New life for old stations

February 27, 1992

Baltimoreans are receiving a bonus from construction of the new Orioles stadium: the renovation of nearby Camden Station, an Italianate structure built between 1855 and 1867. For the first time in a century, that elegant building next to the B&O warehouse will boast a wedding cake-style clock tower and two end towers. Those spires were originally attached to the building but were later removed because they were unstable in winds.

"We've tried to make Camden a real showcase of our work," said Jerry Davis, president of a Havre de Grace firm that has been replicating the station's ornate woodwork. Even though that work -- and the contributions of countless other artisans -- is still incomplete, motorists sneaking a peek from Pratt Street get a good idea how startling and picturesque the end result will be.

With the Camden Station restored, several important railroad landmarks in Baltimore City are now maintained for future generations to admire. They include the Mount Clare roundhouse, which is part of the B&O Railroad Museum and a popular venue for fancy receptions; the Mount Royal Station (now part of the Maryland Institute complex), and the Pennsylvania Station, which was recently renovated and will soon get a new underground parking facility and grand plaza entrance.

Prospects also look good for saving and restoring the President Street Station, a long-neglected relic between the Inner Harbor and Little Italy. Built in 1850, it is the oldest surviving big-city train depot in the United States and one of the first public buildings to have an arched roof. Aside from such distinctions, the President Street Station is remembered as the site of a bloody riot that claimed the first lives of the Civil War.

The walls and roof of the badly neglected station were stabilized last year to prevent them from collapsing. Yet that is only the first step.

We are certain that the President Street Station's future will be determined quickly once Baltimoreans and out-of-town visitors see how the Camden Station was converted into an eye-catching landmark.

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