Our House Relocating to Immigrant House in Locust Point

| June 22, 2018 | 0 Comments

Pizza restaurant Our House recently closed at 1121 Hull St. in Locust Point but is planning a new location within the neighborhood on the first floor of Immigrant House at 1308 Beason St. Our House Owner Dianne DeSantis is planning to open the new location around October of this year.

Immigrant House is a three-story, 5,920 sq. ft. building adjacent to the Locust Point Community United Church of Christ. Also located on the first floor of Immigrant House is the Baltimore Immigration Museum.

From 1868-1914, Locust Point’s Piers 8 and 9, which once stood on the water near the site of Silo Point before burning from a ship fire in 1918, welcomed approximately 1.2 of the 1.5 million immigrants who came to Baltimore. Nick Fessenden, Ph.D. of Baltimore Immigration Museum provided SouthBMore.com the following information about the Immigrant House property and the Baltimore Immigrant Museum, which opened two years ago:

Up to 1890, the majority of immigrants landing here (Baltimore) came from Germany;  their numbers began to decline as Germany industrialized.  Their places were taken by East Europeans, including Poles, Czechs, Lithuanians, and Jews from Russia, Poland, and the Austrian Empire, all of whom established distinct neighborhoods. There was no steamship connection between Baltimore and the Mediterranean, so the Italians who settled in Baltimore landed first in New York or Philadelphia and then came here. At the turn of the century, Germans were Baltimore’s  largest immigrant group with 7 German-language newspapers and more than 30 German-language churches.   As for Locust Point, 40% of its population was foreign-born of which Germans were the largest group, followed by Poles.

Immigrant House was built in 1904 by the congregation of Deutsche Vereinigte Evangelische Christus Kirche (German United  Evangelical Church of Christ) – today known as the Locust Point Community United Church of Christ. In 1904, the congregation built the adjacent  Immigrant House, which served as a boarding house and social service center for immigrants and sailors.  Over the next 11  years, more than 3700 people stayed at the house, some for one night, some for several months. World War I and the restrictive immigration laws of the 1920s ended Baltimore’s role as a port of entry for immigrants, but sailors and truck drivers continued to use  the house into the 1950s.

Twenty-five years ago,  a group of concerned citizens came together to find ways to commemorate  Baltimore’s significant immigration history.  In 2006, “The Baltimore Immigration Memorial”,  also known as  “Liberty Garden”,  located at the foot of Hull Street, was designed  by architect Alex Castro  and dedicated  in the memory of the 1.2 million immigrants who landed in Locust Point.  The terraced  site (owned by  Under Armour),  features  geometric  sculptural  elements  and  two historic markers.  Plans for a small immigration museum were made and  finally realized in 2016 with the help of the Locust Point Community Church, which offered two rooms  in their historic Immigrant House for this purpose.

Our House’s former building was for sale and the restaurant’s lease was up, so DeSantis had to relocate her business. JoAnn Best, a board member of Locust Point Community United Church of Christ and Baltimore Immigration Museum, stopped by Our House recently for a German night dinner and struck up a conversation with DeSantis during which they discussed the potential opportunity at Immigrant House.

DeSantis told SouthBMore.com that she had been looking at more than a dozen properties to buy in Locust Point, but was drawn to this opportunity because she said “it was so meaningful.” DeSantis was born two weeks after her mother arrived in Baltimore from Germany.

“I am extremely excited to partner with Dianne and Our House,” said Best.

Our House is known for its pan pizza, as DeSantis is a former owner of Matthew’s Pizza, along with its ‘Dam Good’ dressing for salads. The new Our House will likely have the same hours as the former location: Thursday through Saturday for dinner from 5pm to 8pm and Sunday for brunch from 11am to 2pm.

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Our House will host monthly ethnic dinners at Immigrant House. Our House held German and Italian nights in the past, but plans on adding more at Immigrant House. DeSantis said she might offer German foods like pretzels whenever the Baltimore Immigration Museum is open. She also plans on hosting pizza dough workshops.

DeSantis will be partnering with Locust Point Community United Church of Christ to use its kitchen facilities for a Pizza and Pasta Night on Friday, July 20th from 5 to 9pm and a German Night on Thursday, August 2nd from 5 to 9 pm. Her goal is to use the church facilities and have pizza every Friday night until Our House is able to reopen in the Fall inside the Immigrant House.

Our House will conduct a build-out on the first floor which will include improving rooms within the building for dining spaces and upgrading the existing kitchen. DeSantis always wanted a restaurant with different rooms that felt like a home. She said the layout of the Our House space at Immigrant House reminds her of old Baltimore City apartments.

Our House’s space will have several different dining rooms. DeSantis plans to have a quiet room for those reading or doing work, a family room with games, another dining room with nice natural light, and a room with grocery items like frozen pizzas and Dam Good dressing, as well as a carryout area.

There is also a large yard which will be used for outdoor seating. DeSantis said she plans to clean up the space and add landscaping and umbrellas.

DeSantis also has a career in the psychological healthcare field and owns MINDCare Consulting where she keeps an office on Key Hwy. DeSantis looks forward combining her two careers by hosting educational programs on the premises of Immigrant House. DeSantis said more information on MINDCare Consulting’s partnership with Immigrant House and Our House will be provided in the future.

“Our House will finally be achieving its original goal and that is to have a much more meaningful purpose,” said DeSantis.

The second and third floors of Immigrant House, which were used for boarding, are currently in need of renovation. Best said she is hoping to renovate the spaces and expand Immigrant House’s offerings in the future.

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, father of three, amateur pizza chef, skateboarder, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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