Charles Village

Brace Yourself Baltimore: Charles Street Under Major Construction Soon

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A rendering of the new pedestrian-friendly Charles Village, complete with students on cell phones.

Hope you’re enjoying those non-working traffic lights and trees in the middle of the road — they’re a piece of cake compared to the chaos that Charles Village residents and passers-by can expect when Charles Street goes under major construction later this month.

The good news? Once it’s all over, all those obliviously texting students who wander into the middle of Charles Street and terrify drivers will have a roadway that takes their safety into account. The bad news? Driving through Charles Village might be miserable for the next two years.

Charles Village After the Storm

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When my family and  I drove back to Baltimore Saturday night after being away for less than 36 hours, the only clue we had that a storm had hit was a series of downed branches reaching into the shoulder on I-83. Nothing was out of the ordinary at our apartment. It was only later that night that we heard of the million or so without power in Virginia and the hundreds of thousands without power in Maryland.

The next morning I walked with my son up St. Paul Street and saw this wrecked tree, which is slightly more spectacular in real life.

How to Sell Books in America

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Baltimore writer Ron Tanner’s mobile hotel room.

Baltimore-based writer Ron Tanner could’ve tried to sell his book, From Animal House to Our House, the old-style way — doing readings in local bookstores,  begging friends and family to buy copies, making it required reading for his writing students at Loyola University Maryland. Instead, he decided to try something a little riskier:  a road trip.

Baltimore’s Best Secret Museums

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A mosaic mask from Mexico, on display at the Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum.

We here at Baltimore Fishbowl may love the BMA/Walters/American Visionary Arts Museum, but sometimes we’re just in the mood for something a little… different. Good thing Baltimore has its fair share of oddball museums, shrines, and other cabinets of curiosity that you may have never heard of before. Four of our favorites below:

The Arthur “Smokestack” Hardy Fire Museum
It’s rare that a museum is as specific — and as heartfelt — as this one, which honors Baltimore’s first African-American firefighter (and the founder of the first black firefighters’ club in the nation). Housed in the front room of a West Baltimore rowhouse, the museum uses Hardy’s store to tell stories of civil rights, the Great Fire of 1904, and the history of black Baltimore. Caveat:  This museum is in someone’s house, so you’ve got to call ahead; to visit, call Guy Cephas at 443-919-9310.

Baltimore By Foot

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Have you heard of Baltimore Heritage? The 50-year old non-profit is Baltimore’s historical and architectural preservation organization. Its Spring Walking Tour series — this year featuring Charles Village, Bolton Hill, Roland Park, Ten Hills  and Curtis Bay — provides guided strolls that uncover the buildings, stories and places that weave the cultural fabric of Baltimore’s historic neighborhoods. Walking tours are $15 for members and $25 for non-members.

The 2012 tours start on April 21 and continue on every Saturday through May 19!

Read on for the details then register online today. Registrations will be confirmed by e-mail, including information on how to pay.

Spring 2012 Tours

LGBT Heritage: Charles Village – April 21, 10 a.m. to noon
Creating the Movement: Baltimore’s Early LGBT History in Charles Village

Over forty years ago, members of Baltimore’s gay and lesbian network launched a concerted effort to organize and build a more open community.  Many of these early leaders lived in Charles Village and the projects they spearheaded happened in this central Baltimore neighborhood.  Please join LGBT leaders Richard Oloizia and Richard Hughes, and a number of other luminaries in the LGBT community, on a tour through Charles Village to learn about the early organizing campaigns and the people behind them.

Meet in front of Normals Bookstore, 425 E. 31st  St.  Park on the street.

Bolton Square – April 28, 10:00 a.m. to noon
A New Historic Community in a Historic Neighborhood

In 1967, Bolton Square arose as an urban renewal project after a number of blocks in Baltimore’s Bolton Hill neighborhood were cleared as “slums.”  With 36 light-filled and open houses designed by noted architect Hugh Newell Jacobsen clustered around a communal green space, the architect and developer strove to create a middle class community that would attract people back into the city.  Today Bolton Square celebrates its 45th anniversary and itself is officially designated as a Baltimore City historic district.  Join residents and Bolton Square history aficionados Jon Kaplan and Joel Pearson on a tour of this Modernist architectural gem.

Meet at the home of our tour guides, 1416 Mason St. Mason St. runs parallel to Eutaw St. and is between Eutaw and Bolton. The nearest cross street is Lafayette Avenue. Park on the street.

Cinephiles Organize to Save Video Americain’s Charles Village Collection

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When Video American abruptly announced the closing of their Charles Village location, and the immanent sale, video by video, of their formidable movie collection, some customers and soon-to-be former employees moved quickly to explore options for saving the store. “$50,000 – $60,000” was the rumored price tag on the entire collection, not easy money to raise in a matter of days. Fortunately, the videos, which were scheduled to go on sale today, were granted a “week’s stay of execution” while the group raises funds and makes a plan, according to a source who asked that their name be withheld.

