An Insider’s Look At Baltimore Today!
by Carol Sorgen
Welcome to Baltimore. Or, as the natives say, “Welcome to Bawlamer, hon.” Baltimore is known far and wide for the Orioles and their steamed crabs. But there’s more to the city than that. Baltimore is not only rich in history, but also a thriving metropolis with enough attractions to keep you busy for days at a time. Whether you want to explore the Inner Harbor or venture farther a field to the surrounding counties, the Baltimore area has something for everyone.
To get your bearings, start your visit to “Charm City” atop Federal Hill at Warren Avenue and Key Highway. From the top of the hill, you can see a dramatic view of Baltimore’s cityscape. The area was named after the citywide celebration that followed the ratification of the U.S. Constitution, and has been a public park since 1879.
If you only have time for a quick overview of Maryland’s fascinating heritage, don’t miss the Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library of Maryland History. The museum is home to the original copy of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” as well as one of the largest nineteenth century American silver collections in the world, the country’s largest decorative arts collection, and the Radcliffe Maritime Museum. The Historical Society will kick off a yearlong grand reopening beginning in November 2003. The focus of the grand reopening will be the new Carey Center for Maryland Life, which will house a paintings gallery with images of Maryland from Native American times to the present, as well as a furniture gallery that will connect furniture to its makers, owners, and larger stylistic trends throughout history. The centerpiece will be a pilot version of the new long-term exhibition “Looking for Liberty in Maryland.”
Also at the Maryland Historical Society, opening on February 7, 2004, is “Baltimore Ablaze: The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904.” Eighty-six Baltimore city blocks were reduced to rubble in the fire, from the Inner Harbor to north of Lexington Street, and from Liberty Street east to the Jones Falls, including all of the Pratt Street piers. Almost all of downtown Baltimore burned to the ground, including more than 1500 buildings and 2500 businesses.
A new exhibit, “Baltimore Ablaze: The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904,” is scheduled to open on the 100th anniversary of the fire, will relate to visitors the entire story of the fire, from the unthinkable devastation to the city’s remarkable rebirth. The exhibit will include photographs and footage of the destruction, stories of the men and horses who fought the fire, salvaged objects from the fire ruins, and details on how the fire set the way for standardized fire hoses and hydrants. 2004 will see yet another grand reopening in Baltimore when the Hippodrome Performing Arts Center opens its doors. Decades ago, the Hippodrome anchored Baltimore city’s cultural and performing arts district. The Hippodrome is currently undergoing a $61 million renovation effort and is expected to draw the biggest Broadway names to Baltimore!
Inner Harbor East Side Expands
New life is being breathed into the empty 194-year-old house that belonged to Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Baltimore County innkeeper Anne Pomykala will reopen the mansion and the Shot Tower, which closed in 1997. Pomykala plans to convert several row houses next to Carroll Mansion to a bed-and-breakfast inn, and open a restaurant and club that will feature Latin dancing in the cast-iron front building behind the mansion. These privately funded endeavors are expected to cost more than $5.5 million and open throughout 2003.
From the establishment of the first shipyard in the 1730s until the mid nineteenth century, Fell’s Point was the engine that drove the maritime commerce of Baltimore. The Fell’s Point Maritime Museum, opening in May 2003, will feature an exhibition showcasing the Maryland Historical Society’s renowned collection of rare artifacts that illuminate the lives of those who lived and earned their living by the sea in Fell’s Point. The museum, housed in a historic building on Thames Street, will allow visitors to learn about maritime history where it happened. Don’t overlook the rest of Fell’s Point either. Go east on Pratt Street to President Street, Aliceanna Street, and Broadway and meander along Fell’s Point’s cobblestone streets with their charming shops, galleries, pubs, and restaurants.
A four million dollar expansion of the Star-Spangled Banner Museum Campus will be completed by June 14, 2003: Flag Day. The new 12,600-square-foot space will house the War of 1812 Museum, exhibit galleries, an orientation theater, a gift shop, tearoom, and meeting rooms. The galleries will concentrate on exhibits about the Star-Spangled Banner Flag, the Chesapeake Bay campaign, and the role of African Americans in the War of 1812. The museum will also house a fully computerized flag resource center and a children’s hands-on gallery. The centerpiece of this multimillion-dollar project is The Great Flag Window, a spectacular 30-by-42 foot window, which will be the same size, color, and design of the original Star-Spangled Banner made by Mary Pickersgill in the adjacent Flag House.
