Baltimore, Maryland

Charm City Is Both Historic & Aptly Named


George Peabody Library, Baltimore, Maryland. July 9, 2013

Although I have it stored on my computer, I haven’t yet seen The Wire, the American television drama series set and produced in and around Baltimore, Maryland. By all accounts it’s one of the greatest TV dramas of all time but seemingly it doesn’t paint Baltimore in a very flattering light. Having spent the last two nights here it’s going to be fairly obvious how much I loved my time in Charm City, as Baltimore is aptly known.

A licence plate on the streets of Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9th 2013.

A licence plate on the streets of Baltimore (map-pointer-icon), Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013.

What you got Baltimore?
Apart from a desire to take in a few games at Oriole Park, the city’s gorgeous baseball stadium, I had no real plans for Baltimore. I didn’t really know what, if anything, it offered. Shortly after arriving from Miami I found myself sitting in in a park in Mount Vernon, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods & its cultural heart – it’s home to an array of wonderful historic architecture, monuments, sculptures, & institutions. I was sitting there getting my bearings while reading the official Baltimore Visitors Guide. It was peaceful & I was surrounded by these amazing, history-rich buildings & monuments, including the towering 1829 Washington Monument, the first public monument to George Washington erected in the country. It was then I realised that Baltimore is, and was going to be, a little bit special. The city has turned out to be the best kind of surprise, one of the huge & pleasant kind. The rest of my time here was evenly divided between checking out an array of easily accessible buildings & monuments & being a baseball fan, all the while wishing I had more time to spend in the city.

Baltimore Day 1

Mount Vernon & Downtown || Baltimore’s Cultural & Business Centre

The wonderful interior of the George Peabody Library in The Peabody Institute, Mount Vernon, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9th 2013.

The wonderful interior of the George Peabody Library in The Peabody Institute on Mount Vernon. Nineteenth century Philanthropist George Peabody’s vision of Baltimore’s citizens attending lectures, listening to music, viewing art and using a well-stocked research library led to the founding, in 1857, of the Peabody Institute. Housing the first academy of music in America, it helped to define Mount Vernon as Baltimore’s cultural centre. The 1878 library, considered one of the most beautiful in the country, has been described as a Cathedral of Books. It features an atrium surrounded by 5 tiers of ornamental cast-iron balconies and gold-scalloped columns rising more than 60 feet to a latticed skylight, the sort of scene a wide-angle lens just loves. Today the library, which has a 300,000 volume collection with books dating from the 15th century, serves university academic programs worldwide. It’s open to the public and I sat in here at the ancient-feeling desks utilizing the lighting-quick free Wi-Fi and taking in my surroundings. It was awesome and for a few minutes I felt like like the academic I was way back when. This isn’t the only library of its kind in the city. The Pratt Library is another one not too far from here, also donated to the city by a wealthy philanthropist, Enoch Pratt, and also housed in an historic building. It offers a more accessible access to the public but isn’t as photogenic as the Peabody Library (I doubt many are). George Peabody Library in The Peabody Institute, Mount Vernon, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013.

City Hall, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9th 2013.

City Hall, the official seat of government of the City of Baltimore, located in The Business and Government Historic District, an historic district in downtown Baltimore that was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013.

The Baltimore War Memorial, also located in the Business and Government Historic District in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9th 2013.

The Baltimore War Memorial, located opposite City Hall in the Business and Government Historic District in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013.

The Holocaust Memorial,  Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9th 2013.

The Holocaust Memorial, downtown Baltimore. The touching memorial, dedicated in October 1997, comprises two concrete monoliths symbolising two abandoned rail cars recalling the elaborate rail system used during the Holocaust to transport millions of people to their deaths. I wasn’t expecting to see something like this the centre of a city so this was yet another pleasant surprise thrown up by Baltimore. The Holocaust Memorial, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013.

Stewart building façade, Lexington Street in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9th 2013.

The Stewart Building façade, Lexington Street in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards || Take I

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, the home of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team & one of the greatest sports venues in the US.