The group of community-oriented cinephiles have thrown around various plans for housing and lending the movies, tending more or less toward a vision of the video collection reincarnating as a cooperative, perhaps in a location that could screen films. There are also a couple of individuals, however, interested in preserving the Charles Village store virtually as-is. A large, private university has apparently made an offer “to cherry-pick the collection.”

Video Americain Closes Charles Village Location, Not Because of Me

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After some bold promotional efforts (including giving away free rentals to customers who canceled their Netflix accounts and to those who “checked in” at the store on Facebook) Video Americain has had to partially surrender to the economy and the new Internet movie paradigm by closing its Charles Village location.

I just want to let everyone know that this wasn’t my fault; it was your fault. I didn’t get a Netflix account; you did. When my wife and I set out to watch all of Battlestar Galactica, we didn’t sign up for Hulu Plus; we rented the DVDs, disc by disc, from Video Americain. And you know what, they probably would have had to close a month earlier without all that money I’ve paid them in late fees.

So when you head into VA next Friday looking for a good deal at the liquidation sale, feeling like a graverobber, thinking what a shame it is to lose a local cultural hub, to resign one more formerly social activity to the inhuman digital garbage-pile of the Internet, I want you to think, “This wasn’t Bob’s fault; this was all my fault.”

Charles Village Condo with all the Right Perks

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3201 St. Paul Street, Village Lofts, #120 – 1 bedroom, 1 full bath, 1 half bath: $275,000.

UNIQUE LOFT condo in vibrant university neighborhood. Elevator building. Secure front lobby entrance. Garage parking space conveys. Open floor plan, bright, lots of windows upstairs and down, filled with upgrades. Stainless steel appliances, granite counters and tile floor in kitchen. Half bath, downstairs. Spacious main floor and loft. Master bedroom with large walk-in closet, washer/dryer and master bath. Amazingly large outside patio. A MUST SEE! Listed by Lesley Gillman for O’Conor and Mooney. Click here to contact Lesley Gillman or call her at 410-823-1824 for more information.

Click here to view the listing.

Love Conquers Destroyed Frat House in Charles Village

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It is no coincidence that Loyola University writing professors Ron Tanner and Jill Eicher met in a consignment shop. They were both nostalgists with a penchant for collecting cast-off objects from the past (hope they go see “Midnight in Paris”). A romance bloomed and the vintage theme continued as Jill helped Ron scout out historic “fixer-uppers” in his quest for a new house. It was 1999 when the newly minted couple first spied the grand Queen Anne style townhouse in Charles Village. Jill loved it and Ron loved Jill. He now admits he bought the house hoping that it would lure Jill to move in, and they could work on the renovation together. Ron also admits he is a hopeless romantic and a rampant optimist. He is not lying.
The house, you see, had been abandoned for a year and perhaps that was a good thing: It gave it some time to air out. For 10 years it had been occupied by a fraternity whose testosterone fueled havoc had all but ruined the circa 1897 beauty. How can a group of young men do more damage in ten years than four whole families did in 100? Well, they used the front hall balusters for batting practice, clogged every toilet in the house, painted the walls with confederate flags and ingenious phrases like “duh!”, devoted whole rooms to the storage of garbage, used the doors for dart practice, nailed elevated bunks (remember them?) into the bay windows and supported a colony of rats. Check out the before photos, appropriately named “damage!” Ron paid $125,000 for the house “as-is” and he got to keep the 19 empty beer kegs.
Somehow, love conquered and Jill moved in, tools in hand. The first year of cohabitation can be challenging in the best of circumstances. Imagine doing it while living in squalor with a never-ending list of physically taxing chores to be done (I am certain that I would turn violent). Ron and Jill’s story (soon to be a book) is exactly as complicated and funny as you would think. There was his wanting to “get it done” juxtaposed with her desire to “do it right.” (Didn’t I just have that exact fight over the recycling last night?) There was the inevitable blame game. (“I have no idea where it is, I never had the hammer, damn it!”) And there were more serious complications, such as running out of money and getting lead paint poisoning. Of course, a lot of good things happened, too. When it came to outfitting the house, Ron and Jill found their love of the past quickly turned into a blissful joint obsession. The couple rigorously researched the most historically authentic tub, scoured reclamation yards for the perfect mantle, celebrated finding just the right moldings and splurged on period-perfect light fixtures. The renovation forced them to reveal themselves and the places where they were and were not compatible.
 
Over seven years the couple toiled to get the house into magazine-worthy shape (This Old House did a story on them) and the results are beautiful in more ways than one.
In 2003, the Tanners triumphantly married in their their lovely home. Today the couple continues to beautify and upgrade. They say they will never be “done” and have a website where they showcase their latest projects. Recently there have been improvements to the yard and the library and, while beautifully executed, you get the feeling that it is all just fun tinkering now. Much like Ron & Jill’s union, the hard work is already done.

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