This block has been vacant and falling apart for years. Baltimore Development Corporation appeared to understand the urgency in fixing at least two of the buildings in 2015, but it doesn’t look like anything was ever done. (See Westside Building Assessment for Park 414 and 412. Links open a PDF.) 406 Park Avenue was listed on the Maryland Inventory of Historic Properties. (Link opens a PDF)
It’s amazing how sometimes things align and come together in one somewhat tidy package, when you’re researching a property. This is a story about a building that I encountered some years ago, and was pleasantly surprised to find in almost the same condition, 10 years later, completely by accident.
In 2006, I came across this building because I got lost coming home from Loudon Memorial Cemetery, where I had been taking photos of Civil War graves. Yesterday, while out walking — I came across the building again. And it looked almost the same:
As you can see, the signage is still bright and clear (for a ghost sign, anyway) and the building appears to have been solidly built.
Of course it’s surrounded by blight, and is near the planned Poppleton development, for which you can read the TIF application here (link opens a PDF). I’m hoping they don’t tear down these historic structures. Of course the carriage works building has been owned by a few derelict LLCs (including its current owner) and a church — none of which bothered to do anything with the building.
August Gross came to the United States around 1868 from Germany, and lived with his two sons Edward and Carl, and his daughter Sophia. In the 1900 Census, they were living at 1125 Franklin Street, which he owned, and is not far from the carriage works. His son Edward took over the business, and was also elected several times to the Baltimore City Council (18th Ward) as a Democrat, where he served with Harry S. Cummings (whose former residence on Druid Hill Avenue is a vacant.)
I was unable to find any good information on Louis Stoops, unfortunately, other than the fact that he was born in Maryland and was listed as a “boarder”, living at 749 Franklin Street in 1900. How he came to be a partner in the firm is a mystery, as the firm went through several iterations over the years — first as August Gross Carriage Builder, then August Gross & Son, and then Gross & Stoop. In 1900, Louis Stoop gave his occupation as “painter”, presumably of carriages.
The firm of Gross & Stoop was given the award of “Best No-Top Buggy” by American Farmer, which was published in Baltimore, in 1875 by Samuel Sands & Son, established in 1819 at 128 W Baltimore Street (Sign of the Golden Plow).
I’m hoping this property can be saved, as it’s a great example of Baltimore’s early industrial past.
Bethel AME Church would like to demolish another property — 1232 Druid Hill Avenue, next door to the historic property they demolished with no public notice, in order to make way for a two-car parking pad. Because the community got involved, they’ve been unable to demolish 1232 thus far, and it’s been given temporary landmark status. However, in order to stop Bethel AME from destroying yet another building in the community — either by neglect or by demolition, 1232 needs permanent landmark status. You can read our original post on 1232 and 1234 Druid Hill Avenue here.
Sign the petition, and send a message to Bethel AME that says our city cares about its history, and we refuse to allow another property owned by the church to be knocked down.
Sadly, the ownership chain for this property is completely convoluted. It was foreclosed on at one point, then it appears to have been purchased in a tax sale in the late 1990s, then it was condemned by the City in 2004.
However, it did have one notable occupant, and it’s a wonderful little home, tucked inside a row and set back from the sidewalk.
The home was once lived in by a Mr. John B. Sanks, whose colorful obituary graced the pages of the Afro-American in 1911. Mr. Sanks was born in 1831, and his obituary is as follows:
Mr. John B. Sanks Passes Away
John B. Sanks, one of the best known of the older Masons in the city, died at his home, 1144 Argyle avenue, Thursday afternoon of last week, after a lingering illness.
He was born in Northumberland county, va., nearly 75 years ago.
He came to Baltimore at an early age, and had been connected with Sharp Street Memorial M. E. Church since 1861. For seventeen consecutive years he as superintenent of the Sunday School and had filled about every official position in the church. He was also a member of various departments of the Masonic fraternity. Over 28 years ago he served as grand master for Maryland and was one of the delegates to the Masonic centennial celebration in Philadelphia.
The deceased is survived by his wife, Mrs. Mary A. Sanks, one daughter, Mrs. William I. Butler, Jr., and several grandchildren.
The funeral services at Sharp St. Church Monday afternoon were largely attended. The opening prayer was by Rev. Dr. I. L. Thomas and the Scripture lesson was read by Rev. C. G. Cummings. After brief eulogies by Revs. E. W. S. Peck, and N. M. Carroll, Rev. W. A. C. Hughes delivered the funeral oration. The life and services of the deceased were extolled by the pastor, and the departed was eulogized as one of the most zealous of the members of the church.
The Masonic fraternity under the leadership of Grand Master Thomas Jones conducted the services peculiar to their order. The Grand Lodge, Blue Lodge, Knights Templar and Royal Arch Chapter and Odd Fellows were represented.
This is a curious old building, tucked away in a residential neighborhood that’s home to some blighted blocks, an apartment complex, and a new-ish suburban-looking subdivision.
On further research, it turns out that this property might be the oldest school building in Baltimore City, built in 1858. A shame that once again, the city has allowed a piece of Baltimore history to rot away.
The original building received an addition in 1882, which was found somewhat unsatisfactory when reported in the “Reports of the City Officers and Departments”:
The addition, made to No. 18 Primary School, on Argyle avenue near Lanvale street, is now occupied by the school, and supplies accommodations which have long been needed. In the Male Department, though, the lighting has been seriously impaired by the addition. This could have been avoided by putting the stairway at the north end of the building instead of putting it between the old and new portions. Now, it is necessary to improve the light in the rooms of the old building, which are adjacent to the addition.”
The Eigenbrot Brewery is located in the historic Shipley Hill neighborhood of Southwest Baltimore, and is part of Baltimore’s rich industrial history. The brewery closed with the advent of prohibition, in 1920. Several other companies have used the buildings for various other manufacturing endeavors, yet today it remains a forlorn abandoned group of buildings, tucked away from the main road, and sadly forgotten. I stumbled upon it accidentally in 2013.
The site was purchased by one of Houston property “investor” Scott Wizig’s shell LLCs, and left to rot, as befalls many of his properties. This happens so often, in fact, that community groups and the Community Law Center sued Wizig for his negligence and predatory property ownership. The judge who presided over the lawsuit ordered Wizig to clean up many of his properties — one of which is the Eigenbrot Brewery.
Unfortunately, neighbors and others interested in preserving the property have reported that Wizig may be trying to demolish one or all of these historic buildings. There is one permit that recently expired for the removal of a roof, and people have seen heavy equipment going in and out of the newly-fenced perimeter. Because the site is now on the radar of the city, preservationists, and property advocates, people have shown an interest in preserving this important property. There’s a Facebook page for posting updates and photos, and we’ll continue to monitor the property. Let’s work together to save this historic piece of Baltimore history from the wrecking ball and its predatory owner.