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B&O Railroad Museum

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The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is located at 901 West Pratt Street in Charm City. The museum is geared towards rail enthusiasts and fans of America’s industrial history. The collection includes over 200 pieces of rolling stock as well as hundreds of artifacts representing every key period in the timeline of American railways.

After studying rail facilities in England in 1826, businessmen Philip Thomas and George Brown returned to Baltimore and, with 25 others, organized the B&O. The railroad was formally chartered in 1827 and is the country’s first large scale commercial rail service. On July 4th, 1828 construction began with the aging Charles Carroll of Carrollton presiding over the ceremony.

The countries best engineers were hired to survey the line including Jonathan Knight, Major George Whistler and Colonel Stephen Long. The team initially set out to reach Ellicott Mills, a distance of 13 miles, as a test run on their way to the Ohio River. Over 140 years of continuous operation followed. In February of 1963 the Baltimore & Ohio was acquired by the rival Chesapeake & Ohio. By 1970 the line merged with several others to form Chessie System (now CSX).

Throughout the company’s long existence a few great men took great care in saving and preserving the B&O’s heritage, storing stock in unused yards for future exhibition. These relics would eventually find their place at West Charm City’s Mount Clare yards and its massive roundhouse.

In 1884 the company built a new structure at their existing Mount Clare yards. The E. Francis Baldwin designed roundhouse was the largest car shop in the country when it was completed. Today the building houses locomotives and rolling stock from the steam era to modern times.

The museum’s roundhouse, annex buildings and open acreage are littered with examples of rolling stock, and although some are in better condition than others, the collection is impressive. The price of admission may seem steep, $16.00 for adults, but if you have a few hours it’s definitely worth it. This is certainly one of the finer museums in Baltimore.

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Written by monumentcity

June 29th, 2012 at 7:12 am

A Brief History of Baltimore’s Electric Streetcars

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America’s first commercially operated electric streetcar ran in Baltimore on August 10, 1885 when inventor Leo Daft converted the Baltimore and Hampden line from horse-drawn cars to his third rail system. The pioneering technology used current from a middle rail as its power supply. Often attributed to Frank Sprague, Daft’s electric train was in service before Sprague electrified Richmond Virginia’s public transit system.

In 1891 an extensive cable car system was established by the Baltimore Traction Company, its first line running from Druid Hill Park to Patterson Park. The expensive technology used underground steel cables to pull streetcars along at 6-11 mph. Power was supplied by steam engines placed in warehouses. The cable car system was abandoned in 1899, the same year Baltimore’s numerous transit providers consolidated into the United Railways and Electric Company.

After consolidation a multitude of technical obstacles needed to be dealt with. The various types of streetcars, tracks and power sources were slowly standardized into one working unit. A massive coal-burning power plant was erected on Pratt Street near the center of the system, its four smokestacks reaching 190 feet into the air. Overhead lines were stitched throughout the city, and structures, large and small, were erected or altered in many neighborhoods and districts.

Baltimoreans used streetcars not only for vocation and recreation but to extend their territorial boundaries. As City Council annexed county land residents began to migrate. Electric streetcars enabled workers to live further from their jobs, facilitating the city’s growth in the first half of the 20th Century.

Enter the automobile. By 1914 Henry Ford was producing a new Tin Lizzie every fifteen minutes using improved assembly line techniques. The proliferation of cars created the need for better roads and highways, marking the beginning of the streetcar’s decline. WWI and WWII provided significant bumps in business, but it was too late. City engineers gradually removed trolley tracks to accommodate the influx of new automobiles. The United Railways and Electric Company was slowly taken over by out-of-state interests and eventually dismantled. The bus system was chosen and in November of 1963 the last electric streetcar to operate in Baltimore made its final run.

Several monuments to the city’s trolley system remain. North Baltimore has three waiting stations: Bedford Square, Overhill and Edgevale Road. Numerous communities have tracks still installed on or under the streets, especially in the Fells Point area. Old power stations and car barns are still standing. The Charles Street streetcar barn, built during the cable car experiment of the 1890s, is just north of Pennsylvania Station next to the Chesapeake Restaurant building. Park Terminal near Druid Hill Park and Bolton Hill’s Linden Avenue stop are further examples of local streetcar relics.

The Baltimore Streetcar Museum offers rides on restored historic cars. Located under the North Avenue bridge, the unique museum is open on Sundays year round. The facility also contains the Maryland Rail Heritage Library, a valuable resource to local history.

