Penn North

In Penn North, a former BPD detective pushes to build a new youth and community center

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Debbie Ramsey, founder of Unified Efforts, stands in front of the nonprofit’s Penn North property. Photo by Ethan McLeod.

Neighbors once called it “The Plantation”—not with the grim historical undertone you might expect for the largely black community of Penn North, but with a more playful reference to the property’s exterior. The three-story home at 2521 Woodbrook Ave. is uniquely set back from the otherwise row home-lined street, and sports a Southern-style second-floor balcony out back.

It was owned by Thomas H. Miller and his family, white residents who had a number of homes in the West Baltimore neighborhood.

“The big house,” says Annie Hall, president of the Penn North Community Association, who grew up nearby and went on to rent her first home from Miller. “That’s what we called it coming up.”

Miller sold it in 1972, and it was later acquired by the city, land records show. For years thereafter, the lot between Francis Street and Woodbrook Avenue earned a new nickname: “The Cut,” says former Baltimore Police Det. Debbie Ramsey. The vacant site became overgrown and littered with trash, offering a suitable place for people running from the cops to dump their contraband or hide out.

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