Lafayette Square: Recognize, Respect, Restore

In the spring of 2003, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS), a division of the National Park Service, David H. Gleason Associates, Inc., Architects, and Baltimore Heritage, Inc., in coordination with the City of Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP) and the Goucher College Graduate Program in Historic Preservation, recorded a number of historic buildings and sites on Baltimore’s Lafayette Square through large-format photography and historical research.

One of a number of urban squares established in West Baltimore in the nineteenth century to encourage new residential development west of the city center, Lafayette Square, also known as Church Square for the number of congregations that settled in the area, defined fashionable city living for over 100 years. Although altered by the demolition of some prominent townhouses and institutional buildings, Lafayette Square retains much of its original architectural integrity–an integrity that today is threatened by the gradual erosion of the physical fabric of the neighborhood.

This project, resulting in over 50 large-format photographs by HABS photographer James W. Rosenthal and supplemented with historical research by HABS and Angela Shaeffer of Goucher College, grew out of an interest on the part of David H. Gleason Associates and its partners in raising public awareness of one of Baltimore’s most historically significant urban neighborhoods.

Ranging chronologically from the late 1860s to the turn of the century and stylistically from the Gothic to the Queen Anne and Romanesque revivals, Lafayette Square and its buildings chronicle the growth of an affluent West Baltimore neighborhood from its modest nineteenth-century beginnings as a rural retreat of green fields and oak trees and its remarkable metamorphosis in the early twentieth century into the spiritual and cultural center of West Baltimore’s African-American community. The Square, while significant in its own right as a landmark in the urban development of the city, rivals the city’s better known squares and institutions in the magnitude of its contribution to our understanding of the cultural development and evolution of Maryland’s largest city. It is hoped that this exhibit will encourage further exploration and preservation of Baltimore’s tremendously rich architectural heritage, both within the area of Lafayette Square and beyond.


Historic American Buildings Survey