DDDDD

Umm. Tickets on $9 Tuesday are actually $10. But at least I got a free t-shirt. Fifty minutes to first pitch at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013. (iPod)

The stadium, which opened in 1992, is credited with starting a craze – it was the first of the so-called throwback, or retro ballparks to be built during the 1900s & early 2000s. Since it has been built, two-thirds of all Major League Baseball teams have opened new ballparks, all with unique features, but Oriole Park, along with AT&T Park in San Francisco, are widely regarded as the best of the lot.

Oriole fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9th 2013.

Oriole fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, one of whom is wearing a Cal Ripken jersey. Ripken, a Maryland native, played his whole 21-year Major League career, from 1981-2001, as an Oriole primarily as shortstop but also as a third baseman. The 19-time All-Star, 2-time Gold Glove winner & 2-time American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) is considered the one of the best shortstops & third basemen in history but is best remembered for breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, a record that had stood for 56 years and a record many had deemed unbreakable. Ripken, nicknamed ‘The Ironman’, surpassed the mark on September 6, 1995, by playing his 2,131st consecutive game. He voluntary ended the 17-year streak on September 20th, 1998, finishing at 2,632 games, a streak that, it’s fair to say, will never be beaten. I remember the day well as I was living & working in New York state at the time. It was big news. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013.

A panorama of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9th 2013 (iPod)

As an avid baseball fan I was embracing being in the US during the middle of the 2013 MLB season, and my primary reason for coming to Baltimore was to check out a few games at Oriole Park (of course I made sure to check the Oriole’s schedule beforehand). I saw two evening games, both match-ups against the Texas Rangers (the Orioles lost the first, won the second). This panorama was captured using my iPod from the left field grandstand. Taking in a game in this lovely ballpark is a treat for all not just sports fans. It was for me. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 9, 2013 (iPod)

Baltimore Day 2

Day two in Baltimore & it was more of the same on this day – sights & (lots more) baseball.

Inside the Basilica of The Assumption, America’s first cathedral in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10th 2013.

Another pleasant Baltimore surprise was the interior of the recently restored Basilica of The Assumption, America’s first Cathedral. The central dome of the 1806 structure is 69 feet diameter and houses 24 skylights with a single opening or oculus at its crown. Again another great place to bring any lens but especially a wide-angle one. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10, 2013.

Howard Street, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10th 2013.

Howard Street, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10, 2013.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards || Take II

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington doing laps of Oriole Park at Camden Yards as seen from the Oriole's dugout. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10th 2013.

I went on a guided tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the manager of the visiting Texas Rangers, Ron Washington, was doing laps of the field when I was sitting in the Oriole’s dugout. I quickly captured this image as I was leaving the dugout towards the end of the awesome 90-minute ballpark tour. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10, 2013.

B&O Warehouse. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10th 2013.

One of the defining features of Oriole Park at Camden Yards is this, the landmark B&O Warehouse. Located along Eutaw Street, the eight-story building is, at 340 metres (1,116 ft), the longest building on the East Coast of the USA. It was constructed by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) beginning in 1899, with later sections completed in 1905, adjacent to the B&O’s Camden Station and freight yard at Camden and Eutaw streets. With the early 1990s development of the downtown stadium for the Orioles, the warehouse was converted to team offices, team spaces, & Oriole-related shops & restaurants. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10, 2013.

A statue outside of Oriole Park at Camden Yards of Brooks Robinson, a lifetime Oriole & widely regarded as the best third baseman to ever play baseball. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 11th 2103.

A statue outside of Oriole Park at Camden Yards of Brooks Robinson, a lifetime Oriole & widely regarded as the best third baseman to ever play baseball. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 11, 2013.

There’s not a man who knows him who wouldn’t swear for his integrity and honesty and give testimony to his consideration for others. He’s an extraordinary human being, which is important, and the world’s greatest third baseman of all time, which is incidental.

– An inscription on the Brooks Robinson statue of a quote by sportswriter John Steadman.

Westside

Hanging out on a corner of Howard Street, Westside, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10th 2013.

Hanging out on a corner of Howard Street, Westside, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10, 2013.

