Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Camden Yards -- Then and Now

This picture hangs just outside the elevator on the 8th floor of the Warehouse.  It was a long time before I learned when it was taken and what it represented.

With a little cyber-sleuthing (accomplished on eBay)  I learned this picture was part of a large panorama taken from the newly-constructed Bromo Seltzer tower in 1912. It demonstrates the importance of Camden Yards in Baltimore's industrial history.

In the days before the EPA, smokestacks were a measure of prosperity.  By that standard, those two belching in the background signal business is booming in Baltimore.
They were among the first things to go when construction began on the stadium in 1989.

In 1912, railroad tracks ran on both sides of the B&O Warehouse.  You can see a line of freight cars on Eutaw Street.  The canopies on the east side covered the landings used for passenger service.

In the upper right hand corner of the old picture you can barely discern the cupolas on the Bailey's Wye roundhouse.  Bailey's Wye, where the rail lines connecting Camden Station and the Howard tunnel to Locust Point and Washington diverted, was a busy operations center, just below M&T Bank Stadium.

The actual site of M&T Bank Stadium was the Knabe Piano factory.  There were rail tracks throughout this industrial complex, giving direct freight service for shipping goods manufactured in Baltimore.

One thing you won't see on the Middle Branch at the top of the picture is the Hanover Street bridge.  It wasn't completed until 1916.  But you can see a trace of the Spring Garden railroad bridge connecting Westport to Port Covington.

It has been 100 years since the photo was taken, so it seems a good time to revisit.  On July 1st, I journeyed to the crenellated roof of the Bromo Seltzer tower for a look.  And here is what we have.

Camden Yards is still a center of industry and transportation, although the role is quite different. Instead of factories and warehouses along Howard and Eutaw Streets, you see a convention center and hotel. Tourism is a major economic factor in 2012 Baltimore.

(Please note that instead of smoke and smog, the foreground features a green roof.)

There is still passenger service at Camden Yards, only now it is via light rail or MARC. Travellers are more likely to be commuters or fans (lots of fans.)   While freight trains no longer dominate Eutaw Street, they still rumble regularly through the complex via the Howard Street tunnel. 

Camden Yards is still very much a transportation hub, with the addition of interstate highways and a large parking facility that serves the neighboring hospital and university complex. 

(Would be amazing to see how THEY have grown since 1912, but they have to find their own picture.)

As for the centenarian tower, it too has new life and purpose. Although the headache remedy tycoon has long since departed, the quirky landmark operated by the City has become the anchor of a newly designated Arts District. Its well-lit rooms have been transformed into artist studies and galleries. This West Side neighborhood just north of Camden Yards includes the Hippodrome, retail properties converted to loft apartments, and a one-time vaudeville house on Fayette being renovated into the Everyman Theatre.

One thing hasn't changed in the tower, though.  The four-sided clock which we passed on the 15th floor still shows the same faces it did 100 years ago.  At 24 feet in diameter, they are even larger than those in the House of Parliament. 

And they've seen it all.

Special thanks to Joe Wall of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, who provided the tour, commentary and moral support needed to get up those ladders.


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