home Public Space Carroll Park, Baltimore: Social Constructions, Constituencies and Conflict in Public Spaces

Carroll Park, Baltimore: Social Constructions, Constituencies and Conflict in Public Spaces

Carroll Park is one of the historically significant, third oldest public parks in the Baltimore city. It is situated to the south of the Inner Harbor. The park is bounded by the Washington Blvd on the south, Bayard Street to the east, and Monroe Street on the west and the B & O Railways to the north. There is also a Golf Course to the west end of the park, which is one of the first Golf courses in Baltimore to admit the African American golfers.

Location of Carroll Park, Baltimore

Source: Google Maps

History, social constructions and constituencies

The 170 acres Carroll Park is an excellent urban space and a public park. Both the Carroll Park and the Golf Course has a long history of segregation of who will use the facilities of the Park and the Golf Course and who will not. The first development of the land was in July 1732, when Dr. Charles Carroll an Irish immigrant, living in Annapolis, purchased 2,368 acres along Gwynn Falls. He then called it the Georgia plantation. The land has differed ownership and maintenance record and is now owned by the city. The park has a rich history since 1760s from the initial Georgia plantation period until today. The entire history can be divided in to six historical periods. The Working Carroll Plantation (1750-1817), Period of Industrialization (1818-1860), Civil War Era (1861-1869), Schuetzen Period (1870-1889), Public Park, the Olmsted Era (1890-1926) and the Modern Era (1927 to present).

Synopsis of Ownership Information of Carroll Park

Source: James E. Wells II: The Historical Geography of Racial and Ethnic Access within Baltimore's Carroll Park: 1860-1954

Working Plantation Period

As illustrated in the Master Plan of the Carroll Park (October 2000), the location of the mansion defines the spatial organization of the property into three distinct zones. These zones are the northern forecourt, the southern formal garden and orchard, and the surrounding land consisting of cultivated fields, woodlands, low marshy areas, and the Gwynn falls streambed. The first addition of the public roads in 1814 that defined the edges of the Mount Clare Landscape was the construction of the Washington Turnpike across the base of the hill to the southeast. The road passing over the Gwynn Falls connects Baltimore to the nation’s capital. This route altered the relationship of the property with the waterfront by separating it from the mouth of the Middle Branch River with an established edge. The picture below shows Carroll Family Land during the 1700s. The Georgia Plantation is shaded in white, Baltimore Iron Works in green and Mount Clare Mansion located at the center of the plantation.

Carroll Family Land during the 1700s

Source: Picture taken from Mount Clare Museum House (2009)

Industrialization Period

The land patterns of the Mount Clare tract began to change substantially during 1820s, with the establishment of two rights of way for the Baltimore and Ohio railroad running through the Mount Clare Property. The main branch traversed the property on the northwest side of the mansion. The Locust Point Branch shifted down the southwest edge of the property, adjacent to the currently existing Monroe Street. These additions created more clear edges and divided the property into more distinct areas of use.

Civil war Era

Large open spaces were acquired for encampments during civil war and Mount Clare was the undeniable site for fortifications.

Carroll Camp in 1862

Source: James E. Wells II: The Historical Geography of Racial and Ethnic Access within Baltimore's Carroll Park: 1860-1954

Schutzen Period

With the departure of the military encampment to the southwest area of the property, the eastern portion once again became the parkland.

Carroll Land during Schutzen Period

Source: James E. Wells II: The Historical Geography of Racial and Ethnic Access within Baltimore's Carroll Park: 1860-1954

Olmsted Era

It is during the 1890s the park first became a Zoned public recreational area with golf to the southwest; tennis, baseball and open parkland area with formal gardens to the center; open air athletics and children facilities to the northeast. The park commission later added wading pool and the fresh water fountains. The park commission also endowed the quiet park users at the Carroll Mansion above the terraces and for the athletic users down on the general level of the Bayard street playing field. The existing parks during the Olmsted Era are indicated in red in the Olmsted plan.

