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African-American History

Halcyon Days: Lauraville in the 1930s

Recent Saturday morning trips with my mother to Lauraville once again prompted interest in our family’s deep roots in the neighborhood and the lure of the area today. Library staff receives frequent calls and research requests on the subject and claim it is one of the city’s most popular communities.

We grew up listening to my mother’s stories of growing up on Halcyon Avenue in Lauraville during the Great Depression, of my grandfather losing his engineering job the day their youngest daughter was born, at home because they could not afford the hospital, and going to live with his mother on Hampnett Avenue. He found work through the New Deal’s WPA, digging ditches for a time and after several years moved his young family back into a second home on Halcyon Avenue before buying a house on Tyndale Avenue in 1944.

"Lauraville Nan" Nancy Elizabeth Kidd, c. 1932. (From Author's collection)

“Lauraville Nan” Nancy Elizabeth Kidd, c. 1932.
(From Author’s collection)

Nancy Kidd, Pearl Kidd, Judith Ann Kidd, Angela Kidd, Judith Kidd, and Angela Lee Kidd, c. 1940. (From Author's Collection)

Nancy Kidd, Pearl Kidd, Judith Ann Kidd, Angela Kidd, Judith Kidd, and Angela Lee Kidd, c. 1940.
(From Author’s Collection)

Nancy Elizabeth Kidd is the oldest of three daughters born to James Milton Kidd and Martha Lynn Roush Kidd. Her memories are undergirded with love, security, and faith, immersed in a large and extended family that had been in Lauraville for several decades before she was born in the late summer of 1929.

My grandfather’s parents, Frank Kidd and Judith Epple Kidd had moved to Lauraville from west Baltimore in the early years of the twentieth century where Frank worked as a machinist. They had six children two of whom died young. The remaining four grew up healthy and successful and also put down roots in the neighborhood, gathering for Sunday dinners and holidays, caring for each other day-to-day through the happiest as well as the darkest times.

Our Saturday morning excursions fed my mother’s need to clarify her memories of specific dates, moves, and addresses and thus began a search through crumbling City Directories in the library’s belly. Without exception information in the directories verified addresses and moving dates for her immediate family and for extended family living in Lauraville. We had phenomenal results, gratifying on so many levels, particularly in watching my mother’s quiet relief that time has not impaired her keen memory.

Lauraville today is much as she remembers with its narrow, winding streets, some of them one way, others not (but should be), tall canopied shade trees overarching a charming variety of homes representing an eclectic mix of architectural styles, including nineteenth-century Suburban Villa, Italianate Duplex, and I-House; and early twentieth century Shingle Style and Dutch Colonial Revival cottages — and the Queen Anne house at 2809 Ailsa Avenue was home to one of my mother’s closest friends.

2809 Ailsa Avenue in September 2014Photograph by Author

2809 Alisa Avenue: A lush and verdant Queen Anne style home in September 2014. Photograph by Author.

Ailsa Avenue, Lauraville (Hamilton), 1911, August Siefert, photographer, BCLM Collection, MC7500, MdHS.The house at 2809 Ailsa Avenue is visible on the left side, third house from the front.

Ailsa Avenue, Lauraville (Hamilton), 1911, August Siefert, photographer, BCLM Collection, MC7500, MdHS.
The house at 2809 Ailsa Avenue is visible on the left side, third house from the front.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

City residents fled the congested and unhealthy areas of Baltimore City in greater numbers in the late nineteenth century. Transportation improvements such as the electric railway connected the city to the county suburbs making a move “out the Harford Road” more feasible for many. Lauraville, named for the first postmaster’s daughter, attracted businesses and families and by 1880 the population had grown to five hundred. The small village remained part of Baltimore County until the city’s final annexation in 1918, an action approved by the Maryland General Assembly that tripled the size of Baltimore City.

Fire convention, Harford Road and Grindon Lane. Lauraville (Hamilton), August Seifert, photographer, BCLM Collection, MC7511, MdHS.

Fire convention, Harford Road and Grindon Lane. Lauraville (Hamilton), August Seifert, photographer, BCLM Collection, MC7511, MdHS.

Although geographically removed from the city, Lauraville—and the  families that lived there—faced issues and challenges that touched those in other parts of Maryland and the nation. The 1918 flu pandemic, for example, likely weakened fifteen-year-old Mary Kidd’s heart and caused her death the following year. Other family members served in the Great War, one devastatingly injured with mustard gas. And racial tensions erupted in all-white Lauraville when the trustees of the historically black Morgan College, formerly the Centenary Bible College, announced plans to relocate to northeast Baltimore. The neighborhood improvement association met with college president John Spencer asking that he not build a school “where it is not wanted,” but plans moved ahead and the college community thrived. Interestingly, Judge Morris A. Soper, a subject of previous underbelly posts, served as Chairman of the State Commission on Higher Education for Negroes in the 1930s and on Morgan’s board of trustees for decades. The college put his name on their library in 1939.

The racial balance in Lauraville has tipped since those early years. The 2010 Census Data shows that 58 percent of the 12,273 residents are African-American; 36 percent are white. The neighborhood is stable and the poverty rate is low. In 2001 preservation-minded citizens secured Historic District designation on the National Register of Historic Places, official recognition of its architectural significance.

Members of the Kidd family remain in the area and are scattered throughout Maryland and Virginia, with a few in California. Nearly 80 of us gathered for a reunion in 2002, celebrating the centennial of my grandfather’s birthday, a far more diverse group than the earlier generations but one still rooted in those century-old traditions that sustain us. And for my mother and me, those Saturday morning rides through Lauraville are halcyon days indeed. (Patricia Dockman Anderson)

Dr. Patricia Dockman Anderson specializes in U.S and Maryland History, Nineteenth Century; Social and Cultural History; Catholic History; and Civil War Civilians. She has served as a member of the History Advisory Council for the Women’s Industrial Exchange, the Baltimore History Writers Group, and the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. Dr. Anderson is the Director of Publications and Library Services for the Maryland Historical Society, editor of the Maryland Historical Magazine, and a professor at Towson University.

MC7513 Grindon Lane, Lauraville (Hamilton). REFERENCE PHOTO.

Grindon Lane, Lauraville (Hamilton), Summer scene. ‘Probably taken from Weitzel Avenue, looking east toward Harford Road,” 1911, August Siefert, photographer, BCLM Collection, MC7513, MdHS.

Grindon Avenue looking east from Weitzel Avenue, November 2014.

Grindon Avenue looking east from Weitzel Avenue, November 2014.

MC7520 Green's Cotton Mill, Lauraville area (Hamilton). Taken from underneath Herring Run Bridge. REFERENCE PHOTO.

Green’s Cotton Mill, Lauraville area (Hamilton), Taken from underneath Herring Run Bridge, 1912, August Siefert, photographer, BCLM Collection, MC7520, MdHS.

Grindon Lane, Lauraville – Hamilton, 1910, August Seifert, photographer, BCLM Collection, MC7514, MdHS.

Grindon Lane, Lauraville – Hamilton, 1910, August Seifert, photographer, BCLM Collection, MC7514, MdHS.

Sources and further reading:

Baltimore City directories, 1927-1940. (The complete run of Baltimore City Directories are available to the public from Wednesday through Saturday, 10:00-5:00)

Julie Saylor, “Preserving Our Past: Ensuring Our Future: A Historic Preservation Plan for Lauraville, 2013,” Lauraville Improvement Association, lauravillemd.wordpress.com,accessed 10/15/2014

Family photos and stories, Author’s collection

Discussion

2 Responses to “Halcyon Days: Lauraville in the 1930s”

  1. As one who grew up near, but not in, Lauraville but took piano lessons at a church there on Harford Road, I enjoyed your essay and the photographs. I hope to read more about this neighborhood on your blog–as Lauraville was and as it is today, a more diverse community.

    Posted by Lynne Viti | 26. Sep, 2015, 12:24 pm
  2. Our family lived at 2818 Ailsa Ave from 1972-1981(?) and I loved seeing the pictures of the houses I grew up around. Thanks so much. My mother still has some photographs that were passed down from previous owners of 2818 and I believe there were some of the original owners etc. Guess I will have to look into that now.

    Posted by Ann (Beard) Vinci | 15. Nov, 2015, 5:03 pm

Reply to Lynne Viti

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