The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, the East Coast’s largest museum chronicling the history of Americans of African descent, will open in the summer of 2004. The $33 million facility will house artifacts and exhibits that will cover 350 years of Maryland history. The museum’s art galleries will be supplemented with interactive learning centers; there will also be a genealogy center, theater, recording studio for oral history, conservation lab, classroom designed for distance learning, storage area for collections, gift shop, and café.
Inner Harbor’s Newest Additions
To help educate Baltimore’s 11 million annual visitors about all the great things to do and see around the city and the state, the new Baltimore Visitor Center will open to the public in August 2003. This new $6.7 million, 7,950-square-foot building in the heart of the Inner Harbor, between Harborplace and the Maryland Science Center, will house exhibition space for attractions, ticketing services for more than 50 attractions and hotels, and a 100-seat theater.
Baltimore visitors will be able to take a guided tour through the new world-headquarters of Phillips Foods, opening in spring 2003. Learn about the production process as the Phillips team demonstrates how the award-winning signature crab cakes are made by hand in eight-pound batches, an art that the Phillips family has perfected since the opening of its first crab processing plant in 1916. Guests can participate in a hands-on demonstration and learn how to prepare this regional specialty in their own home. The tour will also include a brief film depicting the history of the Phillips family and its dedication to serving seafood.
Baltimore Explore Center, a visitor and tourist complex including Time Elevator America and Oceanarium theaters, will open in spring 2003. Each theater will accommodate 40 motion-based seats that are based on sophisticated technology-panoramic projection, surround sound, motion bases, and special effects-to create a simulated journey. The “rides” will give each visitor the sensation of experiencing the movie as a participant rather than a spectator.
Time Elevator America will tell the story of Baltimore and its role in the history of the United States from the War of 1812 to the present. The film will also highlight the famous wonders of America and the diversity of its people.
In the Oceanarium, the audience will be treated to a voyage into the depths of the Seven Seas. The Oceanarium production will provide a programmatic link to both Baltimore’s maritime history and the proximity of the Chesapeake Bay, as well as an introduction to a wide variety of marine animals and exposure to the critical environmental issues affecting our oceans.
Opening in the summer of 2004 is the Maryland Science Center’s $32 million expansion. In what will be nearly a complete transformation, the 26-year-old Maryland Science Center will double its display space and create the country’s first major exhibit on dinosaurs that once roamed the East Coast. The new 42,000-square-foot wing will be home for exhibits devoted to the Chesapeake Bay earth sciences, including geology, meteorology, and paleontology, and the study of prehistoric plant and animal life through fossils. The most prominent feature will be a 53-foot-high Earth Sciences and Dinosaur Hall with a large glass window revealing life-sized dinosaur figures inside, including Astrodon johnstoni, Maryland’s official state dinosaur. The expansion will include features such as a “dino mountain” and a “dino dig” where kids can hunt for fossils. Plans also call for an outdoor science park with free exhibits spilling onto the Inner Harbor promenade.
Don’t miss out on the 150th anniversary of the launch of the USS Constellation, also in the summer of 2004. The USS Constellation Museum, the city of Baltimore, and the state of Maryland will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the launch of the sloop of war USS Constellation, the last all-sail warship built by the U.S. Navy and the only Civil War era vessel afloat. The yearlong celebration includes a homecoming cruise to the U.S. Naval Academy, a major tall ship celebration in Baltimore for the Fourth of July, a monthly speaker series and more!
Beyond the Harbor
Two of the country’s most prestigious art museums can be found in Baltimore. The Baltimore Museum of Art is located just a short distance away from downtown Baltimore, adjacent to the Johns Hopkins University Homewood campus. The museum features a permanent collection of more than 120,000 works of art including the renowned Cone collection of 20th century art by such painters as Matisse, Picasso, and Cezanne. In addition to the American Wing, the museum spotlights the art of Africa, Asia, and Oceania, and a separate wing for modern art.
At the Walters Art Gallery, more than 30,000 masterpieces covering 5000 years of history are on permanent display. The Hackerman House, the museum’s Asian art wing, boasts more than 1000 works.
