Overview

The former St. Vincent's Infant Asylum/Carver Hall Apartments buildings include a complex of structures built between 1860 and the 1910s to provide housing and medical services to dependent children and women, along with housing for the nuns who operated the facility. After years of declining use, the Infant Asylum left the facility around 1934 for a new location on Reisterstown Road. Around 1941, the building was converted to use as Carver Hall Apartments offering a range of rental units to a largely African American group of tenants from the 1940s up through 2013. Since the 1970s, the management of the property has posed significant challenges for residents in the building with a major fire in 1978, a lawsuit in 1993 and issues with drug traffic and violence at the building in the 1900s. In January 2015, the building caught on fire destroying the roof and gutting much of the interior.

Description

This description is adapted from the early 1980s MIHP Form. It should be updated and revised.

St. Vincent's Infant Asylum consists of a central building and two pavilions. Both foundation and building walls are laid in brick. The main building is five bays wide and four stories high. The two outer bays project slightly from the front facade.

When the Baltimore Neighborhoods Survey documented the building in the early 1980s, each bay consists of two long, four over four windows. Punctuating the foundation walls were eight casement windows and enamel tile surrounded the entranceway. The entranceway was comprised of a recessed glass doorway and transom surmounted by a cantilevered metallic roof.

The windows openings above the portico are smaller than the rest of the building's fenestration, because of the height of the entranceway. The doorway is the only element of the front facade that has been altered. The building has a mansard roof which projects above the outer bays in keeping with the style of the building walls. The interior dormers have triangular pediments as opposed to the circular pediments of the outer dormers. A series of brackets the length of the front facade supported the roof.

The pavilion to the north is three stories high, while the southern pavilion rises to four stories. Both are two bays wide on the front facade and five bays wide on the side. The front facade bays and four outer bays of the side façade have windows which are wider than those of the front facade. Each pavilion is capped with a large modillioned pediment. Besides the altered entrance of the front facade, a second doorway has been added to the Lafayette Avenue facade,and a story has been added to the wing connecting the main building to the southern pavilion

Historic Context

Summary

St. Vincent's Infant Asylum was first established in 1856, originally located in a rented house at 292 Druid Hill Avenue. The institution started work on a new building at Division Street and Lafayette in 1859 and moved into the building in 1860. They remained there until 1934 when the institution moved to their country home in northwest Baltimore. The building has been used as apartments from 1941 up through 2013 when it was vacated.

St. Vincent's Infant Asylum established - April 1856

In their History of St. Vincent's Center, the Catholic Charities of Baltimore detail the early history of the charity, writing:

On April 1, 1856, at the request of philanthropists and officials of the city of Baltimore, three Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul from Emmitsburg, Maryland, undertook the care of neglected and unwanted babies in a little rented house at 293 Druid Hill Avenue. The first child, a 3-year-old girl, was admitted on April 10, 1856. The need for such a service was clear. During the first year, 50 children were admitted for care. With the number of admissions increasing, the institution moved in March 1857, to a larger, but temporary location on Pratt Street.

On the 13th of April in 1857, the Daughters of Charity formed a corporate body under the name of “St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum of the City of Baltimore.” From its inception until today, St. Vincent’s “asylum” provided “a place of refuge” for the children brought to its door. The original charter states that St. Vincent’s would “establish and maintain in the city of Baltimore an institution for the maintenance and support of foundlings and infant orphan children; and also provide for deserving indigent and unprotected females during their confinement in childbirth.” Many of the children “were left at the door of the asylum during the silent watches of the night.”

On October 15, 1859, the Sun reported on the construction of a new building for the orphanage:

“A noble building… is being erected on the northwest corner of Division and Townsend streets, in the extreme northwestern section of the city. The structure is located in the midst of other public institutions, such as the Church of the Immaculate Conception, and the Union Protestant Infirmary, (both recently built,) and will prove an ornament to that quarter of the city.

