Baltimore, Maryland -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Baltimore, Maryland


President Carter will work on this home during the 2010 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project. The row houses are about 11 feet wide, and with construction equipment it’s a tight fit for volunteers. Only 10 workers per row house is the rule to ensure safety and quality work.

©Habitat for Humanity/Steffan Hacker



Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake

About 150 per day, Tuesday through Saturday


Rehabbing 10 early 20th century row houses.

About the build site

About five blocks from Johns Hopkins Hospital, the late afternoon sun along Jefferson Street in Baltimore, Maryland, is hot and sticky even in late September. A few fledgling trees planted in the uneven concrete sidewalk offer only the hope of shade in years to come.

Hope is still a new resident on Jefferson Street, set in this urban landscape of block after block of row houses, many long abandoned by middle-class and working families moving out to the suburbs.

Johns Hopkins is a hugely successful medical institution with the best hospital in the country and groundbreaking medical research. It’s also the largest employer in Baltimore, with 30,000 employees in satellite outpatient centers and other hospitals. But like many large institutions, it historically had an uneasy relationship with less affluent neighbors who watched homes disappear for parking lots and growth over time. Meanwhile, growing dangers of crime and poverty in the neighborhood fed unease in the working environment for the often highly trained and brilliant medical staff.

But that’s history. Baltimore is changing.

A soon-to-be Habitat homeowner on Jefferson, Deborah Brown said she “sees a lot of potential” in her “new” old neighborhood and acknowledges both the area’s history and progress. “Folks who grew up in the neighborhood come back and see change,” she said.

Habitat and transformation

Johns Hopkins is completing a redevelopment of the hospital, investing its future and $994 million in East Baltimore. The city government launched a biotech project in East Baltimore, an active community development group, and grants to help homeowners with down payments as incentives through its Live Near Your Work and Trolley Tour programs.

And Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake started building on Jefferson Street. A special build in 2008 brought top leaders from Johns Hopkins to Habitat’s ongoing project, which hopes someday to transform 50 row houses into affordable housing. The work is similar, if not exact, for each row house; most are gutted with the façades remaining; masonry is repaired; the interior is almost all new construction. The space is tight; only 10 volunteers can work in the 11- to 12-foot-wide space. The homes are two stories with an unfinished basement and back patio, bedrooms upstairs, a kitchen and a living room. Most are two bedrooms, but end houses may offer three or four bedrooms.

Nine houses inspire others

Habitat has rehabbed nine houses already on the street. Those houses are easy to locate because of their shining front façades and small brass lanterns and house numbers.

That work has brought confidence to other would-be homeowners and property developers. Trace the electric cord out through the front door of a Habitat home in the 2200 block to the renovation going on next door, and you find a private rehab well under way with a little neighborly boost from a Habitat homeowner.

“That wasn’t happening before we came,” Chesapeake’s Chris Covey explained. Covey and Marty Zickgraf are site supervisors for construction, getting the 10 houses ready for the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

Walk down the street, and a neighbor on a stoop calls out, “Are you Habitat? I know you’re Habitat,” as he laughs at the confirmation to his suspicion and waves.

The 10 houses in the project are in different stages of rehab, so volunteers will have a variety of tasks. The site supervisors hope Jimmy Carter will help hang a new front door for a very special homeowner. The Carter Work Project means more addresses where hope can grow in East Baltimore.

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