Violetville: History of the Neighborhood

(With special thanks to Fran Bartels.)

Violetville, a tranquil community tucked away behind St. Agnes Hospital in southwest Baltimore, has a long history dating back to Native American inhabitation. The Native Americans used the violets found all over the hillsides and along the stream for medical purposes. They drank violet tea for pains in the head. The flowers were processed to make an early version of cough syrup. In the early 1930’s, arrowheads and other artifacts were found on the old O’Mara property between Haverhill Road and Pine Heights Avenue.

Like much of present-day southwest Baltimore City and southwest Baltimore County, present-day Violetville was eventually owned by the Carroll and Caton families. In 1861, the Caton family donated land for St. Agnes Hospital. In 1877, the Caton family sold much of the land in the present-day Violetville sector to several families.

In 1890, there were approximately 18 families living in St. Agnes Village, as Violetville was then called. Some people lived in Violetville’s first rowhouses located along present-day Haverhill Road, which are still standing today. All mail to the residents came addressed to:

St. Agnes
Carroll P.O.
Baltimore, Md

Families had to travel to the Carroll Post Office on Frederick Turnpike (now Frederick Road) to retrieve their mail.

The first school in Violetville opened in the Schroeder home on present-day Coolidge Avenue, in 1892. The current elementary school was built in 1929.

After the first school was established, change occurred rapidly. At the turn of the century, the community appointed John Bullinger constable, and he was the village’s sole policeman. Soon a grocery store, two churches, a barbershop, shoemaker, bakery, florist, and a building and loan, opened. And finally, the community’s name was changed to Violetville.

For entertainment, there were plays at the Methodist Church. Families often went across Caton Avenue to St. Mary’s Industrial School (now Cardinal Gibbons High School) to see movies or watch Babe Ruth play baseball before he became famous.

In 1919, the City of Baltimore annexed a large portion of Violetville from the county. The good news was that the city provided water and sewage; the bad news was that Violetville was now part city and part county.

During the Great Depression, people would get off the streetcar at Wilkens Avenue and walk up the hill to St. Agnes with their pots. The hospital charitably fed hungry people during hard times. People helped each other as best they could and the merchants of Violetville gave credit, which meant that a person paid whatever they could when they could.

By the mid-1950’s, much of what was cornfields became a tidy middle-class neighborhood of paved streets, brick rowhouses and semi-detached homes, and home to post-WWII families. The people of Violetville lived in a wholesome enclave of tree-lined streets. They worked hard and took pride in their community.

In 1958, the community united to form a strong and feisty community association to protect their safety and improve their children’s welfare. Filbert Field was established and various recreational programs were created. Violetville became known for its intense Little League competition, for outspoken members of its community association, and for an enthusiasm for outdoor Christmas lights. Every year at Christmas time, the Violetville Community Association awards prizes to the best-decorated homes. In the spring, a parade and street fair celebrate the beginning of the Little League and softball seasons.

(All information provided on this page is from the book "Violetville: the history of a neighborhood," by Fran Bartels & Hattie Ellis, Copyright 2002, Fran Bartels, and was used with permission by Fran Bartels. No reproduction without written consent of author. To purchase a copy of the book "Violetville: the history of a neighborhood," please contact Fran Bartels, Marie Haynie, or the VCA.)