Home / Travel Guides - Baltimore / A History Filled With Firsts

A History Filled with FirstsIdiosyncratic is not usually a word used to describe a city's essence, but in Baltimore's case it fits. And while Maryland's largest city might sometimes seem overshadowed by the political power center that is nearby Washington, D.C., it has a history filled with firsts.

Take the Mount Clare Station at W. Pratt and Poppleton streets. It was the starting point for the nation's first railroad, the Baltimore & Ohio, as well as its first freight and passenger station. The first public message transmitted via the Samuel F.B. Morse-developed electric telegraph was sent from the Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol to a B&O Railroad depot (now the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum) in 1844. The famous message—“What hath God wrought?”—was a reference to the nomination of Henry Clay for president by the Whig Party.

The oldest Catholic cathedral in the United States, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is at Mulberry and Cathedral streets. And the Washington Monument (located, appropriately enough, in the Mount Vernon neighborhood), predates the memorial to the Father of Our Country in the nation's capital. At a height of 178 feet, it's dwarfed by D.C.'s iconic obelisk—but it was completed in 1829, an impressive 55 years before the capstone for the other Washington Monument was set in place.

Baltimore was founded in 1729 as a port on the Patapsco River, an arm of Chesapeake Bay. Although instrumental in events leading up to the American Revolution, it played an even bigger role during the War of 1812. U.S. forces from nearby Fort McHenry successfully defended the city after it was attacked by the British in 1814; Francis Scott Key, a Maryland lawyer, wrote the poem “The Star-Spangled Banner” after witnessing the bombardment. It was later set to music and became our official national anthem in 1931.

In 2012 the city celebrated the commemoration of the War of 1812 bicentennial with a 3-year-long event that included a weeklong party of visiting tall ships from around the world, fireworks over Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine, and historically themed celebrations, most of which took place around the Inner Harbor.

And what better location for a party? A shiny example of urban renewal, the Inner Harbor is filled with fun places to go and is where Baltimoreans and tourists alike hang out. From historic ships and sightseeing cruises to seafood restaurants, from waterfront promenades and souvenir shopping to crowd-pleasing attractions like the National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center, it's a good time set against an appropriately nautical backdrop. The harbor bustles with pleasure craft, but the presence of giant tankers and freighters is a reminder that Baltimore also is one of the country's top twenty commercial ports.

Just a stone's throw from the Inner Harbor is Fell's Point, another tourist magnet. Fell's Point shipyards built hundreds of schooners in the years prior to the Civil War. These days the neighborhood of cobblestone streets and restored row houses is better known for its specialty shops and laid-back pubs.

With some 200 separate neighborhoods, Charm City is as eclectic as you might expect. (The nickname was not, as is often thought, coined by journalist, satirist and native son H.L. Mencken, but resulted from a 1970s ad agency brainstorming session to promote the city's, well, charms.) Filmmakers like John Waters and Barry Levinson—both natives—celebrate the city in movies as diverse as “Pink Flamingos” and “Hairspray,” “Diner” and “Tin Men.” The local charm, and a healthy dose of city pride, is on full display at HonFest, an extremely popular annual festival that takes place in the old-style Baltimore neighborhood of Hampden.

So get out and explore. It's Bawlmer, hon!

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Baltimore, MD

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Travel Information

City Population

620,961

Elevation

445 ft.

Sales Tax

Maryland's statewide sales tax is 6 percent. Baltimore has a 7.5 percent lodging tax; an 11.5 percent tax is levied on automobile rentals.

Emergency

911

Police (non-emergency)

311 or (443) 263-2220

Time

(410) 235-1212

Temperature

(410) 235-1212

Hospitals

Greater Baltimore Medical Center, (443) 849-2000; Johns Hopkins Hospital, (410) 955-5000; MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, (443) 777-7000; Sinai Hospital of Baltimore, (410) 601-9000; University of Maryland Medical Center, (410) 328-8667; University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus, (410) 225-8000.

Air Travel

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI), about 10 miles south of downtown, is reached via I-195 off I-95 or SR 295 (Baltimore-Washington Parkway).

Rental Cars

Numerous automobile rental agencies maintain offices at the airport and downtown. Hertz, (410) 850-7400 or (800) 654-3080, offers discounts to AAA members.

Rail Service

Baltimore Penn Station is at 1500 N. Charles St., between Oliver and Lanvale streets. Baltimore is situated on seven Amtrak routes, including the Acela Express to New York City and Boston; phone Amtrak, (800) 872-7245.

Buses

The Greyhound Lines Inc. terminal is at 2110 Haines St.; phone (410) 752-7682 or (800) 231-2222. Megabus offers service from the southern side of the White Marsh Mall parking lot, adjacent to Honeygo Boulevard; phone (877) 462-6342. (New York service is from the south side of the White Marsh Park & Ride lot.) BoltBus offers service from 1578 Maryland Ave.; phone (877) 265-8287.

Taxis

Taxis are metered. The base fare is $1.80, $2.20 for each additional mile and 20c each 30 seconds of waiting time. A 50c surcharge is added for trips between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. An additional 30c-per-mile surcharge is added for trips beyond Baltimore. Among the larger cab companies are Diamond, (410) 947-3333; Sun, (410) 235-0300; and Yellow Cab, (410) 685-1212.

Public Transportation

Baltimore's public transportation consists of buses, a subway system, light rail and MARC commuter trains.

Boats

Water taxis are available at the Inner Harbor.

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