Downtown Baltimore alone has 8 distinctive neighbourhoods. One of these neighbourhoods is Westside, home to Lexington Market, the nation’s oldest continually running public market. In a city full of charming neighbourhoods, Westside, it would be fair to say, isn’t the most inviting; it’s a bit rough around the edges and the kind of place where you can and will see people having open & heated conversations with themselves. The official Baltimore Visitors Guide, which chooses its words carefully, claims that the area is

currently undergoing transformative redevelopment.

Transformative redevelopment. I like that.

Video || Eutaw Street, Westside, Baltimore

Video captured walking down Eutaw Street in the Westside neighbourhood of Baltimore having just left Lexington Market.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards || Take III

Oriole fans at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10th 2013.

Captured on my third and last visit to Oriole Park at Camden Yards (& second visit to see a game), a picture of fans along the third base line from the grandstand overhead. Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 10, 2013.

Baltimore Day 3

Today is leaving Baltimore day & it was an (almost) baseball-only day.

Battle Monument, Battle Monument Square, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 11th 2013.

The Battle Monument located in Battle Monument Square, Baltimore. Baltimore’s position as the largest city in a state located on the border between North & South, not to mention its key transportation links, gave it a heightened importance during the American Civil War. Although the first shots of the 4-year Civil War (1861-1865) were fired during a bloodless Confederate assault on Fort Summer further south in South Carolina, the first casualties of the war resulted from a riot that occurred one week later, on April 19th, 1861, here in the city of Baltimore. Monuments to the warring past, not just related to the Civil War, are to be found all over the city with this one, commemorating the War of 1812 between the United States & Great Britain lying in the middle of the busy street between the two Baltimore City Circuit Courthouses. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 11, 2013.

Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum

I swing big with everything I’ve got. I hit big or miss big. I like to live as big as I can.

– George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth

My final act in Baltimore was to visit the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. Yes, as if this place wasn’t historic enough, George Herman Ruth, better know as Babe Ruth, was born, on February 6th, 1895, in a small house in the Pigtown district of Baltimore, only a short walk from present-day Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I had a good grasp already on all things George Herman but I still spent a few fascinating hours in the small museum learning more about the life of the person who, in 1969, was honored as the ‘Greatest Player Ever’.

Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 11th 2013.

Babe Ruth was larger than life, baseball’s greatest star, & the only player to have a ballpark (Yankee Stadium) built to accommodate his celebrity. Ruth out-homered entire teams, saved the national pastime (baseball) after the 1919 Black Sox scandal, was on the mound when they played the Star Spangled Banner for the first time during the 7th inning stretch, & made more money than the President. This is a picture of a very famous Pulitzer-prize winning photograph of Babe Ruth taken at the 25th anniversary of Yankees Stadium in 1948. It was the Babe’s last appearance at ‘The House That Ruth Built.’ Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 11, 2013.

Ruth-ian /ruth’-i-an/ (adj)
The state of being greater than the best; majestic; denoting a supreme or insurmountable level; surpassing all others.

Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 11th 2013.

In a sport full of historic moments, Babe Ruth’s ‘Called Shot’ home run in game 3 of the 1932 World Series, when he seemingly called a home run before it was pitched to him by the pitcher, is one of the most dramatic, not to mention one of the most controversial (did he or didn’t he?). The artefacts on display in this case in The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum include Ruth’s 1932 World Series watch (left), a ball autographed by the 1932 Yankees, 1932 World Series press pins and a 1932 souvenir mini bat (the bat to the right is a rare 1910 era bat gifted to the Babe by Shoeless Joe Jackson). Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum, Baltimore, Maryland, USA. July 11, 2013.

Baltimore. The Greatest City in America?
One of the many informative tourist signs on the streets of Baltimore signs off by saying the following:

Thank you for choosing to visit Downtown Baltimore, an unforgettable place you will surely agree is ‘The Greatest City in America.

That’s a nice touch, not to mention a massive call. A great city indeed. Of that there is no doubt. Thank you Baltimore. I enjoyed immensely my time here & I’m already looking forward to getting back.

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