Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Tuesdays About Town

Today marks the first day in the "Tuesdays About Town" series, where I'm going to share what I like, dislike, or find interesting about Baltimore. Fellow bloggers, I invite you to follow along... and share stories about your town, city or state with the rest of us. Baltimore friends, feel free to agree or disagree with me... after all, I've only been here three years. :)

Painted Window Screens
Baltimore has this neat little tradition of painted window screens. As the story goes, in 1913, William Octavec, a Czechoslovakian immigrant, painted the screens in the windows of his grocery store to stop the sun from spoiling his produce. Soon after, neighbors began to ask him to paint the screens on their homes, because not only did the paint on the outside of a window screen cut down on sunlight, but it also made it more difficult for curious eyes to see in... providing additional privacy to homeowners. (It's important to remember that the row houses in Baltimore city are located right on the sidewalk, and painted screens keep people from peering into their neighbors' houses.)

One painting that you will see often shows a white cottage with a red roof, a lake, and a swan. There are hundreds of painted screens with these three items, and although they all look different, the scene itself is referred to as the "red roof bungalow." (I'd show a picture here, but the 'upload photos' function isn't working all of the sudden.)

Today many painted screens show local landmarks, like this one of the Patterson Park Pagoda (right). A photo of the real pagoda is at the top of my blog.

The tradition continued through the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, but after WWII, screen painting began to decline. I read that East Baltimore row houses once sported almost 100,000 painted door and window screens. It is estimated there are less than 3,000 painted screens in Baltimore today.

All of the painted screens seen here are from houses along my walking route.


Blogger Marie said...

That is so cool...a little weird, but definately cool :)

June 06, 2006 8:28 AM  
Anonymous *D* said...

Nowdays, people seem to paint flags or eagles on their back windows of their trucks. I think I like the screen scene better.

June 06, 2006 9:32 AM  
Blogger Missy B said...

I can't see the pics from work but it sounds so neat. I will check again from home.

June 06, 2006 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Dad said...

Very cool. One of the things I look for when I'm there. Too bad the idea is on the decline... hummm... retirement job?

June 07, 2006 9:07 AM  

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