A new challenge for collectors of Baltimoreana

Written by on February 8, 2012 in Baltimore Voices - No comments

One of the great things about Baltimore residents is their sense of the past.

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Those who are involved in preservationist activities are a particular testament to this. Through them, it’s possible to learn a building’s original occupants, its role in the area’s development and exactly what changes have occurred since that time.

A few years ago, a local contractor working on some home renovations discovered a brick oven in the basement wall of a house. He got in touch with the Guide to see if anyone knew the name of the bakery. And they did. In fact, one of the Guide’s favorite contributors and local historians, Tom Bocek, played a huge role in helping uncover the long-forgotten story of a neighborhood bakery run by a German immigrant and his family.

It was a fun and interesting story, and a lot of readers loved it. It’s one of the reasons we love what we do here. So now, we have another challenge for our readers, and this time, Tom Bocek is bringing it.

Bocek is seeking an historic photo of the Canton Market for his collection. He can take an electronic image as long as it’s clear. If you have an original photo, the Guide would be glad to scan it for you and send it to Bocek. If you have a digital shot already, you can send it directly to Tom. Either way, it will be appreciated.

We will print the photo in The Guide and give you full credit for it, if you want, as a reward for your public service.

Bocek is looking for images of the market that occupied the area that is now home to the John O’Donnell Monument. The market extended from the Methodist church to the fire house. It was a wooden structure with vendor stalls that were open Thursdays through Saturdays. It was thriving in the 1930s and 40s, and then gradually fell into disrepair and was demolished.

When the request for photos originally appeared on the Guide’s Facebook page, a reader noted that he had a photo of the property when it held a business known as the Blue Top Diner. See why we love our readers? They’re our best source of living history. In fact, they can tell us all kinds of things.

That building there? It used to be a church and has since been converted into loft apartments. This condo here? A former Knights of Columbus Hall. That old Catholic school is now working as a new educational institution, and this former theater is an incubator for the arts. Even the old Bromo Seltzer Tower has been made into studio space. And so it goes.

But when pieces of our past go away, either through decay or though reconstruction, it presents a problem.

Oral history can only go so far because many times, the people who have that history are passing on or moving away.

We know, though, there are plenty of people with the long-term memory still around, so for those, we extend this challenge.

If you have a photo of the Canton Market, go ahead and get in touch with Tom Bocek. He can be reached at tpbocek@verizon.net and he’ll be glad for the extra history.

We all owe it to ourselves to help build up a great archive of memories and knowledge for the next generation. Let’s get to work.

by Mary Helen Sprecher

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