Johnston Square- An East Baltimore Neighborhood on the Rise

In the early 1800’s affluent city leaders located their country houses on the rising hills surrounding the port of Baltimore in currently day neighborhoods like Johnston Square.  Green Mount Cemetery (now located on Johnston Square’s northern border) was established in the 1830s as a rural oasis for the deceased and visiting. Mills and industries harnessed the power of the water along the Jones Falls Valley were developed in the early 1800s and followed by railroads, which transformed the valley into an industrial artery.  After the Civil War, the country estates were sold to developers  and modern day Johnston Square started to take shape. Like many Baltimore neighborhoods it was developed around a central elevated square (Johnston Square Park) with a larger 3-story townhouses lined the wider boulevards and smaller 2-story worked housing lining the alley ways and secondary streets. This created a very natural mixed-income community. The late 19 century also brought waves of immigrants settled to Johnston Square with the  Catholic Church playing a dominant role in supporting the community and its development

During the late 1940s rural African-Americans arrived in East Baltimore seeking work in the war-related industries and often replaced abandoned churches and homes by white families During the second half of the 20th Century like so many other urban African American neighborhoods, Johnston Square became a victim to discriminatory lending practices which resulted in disinvestment, concentrated poverty, population loss and abandonment. Fortunately momentum seems to be turning as the  neighborhood is embarking on an ambitious Johnston Square Vision Plan, supported by Rebuild Metro and the Baltimore Square Neighborhood Organization to rebuild the community as a Mixed-income and multi-racial neighborhood. Johnston Square is simply to well positioned between employment centers and major institutions and a high level of walkability and community character to remain disinvested. 

Click here to view my Johnston Square album on Flickr


* Sidewalk infrastructure is pretty consistent although some are neglected here there is widespread abandonment. Modern ADA curbs existing in 50% of curb cuts.
* Excellent public transit access.
* Decent bike infrastructure access with a pair of west-east bike lanes and lots of rentable scooters. Far fewer rental dockless bikes here.
* Great access to employment centers being 2 miles from Dwtn and less than 1 mile from John Hopkins Hospital and University. Access across all modes.
* Good racial diversity with about 40% of the population being non Black.
* Several dedicated affordable rentals have been built recently.
* Three solid medium sized parks including playground, basketball court, and outdoor pool amenities.
* Mix of worker and more regal late 19th century rowhouses. The fixed up rowhouses are very attractive here.


* Decent Urban Density.
* 40% of residents are living in poverty but increasing wealth is entering the neighborhood.
* Only St. Francis High School is located in the neighborhood. Several mixed-rated schools located north in Greenmount West. Schools to the east of Johnston Square are rated rather poorly.
* Some rentals but mostly 2 & 3 beds leasing anywhere in the1Ks. Rentals seem in good condition.
* For sale housing market is still pretty depressed with 2-beds selling around 100K. 3 & 4 beds sell btwn 50K-225K with renovated product being on the higher end.
* Cultural amenities are limited to a handful of restaurants & bars, a cafe, a cider house. Just across the highway from good amenities in Mt. Vernon and some good amenities in Greenmount West to the north.
* Retail amenities are limited to a only drug store, several convenience stores, a couple salons, several churches, and community clinic. Good retail amenities adjacent Mt. Vernon.
* Johnston Square has a long history of crime and blight issues but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel as the community embarks on an ambitious stabilization plan renovating nearly 1,000 units of housing.
* A couple recent residential in-fill projects that have been pretty well done. ^0s & 70s infill is a mixed bag. Some stuff is actually decent for the era.
* Not much urban form left on the historic biz district (Greenmount) and mix of cohesive, bombed out blocks, and urban renew residential blocks.