A Look at Old Baltimore

Recently, I found a photograph of Baltimore, circa 1871 — downtown Baltimore, as seen from Federal Hill. There are things about this photo that are familiar, and many things that would be a mystery. Let’s take a look.

Photograph of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, taken from across the harbor on Federal Hill, circa 1871

Consulting with maps, I feel that this photograph of the Inner Harbor and environs was taken from near the location of what’s now the Rusty Scupper. Maybe fifty yards west, and certainly at an elevation.

In center is the Baltimore Basilica. The dome of First Unitarian can also be seen to its right, nearby.

The Washington Monument is at center right. It may not be obvious, but Mount Vernon Place United Methodist is under construction; it looks like there’s scaffolding around where it should be, and its spire, which was completed in 1872, is not there. To the left of the Washington Monument is what I believe is the tower of Emmanuel Episcopal.

At center left is the spire of St. Alphonsus Church.

But what’s that in between the Basilica and St. Alphonsus Church? At first I thought it was the Bromo Seltzer Tower, except it wasn’t built yet and is in the entirely wrong place. In fact, it’s the tower of Central Presbyterian, which burned down in July 1873.

I wondered where the impressive spire of First & Franklin Presbyterian was — perhaps it’s behind the Basilica? — but, it turns out, its Gothic spire wasn’t built until 1875.

There’s a dome a few streets from the waterfront — it’s between Central Presbyterian and the Basilica, and you can also see it the 1868 map of Baltimore I wrote about in July — but I’m not sure what it is. There’s nothing like it there now. As best I can tell, it’s about where Schaefer Tower stands today.

I’ve annotated the photo below.

Photograph of Baltimore, circa 1871, annotated. Left to right: St. Alphonsus, Central Presbyterian, Baltimore Basilica, First Unitarian, Emmanual Episcopal, the Washington Monument, and (under construction) Mount Vernon Place Methodist.

Assuming an 1871 date, based on the construction of Mount Vernon Place, I had no ancestors living in Baltimore at the time. My great-great-great-grandfather Thomas Feenhagen died the year before, and his daughter (and my great-great-grandmother) married in December 1869 and moved to Washington. My other ancestors alive at the time were in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Cecil County, Maryland.

It’s interesting to peer into the past. You never know what you’ll see.

Published by Allyn Gibson

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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