Spring Dreaming at Duncan Street Miracle Garden

The Duncan Street Miracle Garden was founded in 1988 by community member, Mr. Lewis Sharpe. The Pharoah’s Club started it off with a small plot of land behind their building on N. Collington street, but in the past 30 years, the garden has grown from one plot of green to almost the entire 2100 block of North Avenue in Baltimore’s Broadway East neighborhood. Among the thickly planted lots, you can find almost every kind of fruit or vegetable a gardener can grow in this climate. Mr. Sharpe calls it “God’s little acre.”

NDC’s Executive Director, Jennifer Goold, met Mr. Sharpe in the fall of 2016 while doing field work for the East North Avenue LINCS plan. Once it became clear he had an ambitious plan for the garden to bring in more community members, NDC partnered with him to fold Duncan Street Miracle Garden into our Place Matters initiative, which works to increase the capacity, resources, and power of people oranzing around a place.

We are continuing our partnership with Duncan Street Miracle Garden this spring, and are grateful to all the volunteers who have helped with clean up, weeding, and prepping the dirt for planting. During the spring and summer, the block-size garden becomes a haven of colorful flowers and fresh vegetables for the neighborhood, but there’s still plenty to do to get the space ready! On a weekly basis, you can find Mr. Sharpe and volunteers coordinated through The 6th Branch, installing wooden edging, trimming trees, clearing debris, planning out a new fence, and coordinating a new shed and picnic tables. We are in the process of gating the alleys to make the area safer for neighbors walking or biking through the space. Last spring, the muralist, GAIA, painted a large portrait of Mr. Sharpe on a building facing North Ave. Mr. Sharpe aims to continue adding public art to the garden, creating an outdoor gallery of Black history as a backdrop to this East Baltimore oasis. The ultimate vision will look more like a neighborhood-enclosed park with an overflowing garden, activity areas for families, and open green space to host community events.

Along with this vision, we are excited to announce an event in early summer, the “Day of Play”, which will serve to bring more youth involvement to the Duncan Street Miracle Garden. Recently, we helped secure a BMORE Beautiful Mobilization grant to install a new wooden fence, and collaboratively plan this event. You can look forward to a celebration with music, hamburgers on the grill, live mural painting in the alley, play-oriented workshops, and a chance to welcome kids, parents, grandparents, caregivers and neighbors into the garden to make it a truly multi-generational community space.

Hear more about the Duncan Street Miracle Garden from the founder, Mr. Lewis Sharpe:

As told to NDC’s Americorps VISTA, Maura Dwyer:

“The Pharaoh’s association started the garden in 1988 on a small plot of land behind their building on N. Collington St.  I came in and asked them about getting a lot. They asked me how much I know about gardening, and I said plenty! I wish I could show everyone this garden like it was back when we started- brand new wood chips, gravel all laid out, brand new green border walls going down the lot, and flowers going all the way down both sides, it was the most beautiful thing, and I just can’t believe it’s been 30-some years, but we gotta put it back again.

This spring, I am lookin’ forward to all kinds of fruits and vegetables, cabbage, collard greens, mustard greens, tomatoes, string beans, and I may try some sweet potatoes this year, and I want to get more apple trees. I have one called a fruit cocktail tree – there’s five different kind of apples on that tree, once they get ripe you can go ahead and pick it, they’re all different colors.

I’m also really looking forward to getting my fence put up, all the way from one building to the other. Right where they just tore down those buildings, I want to put a pavilion there. I’d like to put a round one in that space, put some picnic tables there, with a round roof, with benches and tables underneath.

What I really want is to get some animals-not no dummies, no statues- live animals- small ones. I want some animals that will stay in the garden, like a little farm on one of these lots. The kids would love to get on a pony and ride it around. I want ducks, goats, and chickens too. That’s the vision.

When we started the garden in 1988, it improved the whole block. It would be better for neighborhood kids to have somewhere where they can play that’s safe, where no one is running in the street, and they feel protected. It’s all about the kids to me because I think they need somewhere to go these days. Really I want people from Broadway East to have somewhere to go and relax, I would like them to feel welcomed. I am growing food for the people.”

“God gave me a vision. I could have been somewhere, making money to put in my own pocket, but instead I came here to spend money on the garden that I didn’t really have; whatever I had, I split it with the garden. This was my heart’s desire: Get this place fixed up nice and beautiful. Broadway East should be beautiful- you’ll see, it’s comin, it’s comin.”