The neighborly art of stoop-sitting

Written by on September 12, 2012 in Featured, Neighborhood News - No comments

It's called stoop-sitting, but that doesn't mean that all the action happens on the stoop. Here, Sue Colley and Mark Supik get to know their Butchers Hill neighbors in front of Todd and Meg LaPointe's home on E. Baltimore St. Photo by Erik Zygmont

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“We’re the friendliest neighborhood in Baltimore,” said Butchers Hill resident Todd LaPointe, inviting a neighbor to have a beer or glass of wine on his front stoop on E. Baltimore St.

“We figure if we say that enough, it will be true,” he added, as his wife, Meg, ducked inside to get another bottle of wine.

At the Butchers Hill Association’s “stoop-sitting” last week, it seemed that the neighborhood lived up to the claim.  Along with the LaPointes, two other neighborhood residents, Trish White on E. Lombard St. and Sandy Sales on S. Collington Ave., awaited their neighbors with snacks and beverages. Although “stoop-sitting” literally refers to sitting on a front stoop, a popular Charm City pastime, there were simply too many  people to cram onto three steps and a four-foot square platform.  People milled on the sidewalk, often moving from the LaPointe residence to the White residence to the Sales residence. Conversation ranged from photography to Baltimore history to Lyme Disease.

“We are a neighborhood that believes in having seven meetings, and five parties, per year,” said Sales, fetching a beer for one of her guests.

The Butchers Hill Association meets monthly, but two of those monthly meetings are replaced with stoop-sittings.

“For some reason, we get a lot more people out for refreshments and drinks than for regular business, but that’s okay,” said Heather Gorius, the current president of the Butchers Hill Association.

She moved to Butchers Hill five years ago after first looking in Federal Hill.

“It seemed the housing stock over here was more varied and more affordable,” she said. “And it wasn’t so much a party place—it was centered on community.”

The community-centric aspect of Butchers Hill has attracted other residents, too.

Retiree Tom Crandall took the unusual step of moving into the city at the end of his working days.

“I liked this particular neighborhood,” he said, “rather than moving into a retirement community.”

Dr. Remington Nevin, an epidemiologist studying and researching at Johns Hopkins, admitted that his initial impressions of Baltimore City were not good.

“I thought, ‘Why would anyone want to live here,’” he said.

Nevin changed his tune after moving in with some other young doctors near Patterson Park.

“I discovered a whole different lifestyle, based on community—knowing each other and looking out for each other,” he said, likening the mindset to something he saw in his travels in small, close-knit, African villages.

Nevin is now an active participant in Butchers Hill activities, from the October house tour to last week’s stoop-sitting.

“You know, it’s a scientific fact that your happiness is directly proportional to how well you know and trust your neighbors,” Nevin said.

And according to Todd LaPointe, neighbors are neighbors, especially in a mixed area like Butchers Hill.

“Some of your neighbors may be living in subsidized housing, and some may be living in a gentrified, half-million-dollar home,” he said. “There’s no big gap there. People are people.”

by Erik Zygmont

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