BNHA Otterbein

Interpretive Framework

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

Located directly west of the Inner Harbor, Otterbein is one of the few surviving residential neighborhoods located near the original founding of Baltimore City. It is one of Baltimore's best-preserved neighborhoods featuring architecture primarily from the early to mid-1800s. The buildings are excellent examples of Baltimore's earliest housing types and retain many distinctive characteristics of 19th-century houses, such as Flemish bond brickwork, original cornices, and original storefronts.

During the 1960s, the neighborhood fell on hard times. By the 1970s, the entire neighborhood was fenced off and the city was ready to raze all the buildings for redevelopment. Rather than lose an architecturally vibrant neighborhood, a lottery was held that awarded each house to a person that would buy (for one dollar), renovate, and live in the home. Today Otterbein is considered one of the nation’s most successful examples of “urban homesteading.”