In order to understand the scope of the damage caused in Baltimore by the riots of 1968, UB has developed a driving tour of many of the affected areas. This self-directed tour is fairly comprehensive, but is limited mostly to business districts where the destruction was most concentrated. Keep in mind that the streetscape of the city has changed significantly in that time. But many scars of the episode—leveled, vacant lots, abandoned structures, whole neighborhoods with their natural centers left neglected or gutted by poorly planned developments—remain.
Following these driving instructions, you can learn more about how the historic civil disturbances of 40 years ago changed the face of Baltimore.
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The tour begins on Maryland Avenue near the University. Head south on Maryland Avenue. Turn right on Chase Street. Continue to drive straight on to Martin Luther King Boulevard.
1. Stay on Martin Luther King Boulevard for about a half mile, then turn right on Pennsylvania Avenue heading north. Rioting occurred from the 1200 to the 2000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. Buildings were set ablaze in the 2700 block. This area was one of the hardest hit during the riots.
2. Proceed on Pennsylvania Avenue for about 1.1 miles and then turn left onto W. North Avenue and look for the 700-2100 blocks. Fires were recorded at a surplus store in the 900 block of W. North Avenue along with three other buildings. Looting and fires occurred at various points along W. North Avenue.
3. From the 1800 block of W. North Avenue, turn left onto Monroe Street. Travel south on Monroe Street approximately 1.1 miles, then turn right onto Edmondson Avenue, heading west toward the Edmondson Village Shopping Center. Look for the 1800-4500 blocks. Many clothing stores in the 2500 block were looted. A black-owned sandwich shop in the 3500 block was looted. There were reports of sniper fire in the 4000 block of Edmondson Avenue. The Edmondson Village Shopping Center, opened in 1947, was the first planned suburban shopping center in Baltimore. The large building in the center was a Hochschild Kohn. There was heavy looting of the shopping center, and at least three stores had windows broken. There was a Hecht Co. across the street.
4. Just past the shopping center make a u-turn at Swann Avenue and head east on Edmondson Avenue. Travel approximately 2.5 miles back to Monroe Street and turn right. You will now be heading south.
5. Travel about four tenths of a mile and make a left onto Baltimore Street. Cars were pelted by rocks at Monroe and Baltimore streets. Drive east on Baltimore Street, heading toward the 800-1400 blocks. Looting occurred from the 900 to the 1200 block and numerous arrests were made.
6. After traveling approximately 2.1 miles, go right on President Street, adjacent to the Reginald Lewis Museum.
7. Travel about .2 miles and then turn left on Pratt Street.
8. Go about .2 and then turn left on Central Avenue.
9. Go left on E. Lombard Street, heading west toward the 1000-1100 blocks. There was at least one incident of gunfire from the former Flag House Courts housing project. Also, sniper fire was reported at Lombard and Lloyd streets. Smelkinsons Dairy, in the 1000 block of E. Lombard, was set on fire. Fires also threatened the Jewish delicatessen district. Continue past Lloyd Street (the Jewish Museum on the right at the corner of Lloyd Street and Lombard Street).
10. Turn right on President Street.
11. Go about .2 miles and turn left on Fayette Street.
12. Travel only about a tenth of a mile, then turn right onto Gay Street heading toward the 400-1400 blocks. This was one of the most heavily hit areas during the unrest. Some of these blocks simply no longer exist. The street used to go straight through, but due to some post-riot development it's now a bifurcated route. There were numerous reports of incidents during the riots: disorderly mobs, looting, rock throwing, window smashing, fires. At one point the city police sealed off the 400-600 blocks of Gay. In 1975, the Old Town Mall opened on Gay, and the street was closed off to vehicular traffic at this point.
13. Go about .4 miles and then bear right on Ensor Street.
14. Immediately turn right on Monument Street, looking for the 1700-2300 blocks. Many stores were looted along these blocks.
15. Travel about 1.2 miles, then turn left on N. Milton Avenue. The 1400 block of N. Milton was the site of an A&P food store, which was looted and burned along with three other stores.
16. Go about .7 miles, then turn left on Federal Street. There was a major fire in the 1600 block of N. Milton Avenue at Federal Street.
17. Go about .3 miles and then make a sharp right on Gay Street, heading toward the 400-1400 blocks. Violence and looting extended the entire length of Gay. Many merchants boarded up their stores and armed themselves with rifles. The disorder extended west to Guilford Avenue and north along Greenmount Avenue, then block by block along Gay to the vicinity of Clifton Park. The American Brewery was looted and burned. Today, the brewery complex is scheduled to become the home of a nonprofit organization after renovations.
18. Travel about .3 miles and go left on E. North Avenue, past the Great Blacks in Wax Museum, which is on the left.
19. Then go right on Harford Road; you will be heading north. The courthouse on the right was a Sears department store complex in 1968. It had a massive three-story glass window that was shattered during the riots. Attempts were made to loot the store. Pay particular attention to the 2600 block, where damage was heavy.
20. Make a u-turn at The Alameda, heading south back down Harford Road.
21. Go right on 25th Street.
22. Travel about .7 miles and then turn left on Greenmount Avenue, past St. Anne's Catholic Church. Look for the 1800-1900 and 2000-2200 blocks of this street. Dozens of stores were looted and set on fire. There was a fire at 21st and Greenmount Avenue.
23. Go right on E. North Avenue; you will be heading east. Just past Charles Street, E. North Avenue becomes W. North Avenue. The McDonald's on the left, at 15 W. North Avenue, opened in the wake of the riots. It is said to be the first black-owned franchise in the chain.
24. Go left on Park Avenue.
25. Go right on McMechen Street, heading toward the Bolton Hill Shopping Center. According to published reports in The (Baltimore) Sun, the shopping center was "ransacked."
26. Go left on Eutaw Street.
27. Go left on Lafayette Avenue.
28. Go right on Mount Royal Avenue. You are heading back to the beginning of the tour.
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