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Written by monumentcity

February 15th, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Spring House of Dairy at the BMA

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The Baltimore Museum of Art is located in Charles Village at the bottom edge of Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus. The BMA features paintings by Matisse, Picasso and Van Gogh along side ancient mosaics, miniatures and stained glass. And admission is free. The Spring House of Dairy sits on the western end of the museum’s property. Designed by acclaimed architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe in 1812, the small building was once located in what is now Roland Park at the former Oakland estate. Oakland was owned by the retired South Carolina State Senator Robert Goodloe Harper, a close friend of Latrobe’s, and the son-in-law of Charles Carroll of Carrollton. The building was originally situated over a running spring using the cool waters to preserve milk and other perishables. Spring House had a detailed frieze (possibly sculpted by Antonio Capellano) that has since been lost to the ages.

When John Russell Pope was designing the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1929, the Spring House of Dairy was donated to the project. Pope reconstructed the small Neoclassical style structure with as many original components as possible. He used the construction to offset the Wyman Gatehouse at the other end of the property, the subtle technique providing a balanced perspective between the lot’s three buildings.

Written by monumentcity

March 2nd, 2011 at 10:18 am

Baltimore’s Flag House

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The Star-Spangled Banner Flag pwas conceived and primarily sewn at Baltimore’s Flag House. The historic building and museum was once occupied by Mary Young Pickersgill and her successful flag making business. In 1813 Colonel George Armistead, then commander of Fort McHenry, expressed interest in two oversized banners for the star-shaped stronghold. General John Stricker (who is buried in Westminster Burying Ground) promptly placed an order with the Pickersgill company for the giant pennants. $574.44 of federal money exchanged hands and Pickersgill, her daughter, two of her nieces and an indentured servant began fulfilling the contract.

The Great Garrison Flag measured 30 feet by 42 feet, while the Storm Flag was smaller (17 feet by 25 feet) and more suitable for inclement weather. The Great Garrison Flag was so large it had to be sewn in sections and taken to a nearby brewery for final assembly. Claggett’s Brewery (as it eventually became known) was owned by Mayor Edward Johnson and was one block from the Pickersgill house. The women worked by candlelight during evening hours, unknowingly creating an American icon. The brewery building is no longer standing.

Written by monumentcity

January 26th, 2011 at 11:36 am

Stanford White and Baltimore’s Lovely Lane Church

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Stanford White (1853-1906) was one of the most successful and gifted architects of the Gilded Age. A partner in the prominent New York design firm, McKim, Mead and White, Stanford was known for his detailed artistic renderings. Specializing in elaborate private residences, he created a variety of houses throughout the eastern United States, along with public buildings and churches. The second Madison Square Garden was designed by White, its rooftop the eventual site of his highly publicized murder.

In 1906, White was shot in the head by the millionaire Harry Kendall Thaw during the premiere performance of Mam’zelle Champagne. Thaw, an avid drug user and possible sadist, was the husband of 21 year-old Evelyn Nesbit, a model, actress and former lover of White. The murder was mistaken as exhibition by the excited Madison Square Roof Garden crowd, cheers gleefully trailing three point blank pistol shots. Two massively popular trials ensued and Thaw, after pleading temporary insanity, was sentenced to an asylum. He walked in 1915 and continued his abusive, bizarre life.

White designed north Baltimore’s Lovely Lane United Methodist Church in 1884. Also known as the First Methodist Episcopal Church, the building at 2200 Saint Paul Street was completed in 1887. The Romanesque Revival style construct was modeled after the basilicas of Italy, the tower closely resembling Pomposa Abbey.

Buildings in Baltimore designed by Stanford White:

Written by monumentcity

March 10th, 2010 at 7:03 am

The Peale Museum Restoration of 1930

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In 1930, the Peale Museum was saved from possible demolition. Over a hundred years of varied use had left the Robert Cary Long, Sr. deigned building in disrepair, and the city government was seriously considering its sale. Baltimore residents and journalists rallied to protect one of the first museum buildings erected in the western hemisphere. Eventually the Mayor was convinced and Rembrandt Peale’s Baltimore Museum was targeted for a complete rehabilitation.

Assigned to head the restoration project was local architect John H. Scarff, a partner in the Wyatt and Nolting firm. Scarff studied original drawings and historic photographs of the salon, and restored its original design and floor plan. The portico was rebuilt and a bas-relief sculpture, conceived by R. McGill Mackall and executed by Benjamin Turner Kurtz, was installed above it. In the building’s rear, a courtyard was constructed with pediment from the demolished Union Bank building embedded in its northern wall. The city reopened the museum in 1931.

