sits at the end of Sarah Ann Street and North Carrollton Avenue. It was built in 1871 and has been home to two black families for the past 93 years.

“That shows the time in how when redlining and blacks weren't purchasing or able to purchase homes, that this house had a home a black homeowner in 1928. for me, that's history. And that's something that should be able to be reflected from this neighborhood. “

Right now, she sits in limbo as she waits for the court to decide what happens to her home. The city wants to buy it, knock it down, and give the land to the developer.

“This is my home. This is my grandkids home,” said Eaddy. “This is where family gatherings happen. This is where Thanksgiving happened. This is where the cookouts and the birthday parties in the yard, this is where that happens.”

Organize Poppleton, a collective fighting to save homes, prevent displacement and change the eminent domain law is raising awareness to save the Sarah Ann Street and Eaddy homes. They have a local historic district hearing on April 12.