Butchers Hill isn’t not the friendliest sounding name, but overlooking the neighborhood means missing out on a community full of colorful history and civic-minded individuals.
Butchers Hill is located between Pratt Street and Fayette Street and goes between the 100 and 200 blocks of S. Patterson Park Avenue and Chapel Street. It is bordered by Patterson Park on the east, which the homeowners association uses for its biannual flea market.
When the area was originally purchased by Jacob Loudenslager in 1810 it was known as “Loudenslager’s Hill,” according to Rick Gilmour. The neighborhood is northeast of Patterson Park was dedicated to butchers and tanners not allowed southwest of Baltimore and Ann streets.
“I don’t know why exactly they weren’t allowed to be in the city, but I assume it was the smell and the flies,” said Gilmour, a co-chair of the flea market committee and unofficial historian for the community said.
A historical community, Butchers Hill was involved in the Civil War. Patterson Park was used by Union soldiers for encampments and field hospitals. The butchers were able to amass huge sales as they were the most convenient option for the soldiers.
The layout of the homes isn’t quite like others around Baltimore. Gilmour said the community was designed as “hopscotch” development. Single homes, duplexes and small series of row homes were built at separate times. The fact there are a few freestanding homes sets Butchers Hill apart from the identical lanes of row homes scattered across the rest of Baltimore.
Gilmour said that ground rent helped lay the path for affordability of homes. The original ground rent led to a constant stream of revenue which led to Victorian detailing in the architecture, which makes the homes stand out from others. Ground rent is a situation in which the homeowner owns the house but someone else owns the property the house is on. The homeowner then has to pay rent on the property.
The neighborhood is especially know for it’s flea market. The flea market and craft fair began over 25 years ago and has grown to be one of the biggest flea markets in Baltimore, with 150 vendors, a band and food.
“The flea market started out with just people in the community having extra doors and shutters after doing work on their homes,” Gilmour said.
The homeowners association takes money for each of the vendor spaces, although 10 percent of the spaces are devoted to nonprofits. There is even a stand selling picnic food, such as hot dogs and hamburgers.
“We made the food stand to keep people at the flea market throughout the day instead of them getting hungry and leaving,” Gilmour said.
The food station is manned by volunteers, but there is always a trained food professional present. The Butchers Hill Association sets up a booth of its own and accepts donations to sell. All profits from this booth go directly to local schools such as Commodore John Rodgers elementary and Patterson Park Public Charter School. The association prefers the funds to go to a specific item or program instead of just being put in the budget.
Patterson Park is an essential part of the community. Kini Collins, a local artist and resident of Butchers Hill for 10 years, said it brings the community together in a way events can’t.
“The park draws like-minded people who want to take care of the park, so the community is very strong and active. Butchers Hill is not just a neighborhood concerned with property values,” Collin said. “Many of the people who live here are very concerned citizens and contribute an amazing number of volunteer hours to the park, area schools and creating a cleaner environment.”
The current president of the homeowners association is Heather Gorius whose role is to help organize meetings and interface with city officials with issues that impact the community.
In Baltimore, crime has been a longtime issue but Butchers Hill does their best to keep their neighbors safe by organizing a bi-monthly neighborhood walk in which anyone is invited to join.
“Our community has a lot of eyes and ears.” Of course no one wants to be a victim of a crime, so we all watch out for each other,” Gorius said. “This gives us some peace of mind that if a crime issue came up, the community would want to see it resolved.”
Butchers Hill is not a terribly large community. The population is estimated at around 2000 people according to their website. While it’s impossible to get to know everyone, Gorius said you can’t help but run into the same people.
“I would say that it’s very common to know many people on your street. There are only two restaurants within our boundaries, so if you go to one of them you are bound to meet people from the neighborhood. The Butchers Hill Association also holds two potluck picnics a year. It’s a great chance to meet new people and sample delicious homemade food,” Gorius said.
Butchers Hill stands out as a community that has stood the test of time. The economic success in the late 19th century helped create a unique neighborhood that maybe is known more than we think.
“We never really tried to be ‘hidden,’” Gilmour said.