Ghosts of Port Street: Part II (Port Street Wire Workers, Part Deux)

Ghosts of Baltimore
In the last Ghosts of Port Street, we featured Stephen Bohdal, a humble wireworker whose experience ultimately paid off when he created a patent for a “Combined Coat and Skirt Hanger.”
Bohdal lived at 900 N Port Street, and just next door, in 902, lived the Widra family. In 1910, the Widra family consisted of Peter, his wife Rose, and their three children, Rudolph, Charles, and Helen. Like his neighbor Bohdal, Peter was a wireworker. In fact, the two neighbors owned a wire works together at 717 E Fayette Street, appropriately named Widra and Bohdal.

902 n port

It seems the neighbors eventually went their separate ways, as both Widra and Bohdal opened their own businesses. Peter Widra & Company Ornamental Wire Works specialized in elevator cars, lawn settees, and bank railings, among other things. They operated out of a factory at 516 Ensor Street.

widra wire baltimore

By the time the 1920 Census was taken, Peter had died, and Rose was running the business. The family still lived at 902 N Port, though Rose’s mother, brother, and niece had moved in. Charles, who at 15 was the oldest Widra son, did not enter the family trade, and instead worked as a clerk at an insurance agent. In 1930, Charles had moved out to the suburbs where he worked as a press operator at an aircraft factory. By 1940, he had moved back home to East Baltimore, though he kept his work as an aircraft mechanic.
902 port rear

The rear of 902 Port after we took off the roof, peeled up the flooring, removed the joists, and manually took down the walls.

One imagines that the work of an aircraft mechanic must have been somewhat of a natural extension to the work of a wire worker. Maybe it was in Charles Widra’s blood? In looking at the earliest listing for the Widra family, the “d” in the name seems cut short, almost to the point that it looks like an “a”. The name seems to be written as “Wiara”. This could be the case, of course; perhaps the immigration official or census taker or whoever first wrote down the name “Wiara” wrote it in such a way that it looked like “Widra” and the new name just stuck. It is quite possible that the family’s original name was “Wiara”: in old German, it means “wire”.

widra wiara

 

 

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One thought on “Ghosts of Port Street: Part II (Port Street Wire Workers, Part Deux)

  1. I am obsessed with your website & instagram feed! thank you for bringing these buildings to life–both with your stories & research as well as giving the materials new life after deconstruction! So wonderful! I am seriously in love with your work.

    Like

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