Wherever you go in this world, it’s likely that the land, the streets and the buildings have generations of stories about the people who previously occupied the same space. The secret pasts of places are often shared as social currency (“Hey, did you know that food channel show filmed here?”; “That’s the house where so-and-so lived…”), but there’s currently no hub of information available by location.
LOKA, an app, will be that hub. LOKA will provide all the information about a location at the touch of a button: it’s history, news stories, property data, trivia and more. Here are a few of the unsuspecting places that LOKA will highlight for their history, places whose ordinary appearances belie their compelling past.
Gertrude Stein’s Homes
When most people think of author Gertrude Stein, they probably picture the great salons of Paris in the early twentieth century, surrounded by artists and writers that would become household names. But years before that became Gertrude’s routine, she was calling Baltimore’s Biddle Street home, while she attempted an ultimately unsuccessful pursuit of a medical degree from Johns Hopkins.
She later lived at 220 East Eager Street and 2408 Linden Avenue in Reservoir Hill.
Helen Keller’s Visit to What’s Now Loyola University Maryland
When Helen Keller was asked about her visit to Baltimore’s Red Cross Institute for the Blind, she said, “It was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life. It was inspiring to see the work which is being done there, and the courage shown by the blinded soldiers in overcoming the greatest difficulties.”
Long before Loyola University Maryland bought the building they now call the Humanities Center, the building served as a rehabilitation center for “soldiers, sailors, and marines who became vision-impaired during military service” during and after the first World War.
Helen was photographed with an injured soldier during her 1919 visit to Baltimore.
Abraham Lincoln in Baltimore
Abraham Lincoln secretly journeyed through Baltimore in the middle of the night before his first inauguration to evade a rumored assassination attempt. The event was orchestrated by detective agency founder Allen Pinkterton and involved disguises, coded telegrams and horse-drawn railcars. It gave fodder to critics who questioned Lincoln’s courage, and one Baltimore’s etching of “startled Lincoln in his nightshirt peering out of the side of his rail car as it passes through Baltimore has become part of the Lincoln iconograph.”
Three years later, and just about one year before his death, Lincoln returned to Baltimore to preside over the opening cermonies at the Baltimore Sanitary Fair, an event that was also known as The Maryland State Fair for U.S. Soldier Relief.
Following the event, Lincoln retired to “the Mt. Vernon Place brownstone mansion of William J. Albert…where the President was regaled by ‘a handsome supper at midnight.’” The night marked the only time when President Lincoln stayed the night in Baltimore.
The building, 702 Cathedral Street, is currently home to the office space of a Baltimore publishing company.
Following his 1939 release from federal prison in Pennsylvania, Scarface Al Capone immediately checked into Baltimore’s Union Memorial Hospital. He wound up there after being refused treatment at Johns Hopkins. Capone sought help for paresis, “a psychotic dementia caused by widespread brain damage in tertiary syphilis.”
Capone was released from the hospital in January 1940, and moved to 5708 Pimlico Road in the city’s Mount Washington neighborhood. He spent several months recovering in the home with his family, before moving to Florida when he died seven years later. As a thank you to the staff at Union Memorial, Capone gave the hospital two cherry trees; one of the trees still stands on hospital grounds.
Today, the house Capone lived in is still for rent, and his ties to the property are used as a selling point to potential renters,a far cry from a time when he was denied as a patient at the city’s most prominent hospital.
On the corner of Baltimore’s Eutaw and Lombard Streets stands The Goddess Showbar. It bills itself as “Baltimore’s hottest and most unique upscale gentleman’s bar” on its Yelp page, where it gets an average of two stars from reviewers. Each day, thousands of tourists, baseball fans and guests of the Marriott across the street pass the site without knowing that Babe Ruth once purchased and lived in the building that now houses an apparently mediocre strip club.
Most Baltimoreans are probably aware that one of the greatest baseball players in history was born in Baltimore and grew up here: there’s a statue to Babe outside the Camden Yards gates, and a few blocks away is the Babe Ruth Museum, housed in Babe’s childhood home.
But Babe’s Baltimore roots extend to that Showbar. With winnings from the 1915 World Series, Babe purchased the building at 38 South Eutaw for his father to operate as a bar, and Babe and his wife Helen lived on the second floor that offseason.
LOKA’s mission is to give people a sense of community, appealing to their basic inherent need of belonging. LOKA is mobile technology’s most ambitious location-based information aggregator. With LOKA, all news and information becomes geolocated to a person’s preferred address or temporary location, so users will load the app to find out news that’s actually close to them: store and restaurant openings, crime and events that are actually happening nearby. LOKA provides customized information that more relevant and accessible than ever before.
LOKA is a massive, curated guide, available for every spot on earth. The app combines vital user-generated content, historical data, elements of popular sites like Wikipedia and various news sites, as well as aspects of apps like Yelp, Tripadvisor and AroundMe, to create an unprecedented source of evolving information.