Reservoir Hill, part of a community formerly known as Mount Royal, was developed as an upscale residential community in the last three decades of the 19th century. Early homeowners included wealthy merchants and industrialists such as the Blausteins, Hechts, and Hamburgers. Famed writer Gertrude Stein lived there at the turn of the century.
With the invention of the car, wealthier homeowners moved away from the growing city, and a streetcar line extended to Mount Royal facilitated an increase in population. World War I brought even more housing pressures as wartime workers poured into the shipyards. The neighborhood became less affluent but remained stable as working class families, Jewish and non-Jewish began to settle there. Still, through the 1930s, the community remained a predominantly middle-class Jewish community peppered with synagogues, delis, schools, and shops.
Even with the renewed housing pressures of World War II, and through the giddy post-war 1950s, Mount Royal remained a family, residential neighborhood, but the shocks of social upheaval of the 1960s brought about the neighborhood’s lowest point. Slowly, during the 1940s, the Jewish population began to leave, replaced by working class whites, a departure that picked up speed in the 1950s and 1960s, eventually leading to a predominately African-American community. The panicked flight of neighbors during the 1960s left the way open for massive purchases by irresponsible landlords who allowed the houses to deteriorate.
In the mid 1970s, Baltimore’s innovative “Urban Pioneer” program brought new residents to the area. These new homeowners worked with long-time residents to address some of Reservoir Hill’s biggest challenges. In 1972, the neighborhood became an urban renewal area, and city officials changed its name to Reservoir Hill.
Reservoir Hill residents developed a comprehensive revitalization plan in 1996, and a follow-up to that plan in 2002. In cooperation with Baltimore City and a host of partners, Reservoir Hill residents and staff have implemented numerous key components of the plans, which call for major investments in both physical infrastructure and human capital. The vision of Reservoir Hill is a vibrant, mixed-income community where empowered residents work together to solve problems common to the community.