A Baltimore City Council committee Tuesday unanimously approved the effort to designate Engine House 14 and the Reed Calloway House as historical landmarks.

The vote by the Economic and Community Development committee would help protect the properties and make them eligible for tax incentives. The bills will move to a second reading at the next council meeting, one step closer to the mayor’s desk.

The more than 130-year-old firehouse in Boyd-Booth is the oldest in Baltimore and on Jan. 11, the city’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation voted unanimously for it to become a historical landmark. The plan is to spend millions of dollars in state funding for renovations. The bill to preserve Engine House 14 in West Baltimore was introduced last August.

Built in 1888, the firehouse is “likely the second-longest operating firehouse in the state of Maryland,” said Lauren Schiszik, the writer of the landmark designation report for CHAP.

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Dominic Fiaschetti, former captain of the station, testified Tuesday to show his support in preserving the station.

“There has been nothing in this area that has remained except for the station and Bon Secours Hospital around the corner,” Fiasechetti said. “So I would like to make sure that everybody understands that this is really really a good thing for the community because it remains something that is a constant.”

The Reed Calloway House in Baltimore City, one of the childhood homes of Cab Calloway.
The Economic and Community Development committee of the City Council held a hearing on legislation for historic designation for two Baltimore City Landmarks. The hearing addressed one of the childhood homes of Cab Calloway, the Reed Calloway House, as well as the Engine 14 firehouse. (Kaitlin Newman)

The bill to preserve the Reed Calloway House was first introduced in September. Councilmember James Torrence reintroduced the bill and said that the area the house is located in has much more historic relevance than simply being the location of Calloway’s house.

Numerous elected officials lived there, such as Harry S. Cummings, the first African American councilman of Baltimore, as well as Billie Holiday and Juanita Jackson Mitchell. And a portion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was written in the area.

“This is us honoring Black history,” Torrence said.

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Located at 1316 North Carey St. in Sandtown-Winchester, and constructed between 1871 and 1881, the Reed Calloway House was the home of jazz legend Cab Calloway’s grandmother, Annie Reed. The Calloway and Reed families were musically skilled, and much of Calloway’s talent is credited to his grandmother, according to a CHAP report from August 2020.

Calloway was 7 when his father died, and after his death, Calloway, his mother and three siblings moved into his grandmother’s home, known as the Reed Calloway House.

In his autobiography, Calloway wrote about his time at his grandmother’s: “[W]hen we moved to my grandmother Reed’s home, everything changed. The atmosphere there was loose and open and free. … We would spend the evenings sitting and talking and reading and eating. There was laughter and the house was filled with noises and good smells.

“One of the nice things about my grandmother Reed’s house was that there were other young people there. My mother’s two brothers, Uncle Andrew and Uncle Milton, were still living at home, and it was lots of fun for us kids. They would joke and play with us, and often they took us places.”

The preservation of the Reed home is seen as a victory after Calloway’s childhood home on the 2200 block of Druid Hill Avenue in Druid Heights was demolished in September 2020 after a lengthy effort to preserve it.

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For a building to be considered on the city’s landmark list, it must meet four criteria:

At the end of the hearing, Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton said she was proud of the outcome.

“As we all know, African Americans have lost a lot of their history and if it’s one, two, three, four homes — I think they all should be recognized,” Middleton said. “It was something that was taken away because of slavery and lots of other things. So, I think we’re on the right track to continuing preserving and making history with that.”

abby.zimmardi@thebaltimorebanner.com

Abby Zimmardi is the 2023 investigative reporting fellow for The Baltimore Banner. Zimmardi earned her master’s degree from the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism in December 2022. 

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