Preserving Local Traditions: Cleaning Marble Stoops

Preserving Local Traditions: Cleaning Marble Stoops

Kimber Watson
Feb 19, 2009

If it's all about making a good first impression, what better way to start than with the perfect stoop. White marble steps — a trademark of Baltimore architecture — are a common element among Baltimore's rowhouses. While the rowhomes erected were kept affordable for the working-class, the marble steps offered that "touch of class" to the otherwise modest home.

Homeowners of the past took great pride in caring for their front steps, scrubbing the dirt, grime, and footsteps from them weekly. While it may seem that this is a fading Baltimore tradition, is it possible it's making a comeback?

At local gift shop, Hometown Girl, you can buy your own Marble Step Cleaning Kit. The kit includes a pumice stone, bag of Bon Ami powder cleanser, and instructions (although you can easily assemble your own at any well-stocked hardware store). After your purchase, you can get a few scrubbing tips from artist, Megan Hildebrandt. In an effort to connect people with the history of where they reside, Hildebrandt (dressed in typical 1940's housewife attire), spent months going door to door offering to scrub Baltimore resident's steps. Hildebrand documented her experience in photos, paintings, and a video which can be seen in an exhibit at the Creative Alliance (hurry, exhibit ends Feb. 21st). If you can't make the exhibit, you can take a peek at a few photos and video here.

Is this an old-fashioned ritual that should be preserved? Are there any other cities out there still practicing this tradition?

(Images: 1,3; A. Aubrey Bodine, 2; Kimberly Watson, 4-5; Digital Photography Documentation of Reenactment 2008 via Baker Artist Awards)

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