Baltimore and Me: New Experiences in a Familiar Place

Posted on: April 4th, 2012 by Priya Chhaya

Staff for the National Main Streets Conference arrived into Charm City with the familiar refrains of Hairspray’s “Good Morning Baltimore” running through our heads. Obvious reference, maybe, but an apt one seeing as many of us had been waking up at dawn to prepare for the day's activities and sessions.

Baltimore's Washington Monument. (Photo: Gavin St. Ours on Flickr)

I grew up in the Washington, DC metro area, so taking a quick jaunt up to Baltimore from time to time has never been out of the ordinary. This time, though, I’m actually spending the night. It’s like I’m twelve again, with that giddy feeling you get from staying over in a new place.

And while sitting in on and tweeting about sessions has been great, I’ve had a few highlights of my own:

  • Seeing the original Washington Monument, a setting I know well from reading Laura Lippman’s mystery novels.
  • Visiting a co-worker's house in an Olmsted Brothers Homeland neighborhood, complete with the old estate ponds that were once used to harvest ice.
  • Being treated every morning with a magnificent dawn overlooking Camden Yards.

Speaking of Camden Yards … one thing you must know: I’m a tennis girl through and through -- although not totally ignorant about baseball. I've heard of Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken, but I never thought I would actually feel the awe of a baseball stadium.

Camden Yards at dawn. (Photo: National Trust for Historic Preservation)

That is, until I took a tour of Camden Yards. I know it's a relatively new stadium (they're celebrating twenty years this Saturday at opening day), but when you walk around the underbelly you can see the historic features from the adjacent warehouse that was rehabbed for use as team offices, and how the stadium architects were determined to have the actual stadium merge with the building and landscape. We walked on the field, learned about the people, and saw the beams that connect warehouse with baseball field.

Totally awe-some.

I also learned about how every year on Edgar Allen Poe's birthday someone leaves a rose and wine for him on his gravestone, and how the church where he's buried is built partially on top of  (literally platformed over) the graveyard. Why? Because when it was built during the city's expansion in the 1840s and 50s, city officials didn't want graveyard land taken by buildings.

The roundhouse at Baltimore's B&O Railroad Museum. (Photo: Orbital Joe on Flickr)

Last night, the final party was inside the historic B&O Railroad Museum -- a roundhouse building built originally to showcase the promise of the American railroad. My twelve-year-old self reared its head and I stared up at the ceiling twirling around and around.

Baltimore was good to me. Although I have, on other trips, seen many other parts of the city, it was nice to see a familiar place in a different light.

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Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya

Priya Chhaya is Associate Manager for Online Content, Preservation Resources at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. A public historian at heart, she sees history wherever she goes and believes that it is an important part of the American identity.

General, Reflections, Sports, Travel