Honoring Wilson Park's Founder
Rebuilding Together Baltimore Staff was thrilled to join Councilman Bill Henry and other community members on Sunday December 17th, to commemorate Harry O. Wilson; the founder of Wilson Park. Baltimore’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation has designated Harry O. Wilson Sr.’s former home at 4423 Craddock Avenue as a historic landmark. Who was Harry O. Wilson Sr.? He was a successful businessman, banker, and philanthropist. He was the son of the first black principal in the Baltimore city school system. He founded Wilson’s Bank, which provided banking services to African American families that they could not access at neighboring banks. Harry Wilson’s bank was also one of the few banks to survive the Great Depression.
In 1917, Harry Wilson purchased land which we now know as Wilson Park from German Americans who had difficulties selling the land because of anti-German sentiment. He then built homes on the land establishing the Wilson Park neighborhood. The Wilson Park neighborhood provided an alternative suburban life-style for a growing affluent African American population that, at the time, was stifled by laws preventing black families from living in similar neighborhoods even if they could afford to.
A century later Harry O. Wilson is getting the recognition he deserves and the house that started a community has been eternalized as a Baltimore City landmark. Mabel Smith purchased the home on Craddock Avenue in 1992. At the time, the building was boarded up and in very bad shape. Mabel and her husband Walton did a full renovation that took close to 5 years. In 1997 they moved in.
On Sunday December 17, 2017, Mabel Smith and her family hosted a reception at her home to commemorate the new landmark status and celebrate the legacy of Harry O. Wilson Sr. A ceremonial street sign designating Craddock Avenue as “Harry Wilson Way” has been placed at the corner of Craddock and Coldspring Lane.