As a former Baltimore City arts teacher, I love seeing the Baltimore arts community find the space needed to grow and thrive.
The Open Works site was first occupied in the 1890s with residences and stables. At the time, the Jones Falls was an open river, and Belvidere Avenue continued south over a bridge to downtown. By 1914, the river was partially buried and railroad tracks required the removal of the Belvidere bridge and the construction of a new bridge at Greenmount Avenue. In 1920, existing buildings were razed and replaced by the current reinforced concrete structure, used as a distribution warehouse for the Railway Express Agency. The cemetery retained ownership of the northern half of the site for equipment storage. Over the next 80 years, the property was used as a Venetian blind warehouse, an ice cream factory, a food bank and thrift store.
Open Works sits in the heart of one of Baltimore’s original manufacturing districts, a stone’s throw from the old Crown Cork and Seal complex and the former Lebow Brothers Clothing factory. The Greenmount West neighborhood is also home to several other artist communities with live/work space, including the Copycat Annex (previously occupied by the Oriole Shoe Company), City Arts (previously occupied by the Lord Baltimore Printing Company), and the Cork Factory, and the Area 405 studios and event space. The Baltimore Design School, a public middle-high school that focuses on design, is also located in the neighborhood.
In 2012, the board of the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation formed the Baltimore Arts Realty Corporation (BARCO), a non-profit development company with a mission to create safe, affordable, and accessible space for Baltimore’s creatives. In 2013, BARCO purchased 1400 Greenmount Avenue with the idea of pursuing the development of Open Works.