Baltimore is becoming a service-oriented metropolis. Yet we are missing the boat in Fells Point as projects are being developed with an eye to tourist dollars.
Planners need only visit Mystic Seaport in Connecticut to see how that old whaling town was turned into a tourist mecca. It wouldn't take much to do a similar restoration in Fells Point to bring its past history to life.
Shoppes and restaurants are, for the most part, already in place. Streets are the original cobblestone. Vagabond Theatre -- oldest little theater in continuous operation in the U.S. -- is in residence on South Broadway, and Fells Point Inn can provide comfortable lodging.
Recreation Pier could be turned into a museum of Olde Baltimore Towne and its Port. And what could be a more appropriate setting for the U.S.F. Constellation? That noble frigate could be brought ''home'' and berthed almost at its original birth site.
Fells Point was the original port of Baltimore. From its waterfront sailed the swift Baltimore Clippers that brought renown and prosperity to this city. Onto its docks stepped sailors from all over the world. Replicas could again grace its wharves and craftsmen could ply their craft to the delight and education of tourists.
Restored cities, such as Mystic, Connecticut; Sturbridge Village and Plymouth, Massachusetts; Williamsburg and Jamestown, Virginia (to name a few), draw hundreds of thousands of tourists annually.
Fells Point is a natural to join that list.
Fells Point doesn't need condos -- there are other places to site them. Fells Point doesn't need to be a poor copy of Georgetown -- that authentic yuppie capital is only about an hour's drive away. Fells Point doesn't need to be overrun by partying youth -- the Inner Harbor bistros would welcome the extra business.
Fells Point can stand on its own merits as a restoration of what it was and is.
Fells Point truly was the Port that built the City. Now, the City should build Fells Point to its full potential before there is any further deterioration of its natural assets. And in such a restoration, Baltimore would be giving its growing tourism industry a natural boost without much expenditure.
Also, let's not forget that Fells Point was already chosen as the site for filming the TV special, ''Liberty''. Restoring the area could only enhance its chances for future colonial America on-location selection.
Before it is too late, let's not overlook the obvious. Let's stop the destruction of the natural historic charm of Fells Point. Let's not turn it into condo city or a teeny bopper's beer haven.
Let's turn back the clock and look into Fells Point's past while looking at Baltimore's economic future.
A former editor, Ms. Breitenbach is a local free lance writer.