A New Generation of Residents

Like Baltimore’s other urban neighborhoods, Lafayette Square changed dramatically between 1910 and 1930. Built-out by 1910 and starting to show its age, the Square could not compete with the new residential developments such as Ten Hills (begun 1909) and Hunting Ridge (1920s) that offered detached, single-family houses, generously-apportioned building lots, and all the modern amenities of houses built to meet the demands of the early twentieth century. Between 1910 and 1930, all but two households on the Square had changed hands, and a new generation of residents had emerged, 95% of which African-American, whose numbers and diverse backgrounds brought a renewed vitality to the Square. A prestigious address for African-American professionals, Lafayette Square was also a favorite location for musical concerts, revivals, house tours, community fairs and festivals, including the African-American Women’s Cooperative Civic League’s fifteenth annual Flower Mart in the Spring of 1928.

The Square’s new residents worked as maids, chauffeurs, cooks, and laborers, but also as dentists, physicians, attorneys, and schoolteachers. Dr. Oscar Jones, an African-American dental surgeon, lived at 1128 West Lafayette, the only owner-occupied, single-family house on the Square according to the 1930 census. The 1100 block of West Lanvale seems to have been popular with the teachers: James Randall lived at 1101, Charlotte A. Parrott at 1103, Lauretta T. Powers at 1105, and Daisy Coleman at 1117. All four taught in the Baltimore public schools. They and other residents benefited from close proximity to the neighborhood’s major commercial, retail, and entertainment districts, being just a few minutes’ walk from the shops and other attractions of Druid Hill and Pennsylvania Avenues. They also patronized businesses and trade schools closer to home, such as the Hoskins Studio for Art, Dancing, Music, and Costume Design at 1002 West Lafayette, and the Rosa Myers Beauty School at 835 North Fremont Avenue.

In the short time between 1928 and 1934, four African-American congregations moved to Lafayette Square. Metropolitan led the charge with a ceremonial march from Orchard Street in 1928, followed by St. John’s A.M.E. in 1929 (from Lexington Street), St. James Episcopal in 1932 (from Park Avenue and Preston Street), and Emmanuel Christian Community in 1934 (from Calhoun). The spacious sanctuaries, the classrooms, and other amenities of the four grand churches suited the needs of these growing congregations, whose active ministries transformed Lafayette Square into a spiritual center for West Baltimore’s African-American community. The old State Normal School, vacated in 1915 and later converted to school district offices, received a new lease on life in 1931 as the home of the George Washington Carver Vocational-Technical High School, the first school in Maryland to provide vocational training to African-Americans.