Baltimore is a relative newcomer in Maryland history, founded in 1706 as a port to serve the tobacco trade. It was named after the second Lord Baltimore the first governor of the Province of Maryland, who died in 1675. Baltimore grew quickly, supplanting Annapolis as the main port of entry in 1780. The arrival of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from 1830 started another phase of growth by linking the city to the Midwest increasing its importance as a port and enabling it to develop as a manufacturing centre. During the Civil War, Maryland remained in the Union, but Confederate sympathisers attacked Union troops passing through Baltimore at the start of the war causing deaths on both sides and forcing Union soldiers to occupy the city. There were more deaths in 1877 when soldiers fired on striking railroad workers triggering a riot. Over 1,500 buildings in the centre of the city were destroyed in the Great Baltimore Fire of 1904. Local fire fighters could not control the fire and fire fighters for nearby cities could not help because the US did not have a standard fire hydrant hose coupling. The downtown area was rebuilt to improved fire standards, and the disaster started moves towards standardising fire fighting equipment across the USA. By the 1970s, a decline in trade had left the Inner Harbor area run down so work began to redevelop the area. Nowadays Baltimore is a pleasant city with a modern waterfront that we suspect will grow in popularity with tourists.
Seven-foot Knoll Lighthouse, Pier 5
Wandering around the Inner harbor you come across this "screwpile" lighthouse built on Pier 5. It’s not that US sailors are so shortsighted that they need a lighthouse to guide them round the Inner Harbor, it was moved here in 1988 when it became redundant after being replaced by a navigation marker. In 1997 it became part of the Baltimore Maritime Museum. The “screwpiles” are cast iron legs that were screwed into the seabed to support the lighthouse, a much quicker and cheaper way of building a lighthouse than using traditional masonry foundations. Built in 1856, Seven-foot Knoll Lighthouse was originally located at the mouth of the Patapsco River where for nearly 133 years it warned shipping of the shoal of the same name.
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As a major port and shipbuilding area, Baltimore was a prime target for any potential enemy, so Fort McHenry was built between 1795 and 1805 to provide protection. Its moment of glory came in the Anglo-US War of 1812 when on September 13-14 1814 it withstood fierce British bombardment. It was the sight of the US Flag still flying on the morning of the 14th amidst the smoke of battle that inspired Francis Scott Key to write ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. Sadly, the day before this picture was taken a Water Taxi leaving the Fort capsized in a sudden squall and 5 people lost their lives. The helicopter in the background was taking part in the recovery operations.
USS Constellation & World Trade Center
Launched in 1854, the USS Constellation was the last sailing warship built by the US Navy. After serving initially in the Mediterranean, she was assigned to anti-slavery duties off the coast of Africa. During the Civil War she returned to the Mediterranean and later patrolled the Gulf of Mexico. As the last of her kind, her active life was short and after the Civil War she became a training ship. Behind the Constellation is the World Trade Center. It has a viewing platform that would have given us an excellent view over Baltimore, if only they had bothered to clean the windows. Click Tab 2 to see the Captain's Quarters of the USS Constellation.
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The wealth created by Baltimore’s position of main port of entry is reflected in its imposing City Hall. The site for City Hall had been selected and early plans drawn up before the the Civil War started. In 1864 a competition was held for a new design which was won by Baltimore architect George A. Frederick with his plans for a French Renaissance Revival building. The Civil War delayed the start of construction so laying the foundation stone had to wait until 1867 and the building was completed in 1875. By the mid 1940s City Hall was in a bad state of repair but nothing was done. In 1959 a heavy ornament came loose and plunged down into the Board of Estimates hearing room. This started a debate about either renovating or replacing City Hall which was not settled until 1974 when the city council voted to renovate the building. The renovation took two years and included taking the dome completely apart and reassembling it.
Phoenix Shot Tower
Here is something that you don’t expect to find still standing in a major US city. Shot towers were use to manufacture lead shot by dropping molten lead from the top of the tower through a screen that broke the molten lead into drops, down the tower where each drop would become spherical before solidifying and then dropping into a cooling water bath at the bottom. The solidified lead shot was then sorted by size before being bagged for shipment. The Phoenix Shot Tower was built in 1828 with its cornerstone laid by Charles Carroll of Carrollton (see Annapolis page). At over 65 metres (215 feet) high, the shot tower was the tallest structure in the USA until the Washington Monument was built in Washington DC. By the late 19th century shot towers had become obsolete and the Phoenix Shot Tower closed in 1892. In 1921 permission was given to demolish the tower but there was a strong reaction against this from the people of Baltimore. $17,000 dollars were raised to buy the shot tower and it was then donated to the City of Baltimore with a requirement that it should be preserved. Phoenix Shot Tower is operated by Carroll Museums, Inc and tours are available by prior arrangement.
Dolphin Show, National Aquarium
A key aspect of the 1970s development of the run down Inner Harbor was the building of an aquarium as major attraction to bring people back to the area. Construction started in 1978 and the National Aquarium opened to the public on August 8, 1981. When we visited in 2004 the aquarium ran dolphin shows as shown here. Nowadays it has been changed to a Dolphin Discovery exhibit where visitors can learn about dolphins by seeing them playing and interacting naturally with each other. In the future the aquarium is planning to establish an outdoor dolphin sanctuary away from Baltimore so eventually there will be no dolphins in the aquarium. There are plenty of other exhibits covering marine and land life from across the world. Click Tab 2 to see the exterior of the aquarium with the preserved Chesapeake Lightship moored near it.
Thames Street, Fell's Point
Fells Point is named after William Fell, an English Quaker who bought land here in 1730. In the 18th and early 19th centuries the area became famous for ship building including the speedy “Baltimore Clippers” that became popular with Privateers. In 1797 the USS Constellation, predecessor of the one on show in Baltimore Harbor, was built here. Full of 18th and 19th century buildings, the area is a popular weekend destination for residents of Philadelphia and DC.
Star Spangled Banner House, Pratt & Albemarle Streets
The flag that flew over Fort McHenry and inspired Francis Scott Key to write ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ was manufactured here. Mary Pickersgill (née Young) was born in 1776 and she learned the craft of flag making from her mother. Her husband died when she was 29 but her flag making business provide her with a living. This house was built in 1793 and Mary moved ther in 1806 after she was widowed. In 1813, anticipating a British attack, Major George Armistead asked Mary to make a flag for Fort McHenry so large that the British would see it from a great distance. The flag was hoisted at the fort in August 1813, and in September 1814 it served its purpose during the British attack. Mary lived in the house for over 50 years until she died in 1857. In 1927 the City of Baltimore bought the house and as the Star Spangled Banner House it is now operated as a museum.