Working in Mt. Vernon gives me ample opportunities to enjoy the neighborhood’s historic architecture and our generous share of surface parking lots. Many of these lots date from the 1960s when plans to redevelop Mount Vernon as a center of high-rise apartment buildings and office towers stalled out. The Baltimore Urban Renewal and Housing Authority demolished scores of 19th century rows and mansions to clear the way for development but developers only completed a handful of the many proposed building projects.
I’d love to share a more detailed account of the history of parking in Mt. Vernon (or automobile culture in Baltimore more broadly) but you can get a taste from this 1965 Baltimore Sun piece, “Parking Lot Will Replace Landmark Preston St. House” by Frank P.L. Somerville, September 5, 1965:
“Plans to demolish another landmark in the Mount Vernon area, the white marble mansion on the southeast corner of St. Paul and Preston streets, were announced yesterday.
A spokesman for the William Cook-Brooks funeral establishment said the three-story house at 101 East Preston street will be razed, probably next month, to make room for a parking lot. …
The Donaldson House is another is a long string of Mount Vernon area landmarks turned over to the wreckers in recent years.
Other distinguished Nineteenth Century buildings removed from the once-fashionable area south of Mount Royal avenue include two mansion replaced by a tall apartment house at Calvert and Chase streets; half a block of St. Paul street houses that fave way to another large apartment building now under construction at St. Paul and Chase streets; a whole block of West Monument street houses razed by the Maryland Historical Society to provide a lot for a new wing; the Cadoa buildings on Franklin street, now the site of a parking lot owned by the Catholic Archdiocese; Greek Revival houses on Cathedral street and Park avenue demolished for new apartment construction and several houses on Charles Street between Eager and Chase streets recently replaced by parking lots or new construction.
Demolition crews are in the process of leveling three mansions at the northwest corner of Charles and Chase Street.”