Hampden (Baltimore), Maryland
Although Hampden is one of a hundred unique neighborhoods in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, it's the one that exudes Charm City flavor more than any other. Here you'll find a collection of everything Baltimore from nostalgic kitsch to the ultrahip to the wonderfully tacky. Hampdenites are proud of their pink flamingos, beehive hairdo wigs, and frequent use of the word "Hon". On a national level, the town's claim to fame was cemented in the 1998 comedy, Pecker by director and Baltimore native John Waters. Check it out for a good idea of Hampden's quirkiness.
Hampden got its start as a mill town and has strong roots as a blue collar enclave. Today, a more diverse set of people are moving into the area, including everyone from hipsters to young professionals to college kids attending one of the nearby schools such as Johns Hopkins, Loyola, or Notre Dame. This is all leading to the area's gentrification. Forbes ranked the area as the 15th most hipster neighborhood in America based on such factors as walkability, number of coffee shops per capita, assortment of food trucks, frequency of farmers markets, number of locally owned bars and restaurants, and percentage of residents who work in artistic occupations.
Hampden is located in the city of Baltimore approximately five miles north of downtown and easily accessible to Interstate 83. Hampden's Main Street is West 36th Street, otherwise known as The Avenue between Falls Road and Chestnut Street. The area is also served by Baltimore's Central Light Rail with a stop at the Woodberry Station about a half mile to the west from the intersection of Falls Road and 36th Street.
We start our tour of Hampden along Falls Road near where it intersects with West 36th Street. Hampden is located in Baltimore, Maryland about five miles north of the city's downtown.
Here's another view of Falls Road where it intersects with 36th Street. Falls Road is a major north south road in Baltimore City. There are some shops and businesses along Falls Road, but as you'll see shortly the majority of the action in Hampden will be on "The Avenue"
We head down 36th Street, which is Hampden's Main Street. We'll start on the western end of 36th Street and head east. Locals have nicknamed 36th Street "The Avenue"
Here's another view of the same block we were looking at previously. As you can see, Hampden is known for its arts scene and for its kitschy and funky sensibilities.
These seats in front of the Golden West Cafe are pretty interesting. When I took these pictures, it was still early, so there weren't too many folks out yet.
Most of the businesses in Hampden are independently owned. Old Bank Barbers is an independently owned barber shop that serves beer and plays alternative rock while you get your hair cut.
This is a view of 36th Street and Hickory Avenue.
On the opposite corner, is the Grace-Hampden Methodist Episcopal Church. It is a Romanesque Revival-style church constructed in the 1890s. Today, it no longer functions as a church but is instead home to offices, including several design and media firms.
This mural by Stefan Ways captures the Hampden style perfectly. Many of the folks who have moved to Hampden have celebrated the "Hon" culture of Baltimore that includes the 1960s-style beehive hairdo, eye shadow, spandex pants, and leopard print clothing. "Hon" is short for "honey," a term of endearment often used in Baltimorese. An annual HonFest is held in Hampden to celebrate the tradition.
Across the street are more restaurants, shops, and bars. West 36th Street was the commercial heart of Hampden back when Hampden was its own village and had not yet been incorporated into the city of Baltimore. The area was primarily a residential community for people who worked at the mills that were built along the Jones Falls.
The shops and restaurants along 36th Street are everything from trendy to funky. Hampden is known as a hipster neighborhood. Forbes ranked the area as the 15th most hipster neighborhood in America based on such factors as walkability, number of coffee shops per capita, assortment of food trucks, frequency of farmers markets, number of locally owned bars and restaurants, and percentage of residents who work in artistic occupations.
Across the street is an antique store selling some funky merchandise. On the left is a sign for acupuncture. On the right we see Mr. Boh. He's the famous mascot for National Bohemian beer "Natty Boh".
We go back across the street to see more independent shops, including this colorful Asian restaurant.
We bounce back to the other side of 36th Street again. We see Mr. Boh down in the corner. But what takes up most of the building is that giant pink flamingo. It's another famous Baltimore staple and hung high over Cafe Hon, a Baltimore eatery that's proud of the "Hon" lifestyle and, in fact, sponsors HonFest each year. I think that pink flamingo has a beehive hairdo.
