BNHA Old West Baltimore Historic District


National Register of Historic Places

Interpretive Framework

Gaining Freedom for All: African American Heritage and the Struggle for Equality

Seeking Prosperity on the Chesapeake: Baltimore History from Colonial Times through the 1800s

Shaping a Monumental City: The City’s Growth in the 20th Century

Resource Type

Historic Neighborhoods

The Upton, Marble Hill, and Bolton Hill neighborhoods together form a National Register Historic District known as Old West Baltimore — the city’s premier early African American neighborhood. In the 1890s, African Americans began living in homes in the neighborhoods. In this community, African Americans gained political power, established social and religious institutions, and started businesses. 

The churches served to not only guide spiritual life but to spearhead social progress. Many were deeply associated with civil rights movements throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By 1900, more than 12 African American churches resided in Old West Baltimore. They helped create almost every important civic institution in the community, including Morgan State University, the YMCA and YWCA, and the Baltimore Branch of the NAACP.

For a more in-depth look at the churches, institutions, and talented individuals who called West Baltimore home, take advantage of a leisurely stroll along the Pennsylvania Avenue Heritage Trail. The two-mile urban heritage trail explores the community, civil rights legacy, and famous residents of Baltimore’s premier historic African American neighborhood. Major attractions along the trail include historic churches (Union Baptist, Sharp Street Memorial, Bethel AME, Douglas Memorial, and Saint Peter Claver); the home (and now museum) of civil rights leader Lillie Carroll Jackson; and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s elementary school.