The edifice has a brick front of 112 feet on Townsend street and a front of 51 feet on Division st., with an equal depth of main building, three-stories in heights, and basement furnished after the manner of the upper stories. The ceiling of the first and second stories is 12 feet high, and that of the third story 11 feet high, the basement corresponding. In the rear is a verandah, extending through the three stories, and accessible from each by doors, affording a fine view of the surrounding country. The apartments embrace two dormitories for the inmates, Sisters of Charity, and nurses rooms, with clothes and bath rooms, and rooms for between 100 and 200 inmates. The roof is surmounted with a cupola-like ventilator, which being connected with the various apartments by flues, carries off the impure air… Corridors run through every story and connect the apartments….

Messrs. Long & Powell are the architects of the edifice, and J.M. Foley, Dr. F. Chatard and Rev. Joseph Gustiniania, the building committee. The work has progress well nigh to completion, and the institution will be ready for occupation by the first of the coming year. Mr. Samuel H. Adams is the carpenter and general superintendent. The St. Vincent Infant Asylum will be conducted by the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church.1

The partnership of Long and Powell included architects Louis L. Long and George Thomas Powell. The “Powell” in this partnership is often attributed to be Samuel Powell (also known as S. Robinson Powell) but historian Jimmy Counts located an advertisement published in The Metropolitan Catholic Almanac (1859) that identified George T. Powell as the partner.

According to architectural historian James T. Wollon, Louis L. Long practiced architecture in Baltimore for about eight years (1853-1860) leaving a legacy of around thirty buildings. Long’s best-known work in Baltimore is the St. Ignatius Church and Loyola College buildings (1853-56) located on Calvert Street at Madison Street.2

Born in May 1837 near Ellicotts Mills, Maryland, George T. Powell was likely mentored by his older brother Walter Angelo Powell (born January 1829) who worked with Robert Mills.3 According to Counts, Long & Powell ended their partnership around 1860. Long moved to St. Joseph, Missouri later that year and he appears in the 1861 St. Joseph City Directory. George continued to practice in Baltimore.4

St. Vincent's Infant Asylum moves to Division Street – February 1860

On February 8, 1860, St. Vincent's Infant Asylum moved into the new building at Lafayette and Divisions Streets with forty-seven infants. The institution grew throughout the late 1800s, with an average of 50 to 60 young children admitted annually between 1856 and 1867. In 1888, the Daughters of Charity acquired a new property at 6700 Reisterstown Road to provide a "country home" for the children during the summer months.

Note: Expand and clarify the context on orphanages in Baltimore. Footnotes for the next three paragraphs should be added from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum NR nomination.

Within a national context, the growth of St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum matched the growth of institutional care for dependent children in the 19th century. The population of children in orphanages in the United States increased from only around 200 in 1790 to about 123,000 in 1910. From 1778 to 1856, twelve orphanages were founded in Baltimore, seven Protestant and six Catholic. Almost twice as many institutions were established between 1860 and 1910 and, by 1910, Baltimore had a total of 28 orphanages.

In the late 19th century Baltimore as a whole was served by three large non-denominational orphanages, with 112 to 150 children each, five orphan asylums "under Roman Catholic management," three Protestant orphanages for African-Americans, eight denominational or religious orphanages, and five local orphanages throughout the state. Jewish orphanages included the Hebrew Orphan Asylum (1872), the Hebrew Children Sheltering and Protective Association, also known as the Betsy Levy Memorial Home (1900-1921), and the Daughters of Hanna (1913). Other orphanages and religious homes for children in the late 19th century included the St. Mary's Industrial School, St. Elizabeth's for African American infants, the Samuel Ready School, and the Dolan House.

This rapid growth also fit within a child welfare movement that took shape in the late 19th and early 20th century, exemplified by the institution of a compulsory education law (1901), new child labor laws that raised the age of eligibility for employment to fourteen (1902), a juvenile court system (1902), and a playground movement (1898).

In July 1898, the St. Vincent's Orphan Asylum started work on a new "handsome addition" with plans to complete the new structure by October. The Baltimore Sun reported on the project, writing:

"Workmen are engaged in laying the foundations for a new building to be added to the southeastern part of the old asylum, extending to and forming a portion of the wall. The lower portion of the building, which is to be two stories, of brick, 45 by 30 feet, will be given over to the kitchen, and a large steam heating apparatus will be put in… The second story will be in one large room, and will be fitted up as a new chapel, with a fine altar and pews enough to seat nearly all the children in the institution. The walls are to be of polished oak, and the chapel will be made as beautiful as possible.

