May 23, 2011

Positives of Pigtown

As I prepare to move from Pigtown, I wrote an article for the Baltimore Sun’s Real Estate Wonk blog about the neighbourhood and thought I’d share it with you.

I've lived in Pigtown for about five years, since moving back to the U.S. from the U.K. I wanted to live in a place that was up-and-coming, and was close to things that I knew and places I visited a lot. Pigtown seemed to tick a lot of boxes, and when a nice little house with very reasonable rent on a tree-lined street became available, I snapped it up.pigtown houseThe main street in Pigtown is Washington Boulevard, which swings from east-west at Martin Luther King Boulevard, to north-south as it heads past Carroll Park. On the east, Russell Street and MLK Boulevard make up the general boundary, and on the south, it's Monroe Street. To the north, it's Pratt and Lombard streets.

Most of the housing stock dates from the 1880s and is comprised of two- and three-story rowhouses. The B&O Railroad was the leading cause for the original development of the neighborhood, and as legend has it, the pigs used to run down Washington Boulevard, from the railroad sidings at the B&O to the slaughterhouses where Camden Yards is sited now. In the early 2000s, a number of new townhouses were built on Scott Street and are called Camden Crossing.

Pigtown is filled with interesting buildings, including the B&O Roundhouse (the largest 22-sided building in the USA) the MTA's bus yard buildings with their Palladian windows and elegant buttresses; the historic Mount Claire Mansion set atop a hill in Carroll Park; 11-15 006 an old kosher abattoir on Paca Street; and the Victorian gasworks building that is home to Housewerks, the architectural antiques and salvage business.housewerks salvageAs one of the truly integrated neighborhoods in the city, Pigtown has long-time residents living alongside newly-arrived urban professionals who commute to Washington on the Camden line, or attend classes at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

It is a neighborhood of walkers, either heading for public transportation, to schools from elementary to graduate level, or out giving their dogs their daily exercise. From my house in Pigtown, it's a seven-minute walk to Camden Yards, about 20 minutes to the Convention Center and 25 minutes to the Inner Harbor.view from mount clarePigtown really starts hopping on Ravens game days, when the neighborhood fills with fans attending the game, or tailgating in the parking lots surrounding the stadium. On warm fall days when the windows are open, you can hear the cheers from the crowds as the Ravens make a great play. Orioles games are a little quieter, but on summer evenings, you can hear the cheers and see the fireworks after the games.

There is a lot of available housing stock in Pigtown, as the economic downturn came just after numerous investors had purchased vacant houses or shells and started to renovate and rehab them. It's sad to see so many empty houses on some blocks. But there are a lot of real estate deals to be had in the area.

People in Pigtown know each other, they're friendly to each other, and they actually speak to each other when they pass by on the street. People keep an eye out for each other, too. There are several community organizations that schedule routine clean-up mornings, manage the Main Street marketing and work on overall neighborhood issues.

While Pigtown is in the middle of the city and just moments from the always busy I-95, it is often a very quiet neighborhood, with just the sounds of the train whistles blowing and the distant hum of traffic. I've often walked my dog Connor late at night (or during a snow-storm!) and reveled in the quiet of the streets. One of my enduring memories is of an early summer evening, with the windows open, listening to someone walking up the street singing an old Motown song.meg_and_connorxI can't write a piece like this without addressing some of the perceptions of Pigtown, namely, that it's a crime-ridden area. My personal experience, and that of the CitiStat tracking, does not bear this out. There is some drug-related activity, but if you're not buying or selling, it's generally not an issue.

There is scant property crime in the area of Pigtown where I live, and most of the personal crime is between people who are known to each other. I've had plants and decorative items in front of my house for years, and nothing's ever turned up missing. painted screen in pigtownPigtown's just another one of Baltimore's neighbourhoods that's like a little village.

Thanks to Jamie Smith Hopkins for allowing me to tell the story of my Pigtown.


  1. Love that handsome Connor!
    And that's also a fabulous sweater you're wearing.

  2. A terrific article on a city you have known and loved so well Meg!

    You and Connor do look great!

    Art by Karena

  3. Sad to see you and Connor leave. Thank you for writing such a positive piece about this little part of the city. Best of luck to you in your new home!

  4. So sorry to hear that you are leaving Charm City (my favorite moniker for B'more.) I do hope you get to visit again. Good luck in your new place.

    With best wishes, your Maryland neighbor for now,

  5. Oh, silly me...I've some catching up to do! You're still a Maryland neighbor. Yay for us! We live in the DC suburbs and spend as much time exploring Charm City as we do DC itself. I'm sure you will be haunting Pigtown again and again. Looking forward to your old house adventure.

  6. Hi, Meg,

    This makes me so sad. While we have not met, I have come to regard you as a friend -- and I love Baltimore and your posts. Best of luck to you and I hope we will hear from you from your next location??

    Rebecca R. Dyer

  7. Now, come on, you're a Charm City gal, you know they aren't called townhouses around here.

  8. anon... the newly built ones are townhouses, not rowhouses... totally different. four floors, garages, all sorts of decks and porches. not a rowhouse.


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