Historical Sights and Attractions in Baltimore
The many historical sights and attractions in Baltimore include Historical Sites and Sightseeing Tours (Search Baltimore Attractions), diverse and multicultural Baltimore Museums, great historic monuments and classic architecture, or read on for a bit of Baltimore’s history.
There are so many sights to see and things to discover for history enthusiasts in Baltimore – like the USS Constellation, the last all-sail warship still afloat in the United States; the Baltimore Civil War Museum; historical maritime vessels and ships; architectural masterpieces; religious shrines; and much, much more.
Baltimore's historical legacy goes far beyond steamed crabs and Cal Ripken, Jr. In fact, part of America's heritage was born in Baltimore - the city played a crucial role in the War of 1812 when soldiers, stationed at Fort McHenry, successfully held off a British attack on Baltimore. That victory for Baltimore was commemorated in a poem by Francis Scott Key and is now our national anthem.
Tradition and civic pride have carried Baltimore from its 18th century roots to its well-earned position today as a leader in urban renewal. Since the redevelopment of the Inner Harbor in the late 1970s, the largest city in Maryland has established itself as an American success story and a major travel destination - welcoming more than 11 million business and leisure travelers each year.
There's so much to discover for history enthusiasts in Baltimore - like the last all-sail warship still afloat in the United States; a museum devoted to the Civil War; historical maritime vessels and ships; architectural masterpieces; religious shrines; and much, much more.
A Maritime and Agrarian Heritage
Since the 1600s, Baltimore waterways have given passage to ships carrying commercial cargo and new citizens - making it the second most popular point of entry for immigrants next to Ellis Island - and that maritime heritage is alive and well today. Baltimore lies farther west than any other major Atlantic port, endearing its harbors to shippers worldwide. Today, more than 30 million tons of cargo pass through the Port of Baltimore each year.
Named for Caecilius Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore and the first proprietary governor of the Province of Maryland, the city was officially established July 30, 1729, to serve the economic needs of Maryland farmers. Baltimore's proximity to the Caribbean encouraged its swift growth in the 18th century as a granary for these sugar-producing colonies.
Baltimore played a crucial role in the War of 1812, when soldiers stationed at Fort McHenry successfully held off a British attack. That victory at what is now known as the Battle of Baltimore inspired Francis Scott Key to write that famous poem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," now immortalized as our national anthem.
And while Washington, D.C. may boast the more readily identifiable architectural icon, Baltimore is actually home to the first monument to the nation's first president. The 178-foot Doric column honoring George Washington (currently closed for renovation) has towered majestically above Mount Vernon Place in the heart of the city's cultural center since 1829. It was designed by Robert Mills, also the designer of the more famous monument to the south.
Other legacies of the members of Gilded Age society who called Mount Vernon home in the 18th and 19th centuries include the Peabody Institute, the Walters Art Museum and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption, the first Roman Catholic cathedral in the United States.
When the War of 1812 ended in early 1815, Baltimoreans resumed their vigorous foreign trade efforts, and the city grew into the second largest in the United States. Baltimore's overseas trade was principally with the Caribbean Islands and South America, regions undergoing economic and social change. At the same time, the American frontier was pushing even farther west, threatening to leave Baltimore in its economic wake.
The state of Maryland concentrated its efforts on completing the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, designed to link the Potomac and Ohio River valleys, but the city of Baltimore supported an overland link in the form of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Although the two competed for routes and freight, to the eventual ruin of the canal and the financial embarrassment of the state, Baltimore's railroad reached Cumberland in 1842, stretching to Chicago by 1874.
As Baltimoreans began for the first time to preserve the riches of the Chesapeake Bay for shipping to other parts of the country, the canning industry also proved an important economic engine for the city's future. Older industries, such as shipbuilding and transportation, remained industrially strong, and the city continued as an active port of entry for European immigrants and rural residents from the upper South.