The asylum has been added to four times since its establishment, but this is the first time any attempt has been made to provide a better kitchen… The old chapel, inside the building, is too small for the number of children who attend the services conducted by Rev. J.F. Kennedy, of the Immaculate Conception Church, chaplain of the asylum.”5

In November 1907, a committee supporting the St. Vincent's Infant Asylum, chaired by Mrs. William J. Kasten and Mrs. John Beisecker organized a oyster supper and pound party to help raise $65,000 to "pay for the new infirmary and detention house recently erected" for the institution. The Sun described the new building, writing:

“Modeled after the best children’s hospitals in the country, the new building was not planned until Sister Barbara, who is in charge, made a thorough study of different model buildings of its type. Finished in white, with every modern convenience, the new infirmary and detention house will be an ideal home for the 275 little inmates.

The detention ward is at the end of the infirmary, and is completely isolated from the other buildings so that contagious diseases may not spread. After being admitted to the asylum the children must remain in the detention ward for two weeks.

A large roof garden has been constructed… the garden will enable the children to get an abundance of fresh air.”6

The growth of the complex reflected a dramatic growth in the number of children placed at the home during the early 1900s. In 1907, 576 infant and foundling children were placed at St. Vincent's.

At the same time, this growth took places in the context of changes for northwest Baltimore as African Americans moved out of downtown and white residents advocated for segregation and exclusion. In July 1903 testimony at a public meeting at Russell's Hall on Pennsylvania Avenue Dr. Robert Fawcett, resident of 550 Mosher Street, invoked the Asylum's investment in the neighborhood as a reason not to change Public School 46 from a white to an African American school, commenting:

"Aside from the sentimental reasons, however, there are any number of practical ones which were presented to Mr. Packard, and to which he made no answer. The Union Protestant Infirmary, I understand, contemplates acquiring the property between its present building and Mosher street and extending its structure to that point. St. Vincent's Infant Asylum also expects to acquire the property adjoining that institution, and with these two improvements and the advantages possessed by the neighborhood it is reasonable to suppose that the old houses now occupied by negroes will be torn down and rebuilt with handsome residences."

In April 1919, the Sun reflected on the importance of the Infant Asylum and noted the common confusion between this institution and the St. Vincent's Male Orphan Asylum, writing:

“St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum… which recently observed its sixty-third anniversary, is practically the only institution of its kind in Maryland, although little is known of it, so unostentatiously is its work done. Many confuse it with St. Vincent’s Male Orphan Asylum, which is run by Sisters of Mercy…

It receives and maintains foundlings and destitute children of both sexes. It likewise provides for deserving and unprotected women in the Maternity Hospital, which is connected with the institution.

Children are cared for at the asylum until they become 6 or 7 years old, when they are transferred to other asylums. During the summer months the “kiddies” are taken to the institution’s home at Arlington, where they can romp and play in the fields.”7

That summer, the detention building (which had been vacant since 1916) was repainted and renovated for use at a children’s nursery with plans to move into the building by the beginning of August when the children returned from the Asylum’s country home at West Arlington.8

In 1934, St. Vincent's Infant Asylum sold their original building at Lafayette and Division Streets and moved nearly all of their operations to their property on Reisterstown Road.

