Ridgely’s Delight: Exploring Baltimore’s neighborhoods

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For Bill and Sharon Reuter, buying a house in Ridgely’s Delight 25 years ago was a relatively easy decision. The graphic designers, who were transferred to Baltimore from Connecticut, wanted a home downtown where they could get “more bang for your buck.” In the historic neighborhood where Babe Ruth was born, the Reuters found just what they were looking for. And then came a surprise.

Ridgely’s Delight

» Border streets: W. Pratt St./Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd./Russell St.
» Neighboring areas: Pigtown, University of Maryland, Barre Circle, Downtown West and the stadiums
» Latest Ridgely’s Delight news

“We went to our first community meeting and they talked about this possible baseball stadium at Camden Yards,” Bill recalled. “We went home and said, ‘Where’s Camden Yards? … Sounds awful close.’”

Residents of the neighborhood expressed concern about the noise and traffic implications a ballpark would have on their cozy little neighborhood. “Naturally, those of us in Ridgely’s Delight are not too crazy about having a stadium here,” Charles E. Horne, the neighborhood association president, told The Baltimore Sun in an Aug. 26, 1985 article.

The Reuters, however, took a more optimistic stance and embraced the coming change.

“Oh God, it’s really exciting!” Sharon said in a Sun story on March 25, 1992. “You almost can’t help but get excited about it. It’s a beautiful stadium, and it’s right at the end of the block.”

Camden Yards turned out to be “the best thing for the neighborhood,” Bill said, and ever since the Reuters have been among the most vocal supporters of Ridgely’s Delight, an area steeped in history but very much a part of Baltimore City’s downtown renaissance.

A walking tour through the neighborhood begins at Sidewalk Espresso Bar on Washington Boulevard and continues down the street to Rachael’s Dowry Bed and Breakfast, one of the oldest houses in the neighborhood. Washington Boulevard was once part of the roadway from D.C. to Philadelphia, and the houses on the street and throughout Ridgely’s Delight reflect the history of a neighborhood that boomed during the mid-1800s.

“I had heard rumors that George Washington recovered from a broken leg in [the house that is now the bed and breakfast], and I thought, ‘That can’t be true,’” Bill said. “We were in the library and we found an 1890-something guide to South Baltimore, and it showed a picture of this house, and it said, ‘You would never know by the modern renovations that in this house, dated to 1801, George Washington recovered from a broken leg.’ It may just be a rumor, but it’s a rumor that is well over 100 years old.”

As with many other city neighborhoods, Ridgely’s Delight flourished for decades before falling into urban decay. The area began making a comeback in the 1970s and ‘80s. Ridgely’s Delight was zoned as a residential area, though buildings that already were commercial were allowed to stay commercial. Houses were seized through eminent domain, Martin Luther King Boulevard was created, and development continued.

Today the neighborhood has something for everyone. There are neighborhood bars and restaurants (Quigley’s Half-Irish Pub, Corner Bistro & Wine Bar, Pickles, Sliders, Camden Pub), a dog park, a playground (good for the many families now choosing to stay in Ridgely’s Delight rather than move to the suburbs), proximity to 295 for commuters, and a short walk to University of Maryland-Baltimore for graduate students.

“It’s like an onion with lots of layers,” Bill said. “I would say it is” a tight-knit community.

“It is social, but there are different interactions,” Sharon added. “Near the university there are students. It’s almost like parallel universes. They’re there, and they do turn over, then there are others who own houses and have been here years.”

The neighborhood association hosts a monthly happy hour, and about 25 or so people have a block of tickets together at Orioles games. The ballpark that was supposedly going to ruin Ridgely’s Delight has only served to galvanize residents of this hidden gem of a neighborhood.

“You know, it was just the fear of the unknown,” Sharon said. “But none of [the concerns] happened. It’s really been great.”

This is part of an ongoing series from The Baltimore Sun about the history, culture, and future of Baltimore’s neighborhoods. Have a suggestion for what neighborhood to explore next? Let us know.