The Baltimore Museum of Art’s distinguished collection of 15th- through 19th-century European art returns to the opulent galleries of the Jacobs Wing in “A Grand Legacy: Five Centuries of European Art,” which opened in January 2003. The new installation features Rinaldo and Armida, one of the world’s finest paintings by Sir Anthony van Dyck, as well as French and Northern European masterpieces by Frans Hals, Rembrandt van Rijn, Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin, and Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun. The galleries also showcase a superlative collection of 19th-century French sculpture by Auguste Rodin and his teacher, Antoine-Louis Barye, and works on paper by notable artists such as Eugène Delacroix and Édouard Manet.
Coming to South Baltimore in the summer 2004 is The Immigration Project. Baltimore ranks second to Ellis Island as a port of entry for immigrants during the period of mass global immigration. The Immigration Project will include the Immigration Gateway Heritage Park, monuments to honor each immigrant that entered the United States through Baltimore, and a Family Heritage Center that will house a computer database of immigrant records.
In west Baltimore, don’t miss a visit to the newly renovated Lexington Market. Lexington Market is a historic landmark that has operated since 1782. The market provides fresh meats, seafood, poultry, groceries, specialty items, and prepared foods for take-out and on-site dining. Many events are scheduled throughout the year including “Lunch with the Elephants” and “The Chocolate Festival,” as well as special programs for the holidays and noontime music events. Lexington Market is a favorite field trip for Maryland school children who visit the market to discover the vast variety of foods from different cultures.
Indeed, Baltimore’s ethnic diversity is one of its charms. From Little Italy to Corned Beef Row, the city not only teems with the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of its “melting pot” population, but has also put together fascinating and educational displays to help resident and visitors alike get to know one another better.
The Great Blacks in Wax Museum is the United States’ first and only wax museum devoted to African-American history and culture. More than 100 life-size and life-like wax figures are depicted in dramatic historical scenes. And at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, visitors will find fascinating permanent, as well as temporary, exhibits, chronicling various aspects of Jewish life in Maryland, as well as two of the oldest synagogues in the country, Lloyd Street Synagogue, built in 1845, and B’nai Israel Synagogue, constructed in 1876.
What would Baltimore be without baseball? Relive the game’s glory days at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. Now home to the second largest baseball museum in the country, the Babe Ruth birthplace has films, highlights, and exhibits on Babe Ruth, the Orioles, and Maryland’s baseball history. And for a glimpse at baseball as it’s played today, take a tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the baseball park that has received kudos from baseball fans near and far ever since it opened.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, you’re in luck. In no time at all you can find yourself outside the city boundaries, enjoying the fresh air and scenic charms of Baltimore’s surrounding counties.
In Howard County, you’re just about 30 minutes away from downtown Baltimore, but in a different world. Columbia, the population center of the county, is one of the country’s most successful “new towns.” Developed by the Rouse Company (of Harborplace fame), Columbia is a completely planned community with different “villages” that incorporate housing, schools, recreation, and shopping.
Just five miles from the town center of Columbia (which, by the way, has its own shopping mall if you’re in need of a quick fix), lies the town of Ellicott City, formerly Ellicott Mills. Craft shops, art galleries, and restaurants line the historic district of Main Street. The town’s old stone buildings have seen their share of misfortune–from fires to floods–but it seems that nothing can destroy the city for long. And in nearby Savage Mill, a 19th-century cotton mill has been renovated to showcase more than 35 specialty shops, 235 antique dealers, and 25 artists’ studios.
Between April and Halloween, pack a picnic lunch and drive out Jarrettsville Pike, north of Towson, to the Harvey Smith Ladew Topiary Gardens. The garden covers 14 acres and is known throughout the world for its extensive display of flowers, as well as a life-size fox hunt, birds, and seahorses, all of which have been carefully sculpted from the green shrubbery. The 11-room house, located on the grounds, contains Ladew’s collections of fox hunting and equestrian memorabilia, as well as antiques, paintings, and silver.
Opening in spring 2003 is Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament at Arundel Mills Mall. Surrounded by the pageantry of the 11th century, guests will enjoy a four-course feast while valiant knights on horseback compete in a tournament of jousting and sword fighting. The live two-hour show will seat 1,000 guests per performance. Arundel Mills is located just 20 minutes from downtown Baltimore near the BWI Airport.
Photos Courtesy of Baltimore Convention & Visitor’s Association and Walters Art Museum. Resources: Baltimore Convention & Visitor’s Association www.baltimore.org 877-BALTIMORE