Document Type


Publication Date

January 2006


real property, housing, Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, eminent domain


In the early 1900s, the Baltimore City council passed an ordinance directing the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad to construct a bridge on the south side of Hamburg Street. The bridge damaged many properties along Hamburg Street, resulting in lawsuits against both the city and the railroad. Henry and Annie Walters were among the injured property owners who proceeded to court to assert their claim for damages consisting of obstructed light, air, and access to their property. While the judge decided the case in favor of the defendants at the first trial, on appeal the city and the B&O Railroad were held liable for a taking. The appellate decision expanded the constitutional definition of takings to include damages, such as complete obstruction of light, air, and access, that were formerly regarded as mere consequential damages for which the government did not have to provide compensation. In addition to modifying the law of eminent domain in Maryland, this decision advanced progressive housing reform by imposing the compensation restraint on governments that destroyed healthy living conditions by eliminating light and air.