Abell Improvement Association
East Side of 3000 Block of Guildford Ave, 1912
History of Abell
Abell is a predominantly residential community that structurally conforms to a grid street pattern established in the area during the first quarter of the twentieth century. However, remnants of earlier diagonal roads still exist in the neighborhood - today's Merryman Lane, and the truncated Vineyard Lane, both of which are in the northeast section of the area.
The Abell neighborhood, like Abell Avenue, derives its name from the Abell family, longtime owners of the Baltimore Sunpapers. The Abells owned a large summer estate known as "Guilford," which was located a short distance north of today's Abell community.
The majority of residential structures in Abell are row houses of medium-to-large size. East of Barclay Street in the northern portion are a number of interesting late-nineteenth century individual frame structures which remain from the former Victorian-era village of Waverly. Scattered throughout the community are a number of small apartment buildings. Mixed residential and commercial uses are prevalent along Greenmount Avenue. Since the 1950s, portions of the community's southeast section have been dedicated to light industrial and educational use.
Early in its development, during the 'teens and 1920's, Abell was known for its well-constructed row houses and such plumbing amenities as running water and indoor sanitary provisions. Daylight houses, which allowed light into all rooms, were built mostly by Edward J. Storck in the northern blocks. Areas to the south were developed with bay window, porch-front row houses. These new blocks were advertised as being in the Guilford area, thereby capitalizing on their proximity to that wealthier neighborhood to the north.
The Abell community was part of the original "Huntington" tract of 136 acres laid out for Tobias Stanboro in 1688. The early subdivision of Huntington had brought into being a number of attractive country seats, including a few in the Abell neighborhood. In 1889 a portion of this land near 29th Street and Greenmount Avenue was used as a baseball park - the first Oriole Park. However, this was abandoned two years later because it was considered too far out from the City. In 1914 Terrapin Park was established north of 29th Street at Greenmount Avenue as a ballpark for the Federal League's Baltimore Orioles, and the field was renamed Oriole Park. The lives of many local children revolved around the dramatic presence of baseball in their community. In 1937 a new scoreboard, as tall as a three-and-a-half story building and as wide as four houses, was erected and billed as the largest scoreboard in the world. Its ability to display all the important operations of the game using electricity was a marvel of the time. When a 6-alarm nighttime fire destroyed the wooden stands and buildings in 1944, 1,500 people had to flee the neighborhood. The intense heat melted asphalt on 29th Street and tar on nearby roofs. The Orioles moved to the twenty-year-old Baltimore Municipal Stadium, and Barclay Street was cut through the old Oriole Park site. For years the land stood vacant and was used as a playground. During the mid-1950s, commercial and warehouse structures were built along the eastern portion, and the Barclay (originally Barclay Elementary, then Middle) School, #54, was built to the west in 1959.
An important local landmark originally part of the early Waverly community still exists in Abell. The Huntington Baptist Church, at the northwest corner of 31st Street and Barclay Avenue, was founded in 1836 as a small Sabbath school for convalescent soldiers. Throughout the early 1800s men from Ft. McHenry were moved to the higher and healthier atmosphere of the Abell area, near the intersection of Old and New York Roads, to escape the threat of malaria. Occasionally, convalescing soldiers from the barracks would attend Baptist services in private homes of the neighborhood. A Sabbath school was established nearby in an old barracks building in 1836. Alternate visiting ministers preached weekly sermons for soldiers and a few civilians. In 1846 James Wilson, a large landowner in the area, erected a small chapel which he called the Huntington BaptistChurch. The congregation grew steadily until it required a new building in 1873. Modeled after Talmage's Tabernacle in Brooklyn, it was covered with corrugated iron plates. In service for fifty years, the old tabernacle landmark was replaced in 1922 with the present church.