Alley Walkin' III

I moved to Baltimore six months ago; time has blurred by in a slurry of work, friends, family, design projects old and new. As previously chronicled, I settled on the banks of the Jones Falls, on the edge of Hampden-Woodberry. I live in, and am surrounded by, renovated textile mills, once responsible for 80% of the world's supply of cotton duck. This rough canvas was used primarily for sailcloth and military equipment. 100 years of booming manufacturing brought in substantial numbers of sold, blue-collar jobs, supporting the independent community of Hampden until it was annexed by the city of Baltimore in 1887.

Hampden is situated at the center of present-day Baltimore, but due to quirks of geography it can seem isolated. It is cut off from the west by both the Jones Falls itself and the Jones Falls Expressway; hemmed in on the north by a series of dead-end streets and Druid Hill Park; and peters out to the south into Wyman Park and an industrial maze of one-ways. These factors contribute to Hampden's greater sense of insularity, relatively low crime, stable property values, and overwhelming whiteness in a majority black city

Hampden, like Chicago, and most of Baltimore, is a neighborhood of alleys, compounded by the informal paths cutting through and around the area's many parks and streams. Old houses in Stone Hill, built for mill managers, are ensnared in a web of streets so small it is impossible to tell what is lane, what is alley, and what is glorified sidewalk. Since moving here, I have continued my longstanding practice of alley-walking, undertaking a fairly comprehensive survey of Hampden, Woodberry, and Remington's alleys. Most of these walks are purposeful -- meandering ways to get groceries or hit the post office -- but some are for the mere comfort of movement. 

A spate of recent viral social-media articles may suggest that such a practice is dangerous in a city such as Baltimore; but I have found the alleys to be utterly abandoned, eerily beautiful, and architecturally fascinating. As I have done in previous posts here and here, I've collected a few photos of my walks. Uneven in quality, but illustrative of the rambles, and a mental comfort in the numbing depths of a record-cold winter. 

 Abandoned house behind cemetery on Roland Avenue; since torn down.

Abandoned house behind cemetery on Roland Avenue; since torn down.

 A food truck-ette.

A food truck-ette.

 Still life with garage door and vines.

Still life with garage door and vines.

 Game over, bro.

Game over, bro.

 Not the best photo; but had to capture one of the most truly odd architectural follies I have ever stumbled across, tucked behind the Royal Farms on the Avenue, surrounded on all sides by alleys.

Not the best photo; but had to capture one of the most truly odd architectural follies I have ever stumbled across, tucked behind the Royal Farms on the Avenue, surrounded on all sides by alleys.

 Makin' that sizzurp . . .

Makin' that sizzurp . . .

 I wonder if the wit behind this comment regards graffiti writing as "modern art."

I wonder if the wit behind this comment regards graffiti writing as "modern art."

 Geometry in the gloaming . . .

Geometry in the gloaming . . .

 Kill the hipsters. Especially the graffiti-writing ones.

Kill the hipsters. Especially the graffiti-writing ones.

 Mr. Duchamp would be quite proud of the sanitation worker who replaced this manhole.

Mr. Duchamp would be quite proud of the sanitation worker who replaced this manhole.

 Jones Falls from above, taken from a bridge where few pedestrians dare tread.

Jones Falls from above, taken from a bridge where few pedestrians dare tread.

 A tear in the space-time fabric of the city: a pedestrian walkway on the west side of Druid Hill park, on-ramp to the east, boulevard to the west, entry via median strip.

A tear in the space-time fabric of the city: a pedestrian walkway on the west side of Druid Hill park, on-ramp to the east, boulevard to the west, entry via median strip.

 Said walkway dead-ends, without explanation, on a wedge of land marooned within the highway. Surrounded on all sides by traffic, buried river underfoot, nowhere to go but back the way I came . . . 

Said walkway dead-ends, without explanation, on a wedge of land marooned within the highway. Surrounded on all sides by traffic, buried river underfoot, nowhere to go but back the way I came . . .