I live in Roland Park, which most know to be the first planned neighborhood in the country, and to this day has very upper-class connotations. But I live at the very southern end of the neighborhood, right up against traditionally working-class Hampden. Both neighborhoods are predominantly white. Walking up Roland Avenue to my church and walking down the avenue to my post office really brings home how different neighborhoods can be, even right next to each other. And as I learned in books like “A Spool of Blue Thread” by Ann Tyler, these boundaries have persisted over the years.
Hampden has been gentrifying for some time now, but you still definitely get a lower-class feel when walking around the area. Some aspects are charming, like the garish Christmas decorations on 34th Street or the kitsch of HonFest. Other aspects are sadder, like the lonely drunks I saw in the park on Thanksgiving weekend, or the local families that my church helps at Christmas time, because the parents can’t afford presents or nice food for the kids during the holiday season.
Baltimore is known nationally as a city of stark racial divides, and I imagine most people see those as coextensive with social divides, but the divide between Roland Park and Hampden shows a stark contrast between wealth and poverty even among people of the same race, living in close proximity. It gives me much food for thought and a strong desire to learn more about this city and its history.