Profiles in Preservation
Betyjean Carter Murphy (1941 - 2021)
For our first Black Preservationist profile, we are revisiting our IG story from Jan. 30, and honoring the legacy of Bettyjean Carter Murphy, the first African American woman developer in Baltimore. Below is an excerpt from her Baltimore Sun obituary, published on Jan. 29, 2021:
"The former Bettyjean Carter, daughter of LeRoy Carter, president of the New York chapter of the Urban League, and his wife, Hallie Mae Lumpkin Carter, was born in Atlanta and raised in Queens, New York.
A graduate of Flushing High School, she attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and earned a bachelor’s degree from Hunter College in New York City.
In the early 1960s, she was the first African American woman to be admitted to the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, where she planned to pursue Arabic studies but married instead and 'came to Baltimore with her husband,' said her daughter, Rebecca Murphy of Chestertown.
For a number of years, she worked as a real estate agent and then turned to development when she established the Carter Development Corp., which later became the Savannah Development Corp.
In 1984, she established the Savannah Development Co., whose mission was converting abandoned buildings and former schools, transforming them into affordable housing primarily for the elderly and handicapped.
Her award-winning projects included Alcott Place in Park Heights, which had been the Louisa May Alcott Elementary School, or School 59, dating to 1910, which she transformed in 1990 into 44 apartments for the elderly, working with the development firm of Struever Brothers, Eccles and Rouse. The architectural firm of Cho, Wilks and Benn Inc. was in charge of the conversion of the $4 million project.
A year earlier, Ms. Murphy had overseen the conversion of the Robert W. Coleman School in Mondawmin, into Coleman Manor, a 50-unit senior housing complex.
In 2000, she converted a vacant building in the 300 block of N. Charles St. into loft apartments, and her Coel-Grant-Higgs Senior Center opened two years later in East Baltimore.
'Baltimore used to be the capital of historic preservation,' Ms. Murphy told The Sun in a 1990 interview, saying that the projects were 'just directed to the middle-class market or the commercial market. Historic preservation is for all people — poor people too.'
Her work resulted in Ms. Murphy’s winning awards from both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the American Institute of Architects."
Rasmussen, Frederick N. The Baltimore Sun, “Bettyjean C. Murphy, pioneering African American developer, historic preservationist and community activist, dies," https://www.baltimoresun.com/obituaries/bs-md-ob-bettyjean-murphy-20210129-mh4uc26bybdxrcjdjlryqgv6oq-story.html (site visited 9 Feb 2021).
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