Twenty-five years ago, the National Historic Preservation Act was enacted. That one piece of legislation made the Inner Harbor rebirth possible. It also spawned a historic preservation movement.
Until passage of this law, state and Baltimore City authorities wanted to demolish historic Fells Point, Federal Hill and Canton to build an expressway across Leakin Park and the Inner Harbor to connect with interstate routes. By requiring a review of historic impact on all federal projects, the National Historic Preservation Act changed the rules of highway construction -- and spurred interest in preserving and revitalizing old buildings.
There had been plenty of historic preservation before 1966.
In 1931, Charleston, S.C., became the first American city to pass legislation to preserve its incomparable architectural heritage. But it was not until the late 1950s and early 1960s that private residential renovation of declining center-city neighborhoods blossomed into a national movement in places like Philadelphia, New York, Savannah, Boston and San Francisco.