St. Vincent's Infant Asylum converted to Carver Hall Apartments – 1941

The building was converted into apartments around 1941 and rented largely to African Americans. In early August 1945, a position was advertised at the building:

“Janitor–For colored apt. house. Apply to Mr. Rufus Thompson, Carver Hall Apts., 1401 Division st.”9

Residents of 1401-1411 Division Street in the 1940s and 1950s included:

  • Alfred Tibbs, a 33-year-old shoemaker, who lived at the apartment building in 1942 when he was convicted of shooting his estranged wife’s fiancé Donald “Frenchie” White, owner of the De Luxe Five and Ten at 1322 Pennsylvania Avenue.10
  • Mr. and Mrs. William Wells, who lived at the building in 1943 when their son Charles Law Wells, was reported missing in the Pacific as part of the crew of the Runner submarine.11
  • AFRO linotype operator Joseph Francis, who lived at the building in 1944 when he received a divorce from his wife.12
  • Jesse Snead and Mrs. Dorothy C. Snead, whose daughter Shirley Evelyn Snead became, 1951, the first African American to become a nun of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites in the United States.13
  • Miss Eva Bunting, a waitress who lived at the building in 1956. 14
  • Mrs. Mollie A. Reddick who lived at the building in 1959 when she charged her husband of eight years with desertion, as reportedly: "On Nov. 6 1956, when he left, she was at work and returned home to find him and all the furniture gone."15

Note: the reason for the zoning change is unclear.

On January 23, 1973, the Baltimore City Council introduced a bill to change the zoning of the property:

"CC 635 Bill introduced Victorine Adams (Walter Samuelson)- To change from the R 8 Zoning District to the R 9 Zoning District the property located at 1411 Division Street. (Judiciary)"16

The history of the building since the 1970s has been troubled with frequent sales and poor maintenance. It appears that the building sold in 1977, 1979, 1993, 1994, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2013, and 2014.

Note: The deed research is incomplete.

In late September 1978, the building at 1401-1411 Division Street was advertised for auction by Alex Cooper Auctioneers under the headline, "Apartment Complex Containing 59 Complete Apartments with Gross Annual Income of $101,000" further described as, "Improved by a valuable 4-story brick apartment complex containing 15 efficiency units, 15 2-room units, 27 3-room units and 2 4-room units. Hot water oil heat."17

In October 1978, a six-alarm fire at the building injured 15 people and forced around 150 residents to relocate. Arson investigators had "positively" attributed two smaller fires in September of that same year to arson and described the October fire as "extremely suspicious" in initial reports.18

In the early 1990s, drug activity at Carver Hall Apartment led to significant challenges for neighborhood residents. According to the Baltimore Sun, in 1991 and 1992, over 30 people were arrested on suspicion of possessing or dealing drugs in the building or immediately outside the building. In the same period, the Baltimore City Police Department responded to 535 reports of problems at Carver Hall and another 182 calls on the streets or sidewalks outside the building.

In February 1993, a group of residents with the Provident Neighborhood Association represented by the Community Law Center filed a lawsuit against Joseph and Judith Benik, the owners of Carver Hall Apartments, claiming that the building had "become a haven for drug dealers in Upton," sought to have the building declared a nuisance, and force the owners to make significant improvements. Resident Marsha Johnson, who owned a rowhouse across from Carver Hall, helped to organize a protest with around 20 other residents to voice their protests and tape a symbolic "notice" of the lawsuit to the building's front door. The president of the Provident Neighborhood Association James C. Washington, who worked as a high school teacher remarked to the Sun, that their intent was not to close the building but "improve conditions in and outside the building."

On the morning of January 14, 2015, Carver Hall experienced a severe fire starting just after 1:00 am. WBAL reported, the fire spread to the upper stories and destroyed much of the roof with around 130 fire fighters participating the response. Even as late as 6:30 am, trucks continued to spray water onto hot spots in the building.

Chain of Title

Grantor Grantee Deed Reference Transfer Date Sale Price
1411 DIVISION LLC HMJ 1411 DIVISION LLC FMC /15394/ 0372 07/02/2013 $555,000
KT, LLC 1411 DIVISION LLC FMC /06805/ 01029 10/03/2005 $2,002,000
DTR, INC. KT, LLC FMC /05209/ 00432 03/30/2004 $1,000,000
Carver Hall, Inc. DTR, INC. FMC 2569/ 100 June 11, 2002 $161,000
Joseph V. Benik and wife Carver Hall, Inc. and DTR, INC.   October 28, 1994  
  1. “Local Matters,” The Sun (1837-1989), October 15, 1859, http://search.proquest.com/hnpbaltimoresun/docview/533595723/abstract/EBBF0C4641B54F35PQ/4?accountid=10750. 

