The Streets of Baltimore

Author: Alecia Pirulis

Washington Monument in Baltimore

Washington Monument, in the Mt. Vernon neighborhood of Baltimore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From the ashes – or, at least from the empty beer cans and scattered pizza boxes of tailgaters and couch-watchers everywhere – two teams have emerged victorious. Before they face each other in that ultimate football game on February 3, why not learn a little more about the teams and the cities they represent? First up: Baltimore!

The ominous birds of yore turned their fiery eyes toward the New England Patriots and after a resounding 28-13 “beak to thy heart,” the Patriots are “Nevermore.” (Well, at least until next year.) The Ravens were named by fans in the late 1990s, when the team that was the Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore. Since Baltimore was once home to Edgar Allan Poe and he is buried in Baltimore, fans chose “Ravens” based on Poe’s haunting and mysterious poem.

Baltimore is a historic city located about an hour north of Washington, D.C. on the Patapsco River and the Chesapeake Bay. And while you may associate Baltimore with elegant brownstones, crab cakes, and Mount Vernon, there’s more to Baltimore than you may think. Downtown Baltimore is attracting new residents every day, with a population increase of 130 percent in the last 12 years. And while many work in Baltimore, others take advantage of the Baltimore Light Rail system to travel throughout the Baltimore-Washington area.

Baltimore is one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the US, and it is a college town – the University of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University and the Peabody Institute, Baltimore International College, Morgan State University, and the Maryland Institute College of Art are just a few of the colleges and universities located here. With so many colleges and universities, it’s no wonder that Baltimore’s population is young – the average age is 35.

The Port of Baltimore dates back to 1706, about 23 years before the founding of the town. The port began as a point of entry for tobacco from England. During the Revolutionary War, earthworks were constructed for port defense. That fort was replaced in 1798 with Fort McHenry.

Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine is a national treasure. It was here that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A lawyer, Key arrived at Fort McHenry to try and get a friend released from British custody. He boarded an English ship to speak to the admiral, who was already planning an attack on the fort. When Key left the ship he was placed on a small American boat anchored offshore, where he witnessed the attack on Fort McHenry – an ordeal that lasted 25 hours. During the last few hours of the attack, he wrote the first lines of what became the National Anthem.

When visiting Baltimore, take time to go to the neighborhood of Fells Point, which was founded in 1730. Today, this historic district features not only amazing architecture, but more than 120 pubs and a wide selection of coffee bars, restaurants, and shops. For a vast selection of theaters and museums, the arts district of Station North is a great place to visit (for those considering renting in Baltimore, this neighborhood is filled with funky lofts that were converted from warehouses). For amazing 19th century architecture, the original George Washington Monument, and fantastic historic sites, the Mount Vernon neighborhood is also a must-see.

The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum and his burial site in Westminster Graveyard are also great destinations. The house was built in 1832 as a small duplex with five rooms and three fireplaces. Walk along the uneven wood floors and marvel at the virtually untouched house as well as the exhibits. See a set of Gustave Dore’s illustrations for “The Raven” that he did in 1884 and see the desk where Poe wrote some of his famous short stories and poems, including “Berenice—A Tale,” “Morella,” “Hans Pfaall,” “Latin Hymn,” and “To Elizabeth.”

When you are in the shopping mood, you’ll want to travel the same streets as residents and visitors to Baltimore have travelled for 220 years – those of the Lexington Market. The Lexington Market opened in 1782 and is still in the same location on Lexington Street between Eutaw Street and Greene Street. It is the world’s largest continuously-running market — and it isn’t just a place to shop, but also a place to listen to live music and attend annual events such as the Chocolate Festival, the Preakness Crab Derby, and Lunch with the Elephants.

From the brightly-painted row houses in historic Charles Village to the abundant blue crabs to local delicacies such as Lake Trout and the Chicken Box, Baltimore is a city filled with amazing sites and a distinct flavor. And while they are the underdogs in the upcoming Super Bowl, Baltimore fans don’t mind. They may have won only one Super Bowl Championship (in 2000) compared to San Francisco’s five, but this city has a long history of gritty determination and overcoming the odds – from the meeting of the Second Continental Congress in the Henry Fite House to the Battle of Baltimore in the War of 1812, Baltimore is a city that sees a challenge and triumphs.