Olmsted Plan for Baltimore in 1904

Source: James E. Wells II: The Historical Geography of Racial and Ethnic Access within Baltimore's Carroll Park: 1860-1954

Modern Era

The Modern Era noticed no major change in the organization of the park. As explicated in the Master Plan (October 2000), the mansion remains on the hilltop, at the highest point on the site and is separated by Monroe Street and the Montgomery Ward building. To the Northeast section is the recreational zone, to the southeastern edge of the park adjacent to Washington Boulevard and the Mount Clare Mansion and adjacent landscape is the open parkland. The Southwest corner is increased by Ball fields and remaining of the garden subdued Golf course is located to the west end and separated from the park and other areas.

Segregation Era in Carroll Park and the Golf Course

The history of segregation era dates back to 1890s to 1950s. Though the public spaces and parks are an important urban area of the city and should not have any exclusions or preferences in access by the people, the segregation in the park and the golf course existed until 1923. The Golf course is the first African- American golf course in Baltimore.

Master Plan for Carroll Park developed by Department of Recreation and Parks and Planning City of Baltimore, Maryland (Feb 2001)

In order to revitalize the entire park a master plan was devised by the collaboration of Department of Recreation and Parks, Planning City of Baltimore, Baltimore City Heritage and Area Management, Park Master Plan Advisory Committee, Park users and the consultant. The plan addresses the programmatic issues of recreational use, the physical issues of preservation, and touches on some management recommendations in the overall park as well. The revitalization plan was focused mainly on the 170 acres of the park area alone excluding the golf course. The master plan was approved on August 2000 with an estimate of 5 million dollars. The highlighting features recommended in the plan is to provide adequate restrooms, accommodation of restroom facilities in the event of special activities, creative and safer playground spaces to suit different age groups, better baseball field layouts, resolution of conflicts between activities and separation of uses and to upgrade the paths.

Carroll Park Today and Conflict of Other Users in the Park

Today Carroll Park is an excellent park open to the public. The space has different narratives based on the ownership. Decades have passed and there are no traces of racial tension. Apart from the originally existing golf Course, many amenities have been added and the park now has basketball courts, baseball diamonds, a skating park, playground and walking paths. Gwynn fall trail is also one of the main attractions in the park. Every year in the month of August the park celebrates the German festival. Mount Clare is a landmark of Baltimore city and is under the jurisdiction of the Commission for Historical Architectural Preservation (CHAP). It is one of the classic examples of colonial architecture and a great tourist spot. B&O railways also interact with the park and bring visitors to the park through bus or train. The Skate Park of Baltimore teamed with Department of Recreation and Parks and other volunteer groups painted and refined the skating park in April 2011. Recently, the park was also awarded the Community Greening Grant and the Partnership for Parks Grant to enhance the park features.

Source: Sketch by Josephine B Visuvasa Selvakumar

Mount Clare Mansion

Source: Picture by Josephine B Visuvasa Selvakumar

 

Playground and Basketball Court

Source: Picture by Josephine B Visuvasa Selvakumar

Stable Used for Meetings and Playground Overlooking the MTA Station

Source: Picture by Josephine B Visuvasa Selvakumar

Baltimore like all other American cities exploded in population during the 19th century. This growing population demanded the need for people to escape the urban expanses and get into a public space to relax, play and have fun. The two largest parks, which existed in the 1900s, are the Druid Hill Park and the Patterson Park. The Carroll Land changed to meet the needs of the people and now serves as an excellent public park. It is seen that the neighborhood population is much higher when compared to the Park population. The Park population has gone down from 6,705 in 1990 to 5,701 in 2000. However, neighborhood’s population in Irvington (18,920), Cherry Hill (15,295), Morrell Park (15,977), Metro Center (16,207), West Baltimore (59,755) and South Baltimore (14,093) are almost 3 times higher than that of the Park population in 2000. As the neighborhoods are thickly populated and with the revitalization of the park it is now fully lit with people. The park now has grown to the extent that it is safe, enjoyable and an active recreational space for the public.

