Knocking on doors throughout Southeast Baltimore in 2004, City Council candidate Jim Kraft periodically encountered a certain phenomenon.
“A lot of older women would come to the door,” explained Johns Hopkins of Baltimore Heritage. “Before the good candidate could get a word in, they would say, “I WAS BORN IN THIS HOUSE AND MY MOTHER WAS BORN IN THIS HOUSE!”
Thus was born the Centennial Homes project, a collaboration between Baltimore Heritage and First District Councilman Kraft, which honors residents living in the homes in which their families have lived for 100 or more years.
“These families have anchored Baltimore’s historic blocks and neighborhoods through good times and bad,” explains Baltimore Heritage’s Web site, www.baltimoreheritage.org.
The latest honoree is Canton resident Roland Moskal, who has spent his childhood and adulthood at 3408 Fait Ave. Readers of the Guide know Moskal from his popular “Growing Up in Canton” series, in which he recounts schoolyard injuries, bus pilgrimmages to the swimming pool, The Avenue (Eastern Ave., of course), and more.
What they may not know from Moskal’s nostalgic articles is that he sang in a rock band for years and has a female cat named Bo, after Hank Williams Jr.’s nickname, Bocephus.
“It was a free cat,” explained Moskal, adding that veterinary bills, however, are no picnic. “Two days later, it was a $668 cat.”
First, 3408 Fait Ave.: Lisa Doyle of Baltimore Heritage has written a comprehensive history of the home and its occupants at www.baltimoreheritage.org. Moskal’s maternal grandmother, Maggie Williams, bought the newly-constructed home in 1904. She met a divorced man, Michael John Kafer, soon after, and the couple had two daughters, Edna Ruby Louise Kafer in 1910 and Doris May Kafer in 1921.
Edna was Moskal’s Aunt; Doris was his mother.
“There was a deal struck years ago,” said Moskal. “They [sisters Edna Ruby Louise and Doris May] each said they would name a child after the other.”
Edna Kafer married Roland Fisher, and the couple had their only child, a daughter, in 1934. They kept up their end of the bargain, naming her Doris for her then-13-year-old aunt.
Twelve years later, Doris May—the aunt and Moskal’s mother—married a man named Joseph John Moskal. Since the couple had two boys, Doris May couldn’t exactly fulfill her obligation to her sister unless she was willing to name one of her boys Edna. Instead, she named her second son Roland, for Edna’s husband.
At its most crowded, 3408 Fait Ave., a two-story rowhouse, had both the Fisher family and the Moskal family living under the same roof—the Moskals upstairs and the Fishers downstairs.
Moskal noted that his Canton neighborhood has, over the decades, seen great change, for better or worse.
“This isn’t really a community neighborhood anymore,” he said.
Doyle’s piece on Roland’s family notes that in his grandmother’s time, “All the families on this block created such close ties to each other that they lived like an extended family for the many years to follow.”
“People aren’t raising kids in these houses,” Moskal said. “You don’t even hear church bells anymore.”
Moskal also noted that his house, when built, was outside the city line and in Baltimore County.
While currently adorned with Fieldstone, a faux masonry similar to Formstone, 3408 Fait Ave. has seen a variety of notable facades over the years. Moskal said that during his childhood, all the homes on his block were painted red, and then white lines were added to simulate the appearance of brick.
His was one of the last homes on the block to get a Formstone-like facade.
“We always took a picture in front of next door, because they had formstone,” Moskal joked.
After 36 years teaching in Baltimore City public schools—Southern, Carver, and Southwestern High Schools—Moskal, 65, now works as a concierge at the Inner Harbor’s Ritz Carlton Residences.
He lives at 3408 Fait with a cousin. His brother, Arthur Moskal, is retired in Rehobath Beach, Del.
At a Centennial Homes ceremony a couple weeks ago, Kraft noted that of the nine Centennial Homes in the city, seven are in the Southeast.
“I bet there are a lot more,” mused Moskal.
by Erik Zygmont