Tag Archives: historic preservation

Small Streets Around the World: Québec City, Canada

Because small streets are the hallmark of places designed around people who travel by foot, in nearly every country, if you go to the centers of the oldest cities and towns, you will find a core of small streets.

Eight years ago in Québec City, I experienced a car-free place of small streets for the first time. Also having French-Canadian ancestry, the place holds a special place in my heart. J.H. Crawford, author of Carfree Cities, produced this beautiful video of Petit Champlain, the car-free district in Québec City. He writes,

North America has exactly one decent example of a carfree district: Petit Champlain in Quebec City’s Lower Town. This is the oldest urban area on the continent and provides an example of just how pleasant it is to spend time in places without cars. It’s also a model for a more sustainable world. Spend five minutes finding out what it is, how it works, and why it’s a model for the future.

The Piscataquis Village Project, located a four-hour drive from Québec City in Central Maine, is largely based on this model of placemaking. Learn more at piscataquisvillage.org.

The Fell’s Point Small Street Renaming Project

Poppleton Map 1822Once upon a time, the people of Fell’s Point knew the small street between Caroline and Bond Streets as Strawberry Alley. Since then, it has been renamed to Dallas Street. I think we can all agree that the new name is much less fun.

The area of Fell’s Point was founded in 1730 by William Fell, and during the 18th century it became a center for shipbuilding and trading on an excellent deep water harbor. In 1763, William’s son Edward Fell laid out streets and sold plots of land for homes. Families built rowhouses along streets both narrow and wide. The area prospered on tobacco, flour, and coffee trades. In 1797, Fell’s Point merged with Baltimore Town and Jones Town. The City of Baltimore was born.

Just before the war of 1812, Thomas Poppleton was asked by the City of Baltimore to create a plan for the fast-growing City of Baltimore. In 1823, the plan was finally published. His original map remains a treasure for historians to imagine the grand ambitions of the city in the early 19th century. We at Small Streets love the map because it maps every small street both existing and planned for the city, along with all of the buildings that stood on those streets at the time.

Fell's Point Poppleton

A resident of Fell’s Point today might look at the map and feel a little confused. Nearly all of the names of the neighborhood’s small streets have changed. In 1822, the names of the small streets east to west were as follows:

  • Spring Alley
  • Strawberry Alley
  • Apple Alley
  • Argyle Alley
  • Happy Alley
  • Star Alley
  • Castle Alley
  • Duneau Alley
  • Madeira Alley

In 2012, only Spring, Castle, and Madeira Streets retain their original names. The names of all the small streets today are as follows:

  • Spring Street
  • Dallas Street
  • Bethel Street
  • Regester Street
  • Durham Street
  • Chapel Street
  • Castle Street
  • Duncan Street
  • Madeira Street

At Small Streets, we prefer the original names, but at this point in time, we can’t afford to buy all new street signs, and we’re not ready to petition the City to do so either. But how about Google Maps? That’s free. Try making a search for “Strawberry Alley, Baltimore”.

Strawberry Alley

Yup, that’s right. We proposed to add all of the historical names in Google Maps, and they were all approved. Now if you want to find directions to Happy Alley (or Argyle Alley, or Star Alley…) in Baltimore, just ask Google Maps.

Transformation on a West Baltimore Small Street

We’re always scanning the web looking for real signs of positive change in Baltimore’s small streets, and we’re always excited to find something new. The latest finds come from Boyd Street in the Hollins Market neighborhood.

First, a community group called Sowebo Gardeners has taken advantage of the awesome Adopt-A-Lot program run by the Baltimore City government and turned a series of vacant lots into a beautiful community garden of about 1/5 acre. Naturally, they call it the Boyd Alley Community Garden.

Boyd Alley Garden

Community gardens are great in general, but we believe that they can work especially well on small streets because they emulate the traditional urban development pattern seen in the old cities of Europe, where very narrow streets open up to small squares. A garden provides small street residents a focal point and a gathering place for their community. It’s also a vehicle for neighborhood change.

Second, one of Boyd Street’s houses has undergone one of the most remarkable transformations we have ever seen. Witness the before and after. The before photo is taken from Google Street View, and the second from an off market real estate listing where you can find more photos.

1033 Boyd Street

Now that’s inspiring! Just imagine a whole block of beautiful rowhouses like this one.