THE city's newest vision for downtown Baltimore calls for Charles Street -- that famous artery running through the city's history -- to be made two-way (at least from downtown to the Hopkins campus). The last time there was so visible and dramatic a change in street direction was in 1954. There are some lessons to be learned.
The first of two street dramas that year occurred in the early morning of July 18, 1954. Henry Barnes, the traffic commissioner, would stage what today would be called the mother of all reversals of street direction. Before dawn that morning, Calvert Street would become one-way northbound and St. Paul Street would become one-way southbound.
The operation started at 12:30 a.m., and though Barnes had it planned in a way that would make Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf proud, Edward Kahoe, then coordinator of transit and traffic, remembered it as turning out somewhat differently. "Everything went crazy that night. We had to flag down cars speeding south down Calvert that had already been designated as one-way north. We towed away dozens of cars that were, suddenly, with the new rules in effect, parked illegally. It was wild."