As I said before, West 36th Street is nicknamed "The Avenue" and here you can see, it's official. Signs like these dot the area, letting you know you're in the heart of Hampden.
This is a view of 36th Street and Roland Avenue.
Hampden Hall was a former veteran's meeting hall built in 1882. Today it has been converted into apartments that overlook 36th Street below.
Across the street are more shops and businesses. Signs point to differents ways to get around the area and also how to park in the area. Hampden is also served by Baltimore's Central Light Rail with a stop at the Woodberry Station about a half mile to the west.
Across the street, just under the large Hampden Hall, are more independent retailers, including this one selling gifts and home goods.
We continue to make our way east along 36th Street. Here we see an art installation with a funky Mexican restaurant in the background.
This isn't exactly a style of architecture you normally see in Hampden, but that doesn't mean you can't fit an Italian restaurant inside the building.
Across the street is One Wellness Center, a collection of healing practioners, including a yoga studio and a massage center called Live.Well.Be.Well. I think those hands are trying to spell something out. It's more evidence of what makes Hampden so quirky.
We make it to the intersection of 36th Street and Elm Avenue. The building on the left was a G.C. Murphy five-and-dime store but eventually became and antiques store. At the time this photo was taken, the store was vacant. Next door, the Ideal Theatre was previously a cinema house but today is a dance studio.
Across the street is this interesting restaurant and charcuterie. Above, notice the formstone? This is a type of stucco applied to brick rowhomes and most associated with Baltimore. The rectangles were etched into the walls and tinted to give the appearance of individuals stone blocks.
Some shops occupy these rowhouses that face Elm Avenue at the corner of Elm and 36th Street.
We continue heading east along 36th Street. Here is a view heading back west in the direction we came from. Along this stretch, we see some more businesses, including independent retailers.
Without moving my position, I turn around and face and take another picture. Here we see some more shops, including a psychic. We even see one business that has a shop painted in a bright lavender color.
Across the street we see more businesses. These occupy some of the rowhouses that Baltimore is famous for, front porches and all. These rowhouses are painted in some eye-popping colors.
Continuing down the street we get a better view of the rowhomes in which we find these businesses.
This side of 36th Street has plenty of tree that provides a lot of shade in the spring and summer months.
Across the street, we see some more businesses decorated in a variety of floral arrangements.
As we head down the street, we see this colorful shop with its merchandise spilling out onto the sidewalk. There's a picture of John Waters in the window. Famous director and Baltimore native, one of his movies, Pecker was filmed and took place in the Hampden area.
We hop back across the street again as we head further east. Here's another view contrasting the styles along different sides of 36th Street.
Notice everyone has backed into their parking spots? It's a requirment in some parts of Hampden. Don't worry. It's easier than it looks since the spots are angled anyway.
On one side of the street, the businesses have a bit of a buffer with small strips of yards and front porches.
And on this side, businesses go right up to the sidewalk. There's more of that formstone we were talking about earlier on the front of Lynne's Gifts.
This house gives you an idea of how independent retailers move in and repaint the old houses, changing the drab colors to new more vibrant ones.
St. Luke's Evangelical Lutheran Church is located at the corner of 36th Street and Chestnut Avenue.
Across the street, also at the intersection of 36th Street and Chestnut, is this interesting collection of shops. Check out the ice scream scooper sign. And the mural facing Chestnut Street is pretty cool too.
In fact, the mural bleeds out onto the sidewalk. You can jump on the rocks to avoid getting wet.
And across Chestnut Street we have a row of shops fronting Chestnut. For the most part, Chestnut Street, is almost the eastern end of The Avenue. However, we'll find a few more shops down 36th. Also, there's a few more shops down Chestnut Street as well.
Here's another view of those shops along Chestnut Street.
Going further south on Chestnut Street we see this natural pet food store. Notice the cars do the back-in parking along Chestnut Street as well?
If we go back to 36th Street and turn right, we'll find a few more shops before we bring this tour to an end.
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