  2. “Louis L. Long,” Baltimore Architecture Foundation, accessed March 2, 2015, http://baltimorearchitecture.org/biographies/louis-l-long/. 

  3. “George T. Powell, Part 1,” accessed March 2, 2015, http://powellproject.tumblr.com/post/9760605801/george-t-powell-part-1. 

  4. “Long & Powell,” accessed March 2, 2015, http://powellproject.tumblr.com/post/50731113003/long-powell. 

  5. “ST. VINCENT’S ASYLUM: Laying Foundations For An Addition To The Institution For A Kitchen And Chapel,” The Sun (1837-1989), July 8, 1898, http://search.proquest.com/hnpbaltimoresun/docview/536001663/abstract/895AD2277E8B4385PQ/1?accountid=10750. 

  6. “TO PAY FOR INFIRMARY: St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum Trying To Raise $65,000,” The Sun (1837-1989), November 21, 1907, http://search.proquest.com/hnpbaltimoresun/docview/537462589/abstract/B51850D0DC7C480EPQ/21?accountid=10750. 

  7. “HAS LONG DONE WORTHY WORK: St. Vincent’s Infant Asylum Established 63 Years Ago,” The Sun (1837-1989), April 19, 1919, http://search.proquest.com/hnpbaltimoresun/docview/534678795/citation/EBBF0C4641B54F35PQ/199?accountid=10750. 

  8. “WILL CARE FOR CHILDREN: St. Vincent’s Building To Be Used As A Nursery,” The Sun (1837-1989), June 23, 1919, http://search.proquest.com/hnpbaltimoresun/docview/534638553/citation/EBBF0C4641B54F35PQ/202?accountid=10750. 

  9. “Classified Ad 2 – No Title,” The Sun (1837-1989), August 5, 1945, http://search.proquest.com/docview/537666148/citation/51F2B5841CCC4F23PQ/28?accountid=10750. 

  10. “Scoffed Hubby Who Slew Wife’s Wooer Gets 5 Years,” Afro-American (1893-1988), February 28, 1942, http://search.proquest.com/docview/531421767/abstract/806422129E04622PQ/12?accountid=10750. 

  11. “Baltimorean Lost on Missing Sub,” Afro-American (1893-1988), November 6, 1943, http://search.proquest.com/docview/531467808/abstract/806422129E04622PQ/20?accountid=10750. 

  12. “Six Granted Holiday Divorce Decrees: Linotype Operator Says His Wife Preferred Her Family; Walked Out,” Afro-American (1893-1988), January 1, 1944, http://search.proquest.com/docview/531549173/abstract/806422129E04622PQ/3?accountid=10750. 

  13. “Baltimore Girl Becomes Nun,” Afro-American (1893-1988), June 30, 1951, http://search.proquest.com/docview/531708141/citation/806422129E04622PQ/38?accountid=10750. 

  14. “Baltimore Gripes, But Still Walks During BTC Strike,” Afro-American (1893-1988), March 10, 1956, http://search.proquest.com/docview/531911200/abstract/806422129E04622PQ/43?accountid=10750. 

  15. "Jealousy, Beatings Add up to Divorce," Afro-American (1893-1988), March 7, 1959, http://search.proquest.com/docview/532037003/abstract/806422129E04622PQ/44?accountid=10750.] 

  16. Tracie Rozhon, “Orlinsky Irks Anti-War Groups,” The Sun (1837-1989), January 24, 1973, http://search.proquest.com/docview/541374949/abstract/806422129E04622PQ/56?accountid=10750. 

  17. "Classified Ad 72 – No Title," The Sun (1837-1989), September 24, 1978, http://search.proquest.com/docview/542112516/citation/806422129E04622PQ/57?accountid=10750. 

  18. “15 Injured as Fire Hits Apartments: West Baltimore Blaze Leaves 150 Persons Homeless,” The Sun (1837-1989), October 30, 1978, http://search.proquest.com/hnpbaltimoresun/docview/542087112/abstract/469AD8CFBCC545F8PQ/4?accountid=10750. 

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