Places change, but the names remain the same

February 17, 1994|By JACQUES KELLY

Baltimoreans speak a language that takes years and years to master.

Don't bother looking up place names in a book or on a map. People have endearing and maddening names for spots and institutions that are properly called something else. Newspapers try to employ the strict name; Baltimoreans, however, have other ideas. Here's a short glossary of confusion:

City Hospitals or Francis Scott Key Medical Center? People persist in calling the huge complex of medical buildings in the 4900 block of Eastern Avenue City Hospitals despite its name and ownership change.

Cathedrals, Old, New and Pro. The Roman Catholic Basilica of the Assumption, 401 Cathedral St., is often called the Old Cathedral because it is old (consecrated in 1821) and there is a New Cathedral (1959), whose proper name is the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen. There is also a New Cathedral Cemetery (4300 Old Frederick Road) which people call Bonnie Brae. Sound confusing? Amen!

And there's more. Baltimoreans persist in calling the Episcopal Cathedral of the Incarnation (University Parkway and St. Paul Street) the Pro-Cathedral because that was the name on its sign board for many years when there were plans to build a much larger addition.

Old Poly. The headquarters of Baltimore's Department of Education in the 200 block of E. North Ave. was for many years the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute -- or "Poly" -- before the school's move.

Civic Center-Baltimore Arena. How could people call the auditorium where they saw Elvis, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Judy Garland, the Doors or Little Eva anything but the Civic Center?

Towson Plaza-Towson Town Center. Towson Plaza was a strip shopping center that has instant name recognition value in postal Zone 4. Towson Town Center is the fancier new name for the enclosed mall decorated with tropical plants, gilded angels and confusing parking garages built (partially) at the old Towson Plaza site. The shorthand term for this place remains Towson Plaza.

The city morgue-the Eastern Avenue Pumping Station. Here is a classic case of confusion. For many years the city morgue was in the 800 block of Fleet Street. The medical examiner's workshop seemed to be attached to the much larger city sewage pump house at Eastern Avenue and President Street. The sewage operation remains there along with the Public Works Museum. The morgue has moved. It is properly called the State Medical Examiner's Office and it is on the other side of downtown Baltimore, in the 100 block of Penn St.

Stewart's York Road-Caldor's. This name appropriation has its roots in the demise of Stewart & Co., the fondly recalled department store that operated a sleek, 1950s emporium here until the chain shut down in Baltimore. Caldor Inc. took over the site, but the old name for the 6400 block of York Road property has a tenacious life.

Sears North Avenue-District Court, Rent Court. The big old white department store at North Avenue and Harford Road is properly a district court and state office building. But when Baltimoreans get behind on their rent, they go to the old Sears building to tell it to the judge.

Baltimore Transit Company-Mass Transit Administration (MTA). It's not unusual to hear impatient bus passengers curse the "transit company" when, of course, the state of Maryland is the culprit.

Western Electric-Point Breeze Business Center. The sprawling complex of dark brick industrial buildings in the 2200 block of Broening Highway was converted into a business park after a federal judge ruled that the old Bell Telephone system needed breaking up. Because so many Baltimoreans worked at the Western Electric Plant, and took home good paychecks, their old work place retains its name.

Bromo Seltzer Tower. The city is fighting a losing battle to have the landmark at the northeast corner of Lombard and Eutaw streets called the Baltimore Arts Tower. But the man who built this place (and invented Bromo Seltzer) could not get Baltimoreans to call it the Emerson Tower Building, the name he selected.

Friendship Airport-BWI. Saying you are flying out of Friendship may date you, but it's so much more pleasing a name than the coldly descriptive Baltimore-Washington International.

B&O Railroad-MARC Camden Line. Anybody who ever rode the B&O and knew its wonderful service will persist in using the old name. The new MARC train schedules make a gesture to railroad history. The former B&O route is printed in dark blue and gold; its arch rival, the Pennsylvania (MARC Penn Line) is printed in Tuscan red, the old, pre-Amtrak corporate colors of these rail lines.

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