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Nevermore, Baltimore

"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary . . .''

[an error occurred while processing this directive] By HOWARD TROXLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 24, 2001


Baltimore (BAL-tuh-more, or if you live there, BALL-mer) is the largest city in Maryland, with nearly half that state's population. The other half is housed at Baltimore-Washington International Airport and on the Capital Beltway. As the former home of the Indianapolis Colts, Baltimore is one of the nation's most historic cities. Babe Ruth was born in Baltimore, not that you could tell it by the city's baseball team. Edgar Allan Poe lived in Baltimore from 1832 to 1835, which made him depressed; his subsequent burial in the city did even more so. Other famous products of Baltimore were journalist H.L. Mencken, who made a living by making fun of things, and Johnny Unitas, who, no matter what anybody says, was the greatest quarterback ever.

Baltimore is named for the Lords Baltimore, a group of British bird-watchers who took their title from a small avian observed in colonial times. Today, Baltimore is a vibrant, modern city, surrounded by charming run-down row houses along freight-train tracks, and locations where famous dead people used to live. The city was favorably portrayed in the now-defunct television series Homicide, in which Baltimoreans were murdered in an interesting variety of ways.

History. Founded at the head of the Patapsco River (a Susquehanna word for "missing a vowel"), Baltimore served briefly as the U.S. capital during the Revolutionary War. Fleeing the approaching British, Congress skipped town and fled to Baltimore; two centuries later, Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell paid tribute by doing the same thing. During the War of 1812, Baltimore's strong advocates of municipal restrooms, known as "privateers," prompted the British to attack Fort McHenry. Francis Scott Key was hired to write an indecipherable and unsingable song about the occasion.

The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was the nation's first to carry passengers, although a lack of plumbing facilities soon gave the line its more colorful nickname, familiar to Monopoly players everywhere. During the Civil War, some Baltimoreans were sympathetic to the Confederacy. Federal authorities imprisoned many of the city's officials, a practice that continues today.

In 1873, a merchant named Hopkins left $7-million to establish a university and hospital in Baltimore to study "The Phenomenon of Unusual Plurals." The Great Baltimore Fire of 1904 was considered the city's worst disaster until the Colts left some years later.

Economy. With one of the Eastern Seaboard's largest natural harbors, and thousands of industrial employers, Baltimore boldly led the development of the Rust Belt. With the help of urban renewal and government aid, however, the city rebounded. A cartel of commercial aquarium developers and developers operating under the slogan, "Let's Make It Look Like This Works So That Other Cities Will Pay Us To Try It," gave Baltimore its famous waterfront. Taking a similar tack, baseball responded with Camden Yards, proving that the game is best played outdoors, under corporate skyboxes costing millions of dollars a year.

Related articles.

Cleveland, Indianapolis

Coming Friday: New Jersey, home of New York's sports teams.


"Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary . . ."

-- EDGAR ALLAN POE

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