Written by monumentcity

February 22nd, 2010 at 10:57 am

Homewood House Museum at Johns Hopkins

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The Homewood House Museum is located at 3400 North Charles Street inside the east entrance to Johns Hopkins University. The building’s construction began in 1801 and continued during the decade that followed. The estate was a wedding gift from Charles Carroll of Carrollton to his son Charles Carroll, Jr. and his new bride. A signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the wealthiest men in America, Charles Carroll of Carrollton basically gave his son an unlimited budget to design and erect the stately manor. The five-part Federal style house was certainly elaborate for its time.

After passing through the Carroll line the property was sold to Samuel Wyman, a successful Baltimore businessman. Wyman’s family eventually gave the land and its constructs to Johns Hopkins University. Restoration began on the mansion house in 1929 and was later completed in the 1980s. Once the headquarters of the College, today the historic building is a period museum open to the public.

Written by monumentcity

December 30th, 2009 at 10:03 am

The Former ‘City Life Museums’

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The City Life Museums was a series of historically significant buildings and exhibits once maintained by the Baltimore municipality. In 1997, Mayor Kurt Schmoke shut them down due to poor attendance and funding issues. The Maryland Historical Society was able to acquire the significant contents of the museums after they were closed.

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The MDHS is the big winner in the liquidation of the Baltimore City Life Museums, which was forced to padlock its doors June 21, 1997. It will add to the society’s collection 58 paintings by members of the Rembrandt Peale family, thus becoming the biggest repository of Peale art anywhere. The historical society will also acquire and display in its Mount Vernon buildings the rest of the City Life memorabilia. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the future of various City Life buildings is uncertain.

Independent companies have stepped in to keep some of the historic sites open. Carroll Museums, Inc. is running the Carroll Mansion complex and the Phoenix Shot Tower, offering tours on weekend afternoons for as low as five dollars. However, the Peale Museum and H. L. Mencken House are still closed, two important buildings that deserve being rescued. The Friends of the H. L. Mencken House is working to save the Union Square home that Mencken lived his entire life in. On December 13, 2009 the rowhouse was open as part of the neighborhood’s annual Christmas Cookie Tour.

The Peale Museum’s future is still uncertain. I’ve heard rumors that Baltimore may use the facility as a conference center for City Hall employees, but for now the building is vacant. Opened just months before the Bombardment of Fort McHenry, the Peale Museum is one of the city’s most significant historical artifacts.

The list below comprises the former City Life Museums:

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December 28th, 2009 at 8:39 am

Baltimore’s U.S. Custom House

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Completed in 1907, construction of Baltimore’s U.S. Custom House was severely setback by the Great Fire of 1904. Several of the building’s granite blocks were split in the intense heat generated by the inferno. An excellent American example of Beaux-Arts architecture, it was conceived by the Washington DC team of John Rush Marshall and Joseph C. Hornblower. The structure served as the city’s custom house until 1953 when the U.S. government’s Selective Service System moved in. The facility replaced the Benjamin Henry Latrobe-Maximilian Godefroy designed Merchant’s Exchange.

Francis David Millet created the massive mural work inside the Custom House’s elaborate Call Room. The room was the former waiting area for merchants arriving at the Port of Baltimore and is now a museum. Millet’s Evolution of Navigation adorns the high ceiling, depicting the development of sea travel from 1000 B.C. to 1905. Assembled in his studio and applied to the ornate room, the mural is an national treasure. A member of the American Renaissance movement with the likes of Mark Twain and John LaFarge, Millet was a writer and sculptor as well as a painter, his work characterized by sympathetic detail and austere confidence. He died aboard the Titanic. Tours of the Call Room can apparently be arranged through the museum network in Washington. Additional pictures: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

Written by monumentcity

December 20th, 2009 at 7:51 am

Baltimore’s Washington Monument Museum

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Baltimore’s Washington Monument and Museum is located in Mount Vernon Place near the Walters Art Gallery. The museum occupies the base of the structure and includes access to the monument’s spire, its 228 steps leading to a panoramic view of the city’s skyline. The facility displays various exhibits including documents and photographs from the monument’s history. Additional pictures: [1] [2] [3] [4]

A bust of George Washington, located in the museum, was created by Giuseppe Ceracchi sometime between 1791 and 1792. Washington sat several times for Ceracchi during this time period, as did other American founding fathers. The Italian artist later traveled to Paris to work for Napoleon Bonaparte. Ceracchi was executed, in 1801, for his supposed involvement in a plot to kill the legendary French military leader.

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December 16th, 2009 at 9:17 am