A Walk around our Neighborhood

A blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

For those of you who don’t know, our self-guided walking tour takes visitors around the neighborhood of Historic Jonestown and tells a little about the history of some of the buildings that you see—and some of the buildings that you don’t see. For example, one of the stops is the old Hendler’s Ice Cream Company building on Baltimore Street.

I, along with our volunteer docent Bev Rosen, have been doing some more research on the Jewish businesses and people who inhabited Jonestown. The ultimate goal is to create a “living” tour that will tell the story of the people and places of old Jewish Baltimore.

Briney Yankelov with chickens, courtesy of the JMM, 1995.187.13
Briney Yankelov with chickens, courtesy of the JMM, 1995.187.13

I thought I’d share some of the things we have learned so far. For instance, in reading through the oral history of Paul Wartsman, we found out more details (sometimes a bit gory) about the chicken butchers on Lombard Street. Paul remembered his grandmother talking him down to Lombard Street to buy their chickens when he was six. He describes how the chicken crates were stacked and lined up along the sidewalk. “Her favorite butcher was Yankelov’s Meat and Poultry owned by David and Briney Yankelov at 1012 E. Lombard St. The butcher would take the chicken she had picked out and go cut off her head with a sochet knife, draining out all the blood.  But the chickens would sometimes continue to hope around headless – it was a miracle”.

Herman Wartzman and his niece outside his bakery, courtesy of the JMM, CP 14.2007.001
Herman Wartzman and his niece outside his bakery, courtesy of the JMM, CP 14.2007.001

I also discovered that Wartzman’s Bakery, located at 913 E Lombard Street, was famous for its bagels baked in an open-fire stove. The bakery was on the first floor and the family lived at the back of the first floor and on the second and third floors.

Grossman’s, located on Pratt Street and owned by Joseph and Ella Grossman, was a fish shore. It had tanks of live fish in their windows. Seymour Attman remembers his mother bringing home live fish, keeping it in the bathtub until she was ready to cook it.

Russian baths were also very popular in the neighborhood. Louis Herman operated a Russian bath or shvitz bath in the early 1900’s, at 1116 E. Lombard. Very few homes featured hot water or indoor bathrooms, but going to the baths was for most residents an indulgence reserved for special occasions. Seymour Attman remarked “I loved to go to bathhouses.  You went in, and you gave the guy a nickel…and he gave you a bar of soap and a towel.”

Rosa Fineberg, courtesy of the JMM, 1995.187.13
Rosa Fineberg, courtesy of the JMM, 1995.187.13

We also did some research about local personalities and came across Rosa Fineberg who worked as a midwife in East Baltimore from about 1890-1920s where she delivered 2,000 babies! In addition, Harry Tulkoff (1899-1989) started Tulkoff’s Products, which rose from a simple grocery stand to the largest supplier of horseradish in the country.

While this is only a small sampling of the range of Jewish businesses and people in East Baltimore, we hope to continue working to expand our knowledge of this colorful and vibrant community and to ensure that its history is not forgotten.

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