Our day in Baltimore seemed cold, but I’m from a place where winters are mild, so I assumed it was all in my head till I spotted the pigeons. The pigeons looked cold and they validated my shivering.
Will and I parked on the waterfront near the first site on our agenda: Mr. Trash Wheel. Actually, that’s the nickname for the Inner Harbor Water Wheel, a water- and solar-powered trash collector. All the trash that gets washed down the Jones Falls Watershed on its way into the Chesapeake Bay gets trapped and dumped onto this trash barge beneath the tarp.
After that we headed to Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park for a walking tour. I was hoping the walking would get my blood flowing and warm me up! On the way we passed the National Katyń Memorial that is hard to ignore with its golden flames reaching into the sky. I read the information boards and learned of a mass murder of Polish officers by the Soviet secret police during the winter of 1939-40. The monument is honoring the men who died.
When we arrived at the Living Classroom site on the waterfront, we found a message posted that stated due to a last-minute emergency, the walking tour was canceled. We were still interested in the history of famous American Frederick Douglass however, so we stayed and looked at the installations outside. After multiple failed attempts, Douglass escaped slavery in Baltimore and made it to New York City. He is famous as an activist and abolitionist. Because of his skills of writing and oratory, he was held up as a counter-example to those who said enslaved people were not intelligent enough to be independent. Later in his life he built houses for African-Americans in the Baltimore community of Fells Point where he had lived.
I learned for the first time about Isaac Myers, who established a union for black shipyard workers in Baltimore Harbor and also mobilized workers to establish the first all-black co-operative shipyard and railway in the US.
The Horse You Came In On Saloon is the oldest bar in Baltimore but is also famous for being the last place Edgar Allen Poe had a drink. Legend has it that he was staggering home from this very saloon in 1849 when he fell dead. They served us a hot breakfast with hot coffee and we warmed up a little while we pondered the solemn Poe history.
It seemed a good time to visit the gravesite of American writer Edgar Allen Poe. It’s in a tiny cemetery haphazardly smashed around a church and packed in by other buildings. Part of the church itself does not touch the ground and is instead built onto a low bridge that is a few feet above some more graves. We found out that the monument beside the sidewalk is not the original burial site of Poe. His family could only afford put him into an unmarked grave (with a stone bearing the number “80”) behind the church. But Baltimore loved her poet, and money was eventually raised to build a proper monument and move him to the front of the cemetery so people could more easily see it. He was buried with Maria Clemm in 1875, and Virginia Poe was also buried there in 1885.
Built from 1806-1821, the Baltimore Basilica was the first great metropolitan cathedral constructed in the United States after the adoption of the Constitution. Though the main basilica was astonishingly beautiful, I was more fascinated with its foundations. In 2001 the Basilica of the Assumption Historic Trust launched a campaign to restore the neglected Basilica. The restoration included providing public access to the Archbishop’s crypt and the construction of a Chapel in the undercroft. A lovely job has been done down there. Most captivating to me was the exposure of the upside-down arches below the nave chancel that help distribute weight. They carry the entire main dome of the Basilica.
At the end of the day we left the city and headed out to a small town called Laurel, and attended a free concert at the Montpelier Arts Center that is part of the Department of Parks and Recreation. We enjoyed three pieces by the Polaris Piano Trio that included a violinist, pianist, and cellist. After the show in the gathering dusk we wandered the grounds of the historic Montpelier Mansion until it was almost too dark to see anymore, and we called it a day.