Field House Caught in Fire and Athletic League

Source: Picture by Josephine B Visuvasa Selvakumar

Golf Course

Source: Picture by Josephine B Visuvasa Selvakumar

Skate Park

Source: Historic Pigtown Happens Webpage

The added fields and zones for active and passive recreation of people in the park are the primary features that create opportunities for the use of the constituency. The playgrounds, ball fields, skate park and children play area are the active spots of the people. There are also passive areas with benches for relaxing, pathways for walking and especially the view of the park and the Baltimore skyline from the Mansion is breathtaking. The park became tuned to the users interest right from the revisions done by the Olmstead brothers. The 19th century picturesque design, new urban playgrounds, curvilinear path ways lined with trees leading to the Mount Clare Mansion and meadows are all the highlights of the Olmstead’s designs in the park.

Though the park is now owned by the city and there is no conflict of the users or owners of other spaces to intrude in the park activities, there is a slight tension between the coordination of the public and the private partners. The park is managed as two parts, a twenty acre easement around Mount Clare Mansion and the remaining fifty acres including recreation facilities. Golf course is owned by the city, but is managed by Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation. Several groups involved in the management are the Maryland Historical Trust; Carroll Park Foundation: the National Society of Colonial Dames of America; Mount Clare the Baltimore City’s landmark under the jurisdiction of the commission for Historical and Architectural preservation and the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum.

The Carroll Park foundation aims at restoring the 18th century life in the park. However, the City of Planning Department emphasizes that any changes to the landscape of the mansion should blend with the overall site plan of the park. The tasks of the historic house museum administration are also increasingly complex. Meetings and functions are generally held in the stable located to the south end of the park. There is debate between the Mansion and the stable space of where to store the archival materials of the Mansion. As the mansion functions as a tourist spot it requires space to preserve the archival materials.

The public- private partnership should be strengthened for effective management of the park. Though the Mansion tells the History of the Carroll land, the Playground and other spaces lacks historical connection with the Park or with the Mansion. The Park is fenced on the eastern side alone in the Bayard Street. However there is no fence on other side. Even the fence along the Bayard Street does not stretch to the full extent of the park. There is also an abandoned space to the eastern corner of the property adjacent to the Skate Park. The overall security should be tightened up in the park.

The conflict in the pathways inside the park should be reduced. The main entrance of the mansion faces the railroad. The playgrounds are all behind the mansion. There is no cafeteria or refreshment zone anywhere in the park. The only refreshment area is the one located in the Golf course. If different managements coordinate and work together in the park, the park will serve the public to the full extent. In spite of the limitations, it is one of the significant parks with historic values at the heart of the city. Public spaces are strongly influenced by exclusion, ownership, privatization and maintenance. In this fast growing, bustling, robotic world it is highly essential for cities to have a public space for the people to evade from work, tension and city life. Such a space should be unbiased by the social and political factors. The space should be simple, clean, safe and serve the public. With all the added amenities and improvements Carroll Park for sure attracts people to a greater extent than it had before.

References:

  • James E. Wells II. “The Historical Geography of Racial and Ethnic Access within Baltimore’s Carroll Park: 1860-1954
  • A Master  plan  for  Carroll  Park  in  Baltimore,  Maryland  October  2000.  Landscape  architecture.   Planning.  Historic  Preservation  and  Baltimore  City  Dept  of  Planning
  • Baltimore  Metropolitan  Council  Webpage.  June  2003

 

2 thoughts on “Carroll Park, Baltimore: Social Constructions, Constituencies and Conflict in Public Spaces

  1. Some years ago I did planning work in both western and northern Baltimore. Both B/W neighborhoods. Western United Front won a major HUD grant and Druid Park area realized a city funded new mixed use development to relieve the serious overcrowding resulting from “urban renewal” of a few years earlier. My emphasis in both was to reinforce existing community bonds.

    The point area has a strong community with significant history to build on. Good luck with your project.

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