Federal Hill


About Federal Hill, Baltimore City
Federal Hill is a neighborhood primarily of brick, late 19th Century homes. Many (but not all) have been rehabbed into modern residences in the past 15-20 years. Rehabbing continues, and some homes are still available at bargain prices for those interested in investing sweat capital. There are also some apartment houses and a few old residences divided into apartments. 

Federal Hill is a cohesive, inclusive neighborhood with a strong community sense which works hard to preserve its individuality.  The neighborhood is a federal historic district, and the northern portion has strict preservation and urban renewal requirements.  There are still many residents who are second and third generation South Baltimoreans who are equally proud of their heritage.  Most homes are owner-occupied, but there is a good supply of rental housing as well.

West Federal Hill refers to the area below Cross Street and west of Hanover, while Federal Hill generally designates the area bounded by Key Highway and Cross. Both areas have their own neighborhood associations which are very active in the community. 



Neighborhood Map


Neighborhood Photos



History of Federal Hill, Baltimore City
Federal Hill was discovered by Captain John Smith in 1608 on his first exploration of the Chesapeake Bay. It earned its name in 1788, when thousands of Baltimoreans marched from Fells Point to the hill in celebration of the Maryland General Assembly's ratification of the Constitution. (Residents of the neighborhood reenacted the parade 200 years later.) Subsequently it was the scene of other civic celebrations. 

Shortly after Independence, an observatory was erected on the hill so merchants could get advance warning of the arrival of their vessels. The hill gained notoriety during the Civil War. Federal troops occupied the hill and trained their cannon on the city, whose loyalty to the North was in some doubt. 

The city government acquired the hill in 1875 and made it a park. The marine observatory was discontinued in 1899. For much of the 19th century the Federal Hill shore shared with Fells Point the city's thriving shipping trade and related industries. Federal Hill itself was mined for sand for a nearby glassworks, leaving behind some caverns which exist to this day and are a favorite subject of legends. 

Modern Federal Hill was born around 1960, when a few hardy pioneers bought and began renovating homes in what had become a dowdy neighborhood. But the existence of the neighborhood was threatened in the mid-60's by a plan to plow through it with an interstate highway, part of a complex of connecting freeways that would have demolished the Inner Harbor and Fells Point. The residents rebelled, joined hands across the harbor, and eventually defeated the plan. 

The rebuilding of the Inner Harbor area in the late 70s and early 80s greatly increased interest in Federal Hill as an enclave of intimate residential streets within minutes of the city's business and entertainment heart.