Two Sisters Houses
612 and 614 S. Wolfe Street
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These late Eighteenth Century wooden houses were placed on the endangered list ‘Vanishing Perspectives’ by Baltimore Heritage, Inc. in 1996. Concerned by their physical state, Baltimore Heritage sought to bring to the public’s attention the possibility that these two truly unique historic houses could disappear unless intervention by the community prevented their loss. In 2005 the houses were acquired by the Preservation Society, through the Society’s stewardship, the two Landmark houses have been partially documented and stabilized with financial assistance of the Maryland Historical Trust through the African American Heritage Preservation Program.
Built circa 1797, these buildings have survived well beyond their original intent. During the Second Addition to Fells Point a ‘land rights’ purchaser had to improve the property with a structure. In this neighborhood, the typical result was a structure with four living spaces, a quadplex. These two houses are what remain of one such quadplex. It is believed that there were five such structures on the west side of the 600 block of South Wolfe Street. Each living space was a story and a half tall, one room down and one room up. A six foot open space separated each structure from the other. They were made with common materials of light timber frame with brick nogging and a lime rendering on the exterior. They now represent over two hundred years of Fells Point / Baltimore history.
According to the city directories in the late 1830s, 1840s and 1850s these houses were occupied by “Colored Households” with the occupations of ship caulkers. Frederick Douglass worked as a ship caulker in the Gardner shipyard in the late 1830s. The shipyard was less than two blocks from the Wolfe Street properties and he would have been familiar with them. These Wolfe Street properties are a tangible asset of the free African American community in Baltimore prior to the Civil War.
Here's a link to an October 31, 2016 article, "Urban Landscape: A New Effort to Save Fells Point’s Wooden Houses" about the status of the houses.
Laser Scanning the “Two Sisters” Historic Wooden Homes in Fell’s Point
On a sunny afternoon in March, two technicians from Direct Dimensions took their laser scanning equipment down to Fells Point. Over the winter, Bryan Blundell from Dell Corporation had approached Direct Dimensions with a project to completely laser scan the Two Sisters Houses in Fells Point.
The Two Sisters are two of the remaining wooden houses in Baltimore’s Fells Point. For more information on the houses, Baltimore Heritage has a piece here: www.baltimoreheritage.org/preservation/fells-point-wooden-houses.
These buildings were acquired by the Preservation Society from the Dashiell Sister’s Estate. The name, The Two Sisters, recognizes the efforts of the Dashiell sisters, Mary and Eleanor, to save these and other buildings in Fells Point. Since that time, the Society has steadily worked to develop a plan for the saving and utilization of these significant architectural examples of early life in Fells Point. The 3D scanning is one of the many modern technologies that can be used to help reveal some of the secrets and stories that are part of these amazing structures.
The scanning can provide a baseline documentation of the building’s current state, allowing the planning team to design necessary structural supports, and to also serve as 3D, “as-built” blue print for documenting current conditions and future preservation efforts.
Laser Scanning is the process of collecting millions of individual measurements using laser light. Think of a range finder. A laser beam leaves the scanner on a specific orientation and the time it takes to reflect off a surface and return to the scanner establishes the distance. This happens thousands of times per second. By moving the equipment to various positions and perspectives, an entire site can be “scanned” in 3D. Once the data is merged, the resulting “point cloud” can be used to create traditional drawings, 3D models, and virtual reconstructions & walkthroughs.
So far, Direct Dimensions has only scanned the exterior on Wolfe Street, planning to finish the project when funding becomes available. This initial scan effort is also valuable as an archived “3D snapshot”, a record of the state of the structure in the spring of 2013.