In 1873, the first Preakness Stakes was run at Pimlico race course, where it is still held today as the second leg of thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown. The track is also the site of the fabled match race in which Seabiscuit triumphed over War Admiral in 1938.
On February 7, 1904, the city's progress suffered a serious setback when the Great Baltimore Fire consumed most of its business district, including a number of historic structures - more than 1,500 buildings in 30 hours. The devastated area was rapidly rebuilt - without outside assistance - and Baltimore prospered through World War I and into the 1920s. The Depression, however, was too great an obstacle for local initiative to overcome, and physical developments in the city were slowed, first by economic distress and then by controls imposed by World War II.
After the war, Baltimore's economy continued to thrive as people spent heavily on consumer goods. As their standard of living increased, city residents were attracted to new housing developments beyond Baltimore's borders. The city, which had grown in popularity every year since the mid-century, actually began to shrink as adjacent counties experienced tremendous growth.
The Renaissance Begins
Much to everyone's delight, Baltimore began to come back strong in the 1970s. The city encouraged a redoubling of efforts from municipal, business and volunteer partnerships, also tapping into ambitious federal programs for urban renewal. The municipality managed to revitalize the downtown area, where dilapidated wharves and warehouses were torn down and replaced by restaurants, attractions like the Maryland Science Center, and upscale retail establishments.
Harborplace, featuring a host of specialty stores and restaurants in two waterfront pavilions, opened in 1980 to tremendous fanfare. The Baltimore Aquarium, The Gallery at Harborplace, and numerous hotels soon followed. Visit our Inner Harbor Timeline to follow the development of the Inner Harbor from 1959 to the present day.
In 1996, Baltimore became the first city in the United States to adopt 311 as a nonemergency hotline, reserving 911 for genuine emergencies. The effort has met with much success, and many other municipalities nationwide have followed Baltimore's lead.
Many cities have also used the city's award-winning baseball stadium, Oriole Park at Camden Yards as a model for their own new stadiums. Opened in 1992, it is home to the Baltimore Orioles. M&T Bank Stadium, formerly PSINet Stadium, opened in 1998 as home to the Baltimore Ravens, 2000 Superbowl champions.
Baltimore Now... and Into the Future
Baltimore today is a thriving success, renowned not only for its Inner Harbor, but also for its charming neighborhoods, outstanding regional cuisine, world-class arts and theater, and a wealth of historical and cultural destinations. In addition to attracting a wide variety of business and leisure travelers, the city is also much in demand by television and movie producers. Baltimore natives John Waters and Barry Levinson have used Baltimore as both set and setting for their films.
Baltimore's "second renaissance" is well underway - there is more than $1 billion in new development planned, with numerous projects moving both east and west of the Inner Harbor. In 2004 and 2005 alone, the city witnessed the grand opening of the state-of-the-art Baltimore Visitor Center, the Hippodrome Theatre at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, and Sports Legends at Camden Yards. Numerous other attractions also boasted exciting expansions and renovations, including the National Aquarium in Baltimore.
In coming years, there is more development in store - new hotels, additional retail shops, and increased arts and cultural venues - including a new Convention Center hotel, which recently won approval from the Baltimore City Council. In addition, look for a technology revolution as Baltimore becomes a "Digital Harbor," an important hub for high-tech and Internet business.
Plan your trip!
- Divided Voices: Maryland in the Civil War April 16, 2011 - December 31, 2015 | All Day
- The War Came By Train: American Civil War 150th Anniversary April 30, 2011 - December 31, 2015 | All Day
- Woman of Two Worlds: Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte and Her Quest for an Imperial Legacy June 9, 2013 - June 9, 2014 | All Day
- Crystal Moll Gallery presents WATER WATER EVERYWHRE: June 11-July 27 - Opening Reception June 20th 6-8pm June 20, 2013 | 6:00pm - 8:00pm
- In Full Glory Reflected: Maryland during the War of 1812 June 10, 2012 - December 31, 2014 | All Day