Over the course of a studio semester, students from the University of Maryland College Park have created a new public toolkit for documentation LGBTQ history in Baltimore City with a specific focus on Mount Vernon, Abell, Waverly, and Greater Waverly.

The authors of “A Place to Start: A Toolkit for Documenting LGBTQ Heritage in Baltimore City (And Beyond)” include Ty Ginter, Daniela Tai, Kelly Schindler, Katherine Boyle, Kelly Marie Haley, Emma Schrantz with Josette Graham, Kathleen Jockel, and Tamara Schlossenberg. The cohort of students was all part of the  Fall 2018 HISP 650 Preservation Studio course instructed by Dr. Jeremy C. Wells, Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, University of Maryland, College Park.

The nearly 100-page document includes sections on contextualizing LGBTQ heritage within public history and the specific conditions of Baltimore City, as well as, a case study in resource documentation at Club Hippo in Mount Vernon. The resulting work includes first-person interviews, research, historic and current demographic analysis, and architectural documentation. Closing the report, the authors reflected on their approach and offer clear recommendations for future projects. Providing access to the report toolkit is a critical part of the public-facing value of the student’s efforts. With the student’s permission, the University of Maryland has permanently hosted the report on its digital repository.

Preservation Maryland and the Maryland Historical Trust awarded the project a Heritage Fund grant to support new research and outreach related to LGBTQ history in Maryland, including the UMD studio class, community meetings, and a public lecture by LGBTQ history expert, Dr. Susan Ferentinos – attended by the UMD students. Additional support was provided by Baltimore Heritage, Inc. and the Pride Center of Baltimore.


In recent decades, many professional preservationists have shifted their focus away from traditional narratives to the histories and places of marginalized groups, in an attempt to ensure a more holistic account of American history. This report captures this change through discussions of authorized heritage discourse (AHD), official designation of LGBTQ historic places, and use of grassroots preservation tools in marginalized communities. Each of these provide crucial insights into some of the challenges facing preservation and particularly within the LGBTQ community.

This report also contains a thorough data analysis from various research methods, including interviews, archival materials, and a physical documentation case study, as well as a toolkit for the documentation of LGBTQ spaces. The Hippo, now a CVS pharmacy, was selected as the case study site for its significance within Baltimore’s LGBTQ community. In addition to being a controversial candidate for preservation because of its current use as a CVS, continued interviews and a community workshop also illuminated a darker history of gender and racial discrimination at The Hippo. In choosing the Hippo, the studio realized the opportunity to discuss a number of issues in historic preservation, including determining site significance, documentation, and interpreting multiple narratives.

A number of recommendations were also included in the conclusion of this report. These recommendations will contribute to a more effective use of the toolkit and demonstrate the possible paths forward for this project.