Finding the Charm in Charm City: Affectionate Views of Baltimore

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"These pages represent my version of a visual "Balmorese" that celebrates the unique, the forgotten, the quirky, the hidden, the well-loved — streetside charms that are, or were, special to this city because they are either duplicated in no other place or we have adopted them as our own." — Huguette May

Finding the Charm in Charm City captures a Baltimore that many of us see without really seeing, a city in the midst of change but one whose past still lives in the streets. From the Bel-Loc Diner to the Arbutus ...

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Overview

"These pages represent my version of a visual "Balmorese" that celebrates the unique, the forgotten, the quirky, the hidden, the well-loved — streetside charms that are, or were, special to this city because they are either duplicated in no other place or we have adopted them as our own." — Huguette May

Finding the Charm in Charm City captures a Baltimore that many of us see without really seeing, a city in the midst of change but one whose past still lives in the streets. From the Bel-Loc Diner to the Arbutus Poodle Salon to the now-vacant Pikes Theater, each landmark included in the book has its own story to tell about the city of Baltimore and its people. Here are marble steps and rowhouses, car dealers and corner shops, murals, pubs, and warehouses. Every subject is visible from the street, and May and Smith have arranged the work around fourteen of the city's most inviting corridors, from South Hanover Street and Ritchie Highway to Washington Boulevard and Wilkens Avenue; from Reisterstown, Falls, and York Roads to Eastern Avenue, Harford, and Belair Roads.

Using the Polaroid image transfer technique, Huguette May individually printed more than 100 color pictures that splendidly capture the variety of interesting building exteriors, design details, and quirky sights she found around Baltimore. This unusual process (fully explained in the text) creates color images of a special warmth and vitality, each as unique as its subject.

Accompanying the photographs, Anthea Smith's descriptions blend wonderful human stories and fascinating historical details. Smith has delved deeply into the city's past to bring us Baltimore personalities such as AlbertKnight, who invented Formstone in 1937, and William Anton Octavek, who started the city's folk art tradition of painted screens in 1914, when he painted images of meats and vegetables on the screen doors of his grocery store.

Finding the Charm in Charm City shows Baltimore as a city whose singular charms should be celebrated, not forsaken. "They're precious," writes May, "and brighten our lives with grace and beauty and humor, adding luster to modern life, made bleak, as it is, by the stark new buildings and plastic signs of urban renewal." For long-time residents or first-time visitors, Finding the Charm in Charm City gathers and preserves a precious store of grace, beauty, and humor that can only be found in Baltimore.

From Finding the Charm in Charm City:

"Owners of well-coiffed canines in the Arbutus area south of Wilkins Avenue are likely to recognize this storefront with its orderly gray Formstone, freshly laundered white curtains, and an awning fit for a hotel. Since the poodle popularity of the late 1950s, the Arbutus Poodle Salon has also welcomed terriers, cocker spaniels, and 'the all-American house pet' to come in for a bath and a trim."

"A sense of mystery surrounds this sign in a window above East Patterson Street near Charles. It actually marks the site of a club that was formed in 1921 for the benefit of the hearing impaired who are interested in spectator sports. Now the oldest of its kind in the United States, the Silent Oriole Club owes its existence to a city policeman who told a group of deaf men that they had to do something besides stand on the street all day. With his help, they found a place to meet and began the organization, which has since grown to 150 members. Because the participants cannot hear, the club has helpful features such as a flashing light instead of a doorbell and captioned films. The club provides sports and social activities as well as vocational help to its members, and it is part of a nationwide chain of clubs that belons to the American Athletic Association of the Deaf."

"Inside this unusually decorated building on Belair Road in Overlea are over twenty-five thousand hub caps, some dating to the early 1950s. Hub Cap City converted this former neighborhood grocery store fifteen years ago to accommodate its extensive inventory of hub caps and wheels. Not surprisingly, their motto is 'Don't go around with your lug nuts showing.' They also have locations on Crain Highway and Washington Boulevard."

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801859298
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/1998
  • Pages: 136
  • Product dimensions: 10.38 (w) x 7.33 (h) x 0.69 (d)

Meet the Author

Huguette D. May 's work has received numerous awards in national juried competitions and invitational exhibitions. She has served as president of the Maryland Pastel Society and has been a juried member of the Pastel Society of America. In 1990 she established her own professional photography service, Art & Image, and became the first Certified Electronic Imager in Maryland through the Professional Photographers of America, Inc. Huguette and her husband, Tom, lived in Baltimore for eleven years, before 1996, when they moved to eastern Massachusetts. Anthea Smith is an award-winning painter who also writes. Her early professional experiences include work as a graphic artist, a production manager, and the vice president of an advertising agency in Baltimore. She attended the Maryland Institute, College of Art, earning a certificate in Fine Arts in Painting in 1987. Anthea lives in the mill neighborhood of Hampden with her husband, Bert (author of the book Greetings from Baltimore: Postcard Views of the City, also available from Johns Hopkins), and four cats.

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