From Lord Baltimore to Camden Yards

... from royal stuffed shirts to working blue collars

by Jim Tierney

Cecil Calvert (1605-1675), an Englishman, founded the colony of Maryland and the colony’s charter granted Calvert (Lord Baltimore) “kingly” powers in the colony. Although Calvert was Roman Catholic, most of Maryland people were Protestant, so he drafted a law to grant religious freedom to all people in the colony. The law became the first statute for religious freedom in the American Colonies. From British rule to American independence, the city of Baltimore grew up around its port where its deep water attracted ships from all over the world since the 1600’s and its maritime history is evident everywhere you look. In recent years, the inner harbor (known as The Inner Harbor) has been a major attraction to visitors from all over the world because of its “one of a kind” conversion from a deteriorating old waterfront industrial area to a scenic visitors' delight. Attractions virtually ring the harbor and are easily accessible either by water taxi or by walking along Baltimore’s waterfront promenade.

We came to Baltimore for our granddaughter’s wedding and my first thought was Camden Yards, the Inner Harbor and the Maryland Crab, because that’s all I’ve heard from visitors over the last several years. Of course, Orioles Park at Camden Yards (the old Baltimore and Ohio railroad yards) was a must visit and I was pleased that I did. It’s unique because it was built with the idea of replicating the “old time” ballpark, the last of which are Boston’s Fenway Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field, conveniently located within the city and accessible by public transportation. It even has a miniature Fenway Green Monster with Wrigley Ivy growing on it in center field. There are plaques embedded in the street where home runs were hit between the center field fence and the old B&O warehouse, one of which is former Red Sox player Troy O’Leary. Ken Griffey Jr. hit the only ball off the warehouse in an All-Star game. Also at Camden Yards is the M&T Bank, NFL Ravens football stadium, Sports Legends Museum featuring Babe Ruth, Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer & Cal Ripkin, and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, pop culture through the ages, all within walking distance of the Inner Harbor. Other Baltimore famous sons and daughters include H.L. Mencken, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, Dorothy Hamill, Nancy Pelosi, Eubie Blake, Ogden Nash, Thurgood Marshall, and Wallis Warfield Simpson, who became Duchess of Windsor.

The Inner Harbor is a scenic waterfront delight, home to dozens of retail stores, restaurants, and attractions, all within walking distance of more than 20 major hotels and the Baltimore Convention Center. Water taxis connect to Little Italy, Fells Point, Federal Hill, Mount Vernon, Fort McHenry, Canton, Westside, Hampden, and other charming waterfront neighborhoods. The Maryland Crab was a real treat and lived up to its reputation.

----- Fells Point is where Baltimore’s English roots are most evident with cobblestone streets named Shakespeare, Bond, Fleet, and Thames.

----- Fort McHenry was the site of the battle of Baltimore during the war of 1812 and where Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words that became our National Anthem. Key, an attorney, was on the British ship negotiating the release of a prisoner, his friend, but was “detained” during the bombardment of the fort. It gives me a whole new perspective on the words, picturing him writing them down, as he watched the flag “yet wave” during defense of the fort “in the dawn’s early light”.

----- Federal Hill provides a spectacular view of the harbor and the downtown skyline. In 1788, 400 patriots celebrated Maryland’s ratification of the U.S. Constitution with a hilltop picnic and fireworks. It’s also the site of Baltimore’s Museum and History dedicated to preserving the city’s blue collar history.

----- Mount Vernon is where the country’s first monument to our first president is located, with a statue of George at the very top. The Gilded Age Society of the late 19th Century built their mansions in Mount Vernon, many of which are now restaurants and museums.

Other water taxi stops include the National Aquarium, ESPN Zone, Maryland Science Center featuring Norman Rockwell’s most famous art, the American Visionary Art Museum, and the Baltimore/Ohio Railroad Museum.

The Inner Harbor is also known as the National Historic Seaport of Baltimore which features the USS Constellation, the last all-sail warship and only Civil War vessel still afloat, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Taney, the last warship afloat that survived the Pearl Harbor attack, and the World War II submarine USS Torsk. The Constellation has daily ship rituals and on our visit to the ship my son, a Navy veteran, assisted in the raising of the colors. Also here at the Baltimore Maritime Museum are National Historic Landmarks, lightship “Chesapeake” and the seven foot Knoll Lighthouse. Other attractions along the Promenade or by water taxi include the Baltimore Museum of History, Baltimore Civil War Museum, Fells Point Maritime Museum, Frederick Douglass,  Isaac Myers Maritime Park, and the Star Spangled Banner Flag House. The Flag House is the home of Mary Pickersgill where she made the 30 ft. by 42 ft. flag that flew over Fort Mc Kinley and inspired Francis Scott Key.

If that isn’t enough for you, Baltimore also has:

  • the Top of the World, the world’s tallest pentagonal building with a breathtaking view of the city’s skyline, the harbor, and beyond.

  • Babe Ruth’s birthplace, a National Historic site with rare artifacts, photos and videos, and St. Mary’s Industrial School, Reformatory and Orphanage, where his parents sent him, signing custody over to the Xaverian Brothers, Catholic Missionaries, who ran the school.

  • Ghost tours, featuring Poet Edgar Allen Poe’s grave at Westminster Hall and Burial Ground, and the story of the mystery man who, on Poe’s birthday January 19th every year, kneels at the grave for a toast of Martel cognac and leaves the half-full bottle and three red roses.

  • City tours are available for sightseeing all of this, including double decker busses and trolleys. There are also lunch/dinner harbor cruises, as well as cruising on the Clipper City Tall Ship.

So when you go “see” it or “hear” about Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Camden Yards, there’s a lot more to see or hear than meets the eye -- or ear, so to speak.

February 2, 2007


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