Federal Hill, Baltimore

Federal Hill is a neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland, United States that lies just to the south of the city's central business district.


The neighborhood is named for the prominent hill that is easily viewed from the Inner Harbor area, to which the neighborhood forms the physical south boundary. The hillside is a lush green and serves as a community park. The neighborhood occupies the northwestern part of a peninsula that extends along two branches of the Patapsco River—the Northwest Branch (ending at the Inner Harbor) and the Middle Branch. This peninsula is generally referred to as the South Baltimore Peninsula, and includes the neighborhoods of Federal Hill, Locust Point, Riverside,South Baltimore, and Sharp-Leadenhall. While not physically a part of the peninsula, Otterbein is also included in the collection of neighborhoods which make up greater South Baltimore. Traditionally, Federal Hill was roughly triangular, bordered by Hanover Street to the west; Hughes Street, the harbor, and Key Highway to the north and east; and The Rail Yard to the south.


The Cross Street Market, a recently-renovated historic marketplace built in the 19th century, continues to serve residents and is the primary social and commercial hub for the neighborhood. The primary business district is bounded by Montgomery, Ostend, Light, and Hanover Streets, and is home to a large number of restaurants of a wide range of taste, quality, and price, and many small shops as well as a few larger, more practical stores. The neighborhood is a popular destination for tavern goers and music lovers, with street festivals several times a year. These are organized through a very active neighborhood organization and business organization, as is the annual Shakespeare on the Hill series of summer performances in the park atop the actual Federal Hill. The neighborhood is also home to the American Visionary Art Museum and Maryland Science Center.

Significant and historic houses of worship include Christ Lutheran Church, Church of the Advent-Episcopal, Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church, Light Street Presbyterian Church, Lee Street Baptist Church, Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, and St. Mary's Star of the Sea Roman Catholic Church. Federal Hill is served by Federal Hill Elementary School, Francis Scott Key Elementary and Middle School, and Digital Harbor High School. The public library is the Light Street Branch of the famous Enoch Pratt Free Library.

Federal Hill is also home to many popular restaurants and bars. Some of the most popular include [http://www.dogpub.net The Dog Pub] (Formerly the Thirsty Dog Pub), Mother's, The Ropewalk, No Way Jose, Corks, Sobo, Matsuri, Blue Agave, Thai Arroy, Ten O Six, Regis, Juniors, Muggsy's and Porters.


Federal Hill is located conveniently to Interstate 95, Interstate 395, the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and Charles and Light Streets, which provide the major north-south surface route through Baltimore. The western portions of the neighborhood are within walking distance of the Hamburg Street and Camden Yards stops on the Baltimore Light Rail.

Early history

Early in the colonial period the area known as Federal Hill was the site of a paint pigment mining operation. The hill has several tunnels beneath its present parklike setting. On occasion a part of a tunnel will collapse causing the need to infill the area if the depression is near the surface of the edges of the hill.

From early in the history of the city, the hill was a public gathering place and civic treasure. The hill itself was given the name in 1789 after serving as the location for the end of a parade and a following civic celebration of the ratification of the new "Federal" constitution of the United States of America. For much of the early history of Baltimore, the hill was know as "Signal Hill" because it was home to a maritime observatory serving the merchant and shipping interests of the city by observing the sailing of ships up the Patapsco River and signalling their impending arrival to downtown businesspeople.

Following the Baltimore riot of 1861, the hill was occupied (against orders from Washington) in the middle of the night by Union troops under the command of General Benjamin F. Butler, who had entered the city stealthily from Annapolis via the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. During the night, Butler and his men erected a small fort, with cannon pointing towards the central business district. Their goal was to guarantee the allegiance of the city and the state of Maryland to the Federal Government under threat of force. This fort and the Union occupation persisted for the duration of the Civil War. A large flag, a few cannon, and a small Grand Army of the Republic monument remain to testify to this period of the hill's history.

Recent history: A study in gentrification

In the 20th century, Federal Hill was a working class neighborhood, and by the late 1970s was yet another struggling Baltimore inner-city neighborhood, with increasing crime, racial tension, depressed property values, and an aging and decaying housing stock. Many of the industrial jobs, particularly in the shipyards and factories along the south shore of the Patapsco River, which had long provided the main source of employment for neighborhood residents were in the process of disappearing. The Bethlehem Steel shipyards on the east side of the hill were one of the last to close, in the early 1980s. The nationally-recognized urban homesteading program in nearby Otterbein, begun in 1975, helped spur interest among individuals and businesses in rehabilitating homes in Federal Hill, and it soon became a hotbed of investment and rehabilitation, particularly by young professional baby boomers who had grown up in the suburbs but worked downtown and longed for the excitement and community of urban living.

The investment and growth throughout downtown and especially at the Inner Harbor through the 1980s and 1990s only increased the popularity of Federal Hill living over the decades following the initial reinvestment period. A second period of intense investment and rising property values began in the mid 1990s as the neighborhood was again "discovered" by a new generation of young professionals, which now included many of the children of the baby boomers. This second stage of neighborhood investment has included not just single-family home rehabilitation but increasingly large development projects on former industrial sites, particularly on the edges of the neighborhood around the water's edge. Within the core of the neighborhood itself, there has been an influx of new restaurants and shops. The city's population grew 0.6% in 2006 for the first time since the 1950s with much of the growth focused in Federal Hill. Streets that used to have vacant houses on every block have now been fully renovated, many families have moved into these houses because of their charm and character. Also new comers to the neighborhood or "yuppies" (young urban professionals) as they are called have been attracted to the lifestyle the neighborhood offers such as a strong sense of community, great food, a good location close to the harbor and I95, and plenty of dog friendly parks and open spaces. There is little that cant be found in Federal Hill compared to any other family friendly city neighborhood, but it generally comes at much more moderate price.


As of the censusGR|2 of 2000, there were 2,400 people residing in the neighborhood. The racial makeup of Federal Hill was 87.3% White, 9.0% African American, 0.2% Native American, 2.1% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.3% of the population. 55.6% of occupied housing units were owner-occupied. 8.8% of housing units were vacant.

75.9% of the population were employed, 1.4% were unemployed, and 22.7% were not in the labor force. The median household income was $62,466. About 1.0% of families and 7.0% of the population were below the poverty line.

21.8% of Federal Hill residents walked to work.


External links

* [http://federalhillonline.com Illustrated Walking Tour Interactive Map Official website for Friends of Federal Hill Park]
* [http://www.historicfederalhill.org Official site for Historic Federal Hill Main Street]
* [http://www.federalhillonline.com A description of Federal Hill Park with interactive walking tour map]
* [http://censusprofile.bnia.org/Federal%20Hill%20Demographic%20Profile.pdf Demographics from Neighborhood Indicators Alliance]
* [http://www.nps.gov/history/nr/travel/baltimore/index.htm Baltimore, Maryland, a National Park Service "Discover Our Shared Heritage" Travel Itinerary]

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