2005 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts
Exploring the Peabody Heights Improvement Association File, 1909 – 1933
Abstract: Between 1909 and 1933, the Peabody Heights Improvement Association met one evening per month at Peabody Hall (at the corner of 26th and St. Paul streets) and, later, at the Margaret Brent School to discuss problems confronting their neighborhood. Bounded by the city limits to the north, Twenty-Fifth Street to the south, Guilford Avenue to the east, and Maryland Avenue to the west, the area known today as Charles Village was originally planned as a “suburb” situated beyond the former city boundary at North Avenue. According to Karen Lewand, “The major objective of the men who developed Peabody Heights was to profitably anticipate the growth of the City in the northern direction.” By the turn of the century, some of the city’s wealthiest and most powerful families had taken up residence in this neighborhood. This paper focuses on the key issues that resonated with members of the Peabody Heights Association during a period of intense settlement and development pressure as revealed in two volumes of meeting minutes preserved in special collections at the Maryland Historical Society. In addition to discouraging African-American in-migration and opposing “undesirable” commercial development, the Peabody Association supported a variety of local and city-wide initiatives, including street-tree planting and maintenance, park and playground expansion, and strict air pollution monitoring. To achieve its goals, the group encouraged the participation of local residents and worked closely with other neighborhood associations and civic groups, revealing a pattern and scale of activity that heretofore has received scant attention.