On location at Clipper Mill

When I lived on Keswick Road, in Baltimore City in the mid 2000's, just about every area worth anything in Baltimore City was being gentrified. Canton, Fells Point, Federal Hill, Locust Point, Hampden, Washington Villiage, YOU NAME IT - all being bought up for a song and re-developed.  Woodberry, adjacent to Hampden and near the Jones Falls/I-83 was no different. Only Woodberry had quite a storied past, with much of its history tied in with the history of mills in general in the area.  Most of its 'stock' consisted of small modest homes inhabited by the mill workers and everything else mill space and warehouses. 

Woodberry began as a small mill town, with its first flour mill created in 1802 to process grain grown in Frederick County for export. In 1804, the Falls turnpike followed an old Indian trail out of Baltimore City to the area, and this road spurred development in the area. Woodberry at this time was part of Baltimore County and did not become part of Baltimore City until its annexation in 1888.

In 1820 the Baltimore area was a world center for flour milling, but by the 1830s most of the flour mills had been converted to cotton mills. The Poole and Hunt Foundry (which created the cast iron columns for the domed roof of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C.) and the North Central Railroad came to Woodberry in the 1850s. By the time of the Civil War, there were four cotton mills in the Hampden-Woodberry area. These operations were small; by the 1860s, only about 500 employees worked in these mills.

During the 1870s, Woodberry's Mill was expanded, and Meadow mill was built by William Hooper and Sons. The mill workforce grew dramatically from 616 to 2,931 workers in this decade. People from Pennsylvania, northern Baltimore County, and Carroll County learned of the jobs in the area, and came into the area by train. Almost everyone in the area worked in these mills; sometimes entire families, including children, worked 12-hour days. The mill owners played a patriarchal role in the worker's life by building churches, houses, schools, libraries, and savings and loan associations for their workers. These were not just for the workers benefit; they helped keep workers at the mills. Woodberry even had its own paper, the Woodberry News, published by Frank Morling.

The area was annexed to Baltimore City amidst worker's protests in 1888. This gave the powerful mill owners the ability to become politically active. Two notable residents of Woodberry are Alcaeus Hooper and Clay Timanus. Hooper became mayor of Baltimore in 1895; Timanus was elected mayor a few years later. By 1900, the mills in Woodberry were one of the largest workplaces in the entire country.

The period spanning 1870 until around 1923 was the heyday of Hampden-Woodberry (they were more closely associated during this time, with the Mill area their common ground) as a cotton mill area. Unfortunately, demand for cotton duck fell dramatically after World War I, and by 1925, Mount Vernon Mill sold three of its mills and moved to Tallahassee, Florida, and Greenville, South Carolina, where costs were lower. The last mill in the Hampden and Woodberry neighborhoods closed in 1972.

Fast forward to late 2007. All the hype was about Spike and Amy Gjerde's new soon-to-be-opening restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen,  one of the first tenants of the newly renovated Clipper Mill complex, located across the Jones Falls in Woodberry.  There was so much buzz about Woodberry Kitchen, and in turn, the project over at Clipper Mill.  We heard it would include green housing, renovated warehouse space, restaurants, a glass blowing studio, a fabulous pool, and retail. 

Today, Clipper Mill is a fabulous development built from a "green" perspective, possessing undeniable charm and character. Unique and creative shopping and phenominal dining, cultural attractions and public transportation and an architecturally stunning pool. Did I mention the incredible warehouses?

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