Hampden is a neighborhood located in northern BaltimoreMarylandUnited States. Roughly triangular in shape, it is bounded to the east by the neighborhood Wyman Park, to the north by Roland Park at 40th and 41st Street, to the west by the Jones Falls Expressway, and to the south by the neighborhood Remington. The Homewood campus of the Johns Hopkins University is a short distance to the east.


Baltimore has in recent years embraced certain aspects of old Hampden’s traditional culture. The neighborhood is home to the annual “Hon Festival” (also called HonFest) and named after the term “Hon,” a (term of endearment). HonFest features attendees who tease their hair into the enormous beehive hairdos of the 1960s. The festival also features a contest to find the best “Bawlmerese,” a variation of Baltimore’s unique traditional accent. This accent is also more commonplace in areas like Dundalk and Essex. In March 2011, the Special English service of Voice of America broadcast Hey, Hon, Ready to Learn How They Talk in Baltimore?, and An Extended Lesson in Bawlmerese by Baltimore native Steve Ember.

Christmas decorations on 34th Street block in Hampden

Hampden’s 34th Street near the southern end of the neighborhood celebrates the Christmas holiday every year with the “Miracle on 34th Street” where home owners on both sides of the street decorate their houses with thousands of lights and Christmas decorations, attracting visitors from all over the world to see the spectacle. Another great Christmas street is Roland Avenue. One house in particular, 3548 has an extraordinary “Nightmare Before Christmas” themed display that actually has lights synchronized to music. This house is known around the neighborhood as “The Halloween House”.

The infamous ‘Halloween House’ which has synchronized lights during the Christmas season.

Hampden received perhaps its most prominent nationwide exposure in 1998, when Baltimore native John Waters filmed his movie Pecker there.Starring Hollywood actors like Edward Furlong, Christina Ricci, Martha Plimpton, and Lili Taylor, the film depicted a very elaborate & fictional view of Hampden and its young residents.

Additionally, the novelist Philipp Meyer grew up on Hampden’s 36th Street during the late 1970s and 1980s; much of his novel American Rust was reportedly influenced by his childhood there.


As Hampden was originally a center of mills and factories, much of its original structures were built to house workers. Small two story row houses, made out of brick or stone, were built to hold families of mill workers. Larger houses, many built with stone, were built for managers and upper level staff. One can find more modern housing were built around the edges of the Hampden area. In the 20th century, apartment complexes were built around Roland Avenue and north of Hampden.

There are few areas amenable to further development in the neighborhood, a factor in the rising housing costs in the area. Hampden was forecasted to “see the most home value appreciation in 2013” in the city. This has led to many rehab projects of existing housing stock. However, a very large mixed-use development began construction in late 2013 in North Hampden,at the site of the Rotunda Shopping Center. The size and scale of this development has created some controversy in this neighborhood, mostly concerning congestion in car traffic and parking as nearly 400 new apartments and numerous businesses, including a high-end movie theatre, will open in 2015


Named for English politician John Hampden, Hampden was originally settled as a residential community for workers at the mills that had sprung up along the Jones Falls; its first residents were in place well before the area was annexed to Baltimore City in 1889. Many of its residents migrated to the area from the Appalachian hill country of Kentucky, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania, due to the abundance of jobs the mills provided. This influx cemented the image of the neighborhood for the decades that followed as both primarily white and working-class. For many years it was an isolated community. Hampden was once known as a “Little Appalachia” or a “hillbilly ghetto.” Before, during, and after World War II many Appalachian migrants settled in Baltimore, including Hampden. Appalachian people who migrated to Hampden were largely economic migrants who came looking for work.

Beginning in the early 1990s, the neighborhood (conveniently located vis-a-vis Johns Hopkins and downtown) was discovered by artists and others, who began reclaiming the neighborhood. Many new residents were attracted by the creation of an artist studio and office space known as the Mill Centre, located in the southernmost region of Hampden between Falls Road and Mill Road. Over the past decade, housing prices in Hampden have skyrocketed and the area’s commercial center on a four-block stretch of West 36th Street, known as The Avenue, has seen trendy boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, a yoga studio, an upscale winebar, and assorted specialty shops occupy storefronts that had been either vacant or in a state of disrepair. The community of Wyman Park, as well as the actual park, are located to the east. The Woodberry station on the Baltimore Light Rail system is just on the other side of the Jones Falls Expressway and is within walking distance of much of the neighborhood. A new, high-end mixed-use development at Clipper Mill, directly in front of the Woodberry Light Rail station, has spurred additional economic activity in the area.


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