The Lemmon Street Alley Houses

The row of two story plus houses in the 900 block of Lemmon Street on the north side were built in 1848 to provide homes for the growing number of workers needed by America’s first railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, chartered in 1828.

These houses were built by Charles Shipley, carpenter, in the summer and fall of 1848, on land leased to him by John Howard McHenry, a grandson of Revolutionary War Hero Col. John Eager Howard. By September, 1849, all the houses had been sold to individuals of Irish descent, most of whom worked for the nearby Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. People like Thomas McNew, a watchman at the B & O Depot; Thomas Medcalfe, a fireman; and Dennis McFadden and Cornelius McLaughlin, laborers, paid $400 for their new six room homes.

At the time these houses were built the number of dwellings in the Poppleton area, near the new B & O Yards was still small. Baltimore Town was some distance away, separated by open country dotted with private estates. The new St. Peter’s Church, built by the Archdiocese to serve the rapidly growing Irish Catholic population in the ”western precincts” was nearly completed. A few years later the Sisters of Mercy—an Irish Order brought to Baltimore by a granddaughter of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, would establish a local mission at the church to teach and tend to the needs of these newly arrived Irish.

Thus, the historical significance of the Lemmon Street houses is directly linked to their physical proximity and historical involvement with the National Register landmark B & O Roundhouse and car shops as well as to the historic St. Peter’s the Apostle Church (designed by Robert Carey Long, Jr.) and the Hollins Market, one of Baltimore’s early markets, established in 1836 to provide foodstuffs and goods for the citizens of west Baltimore.

Architecturally, the houses are significant because they represent some of the earliest rowhouses built in Baltimore in the two story plus attic style, a vernacular version of the expensive Greek Revival style townhouse. Federal period rowhouses had more steeply pitched gable roofs with dormers to light the attic story. This new style house, with its lower-pitched roof and small attic windows in place of dormers, provided the head room to allow for two small bedrooms on the upper floor instead of one room of the dormer style.

The two story plus attic houses in the 900 block of Lemmon Street are particularly significant and worthy of preservation because much of their original interior fabric is intact. Each of the four main rooms had a fireplace with a Doric mantel surround. The wide kitchen fireplace is flanked with a set of built-in shelves, taking up the space between the hearth and the rear wall of the house. On the other side of the fireplace, the tight winder stair rises to the second and attic story.

920 Lemmon Street, Baltimore MD 21223     email: