Commuting on the Inner Harbor

Baltimore Glimpses

August 02, 1994|By Gilbert Sandler

THE RECENT revival of Inner Harbor boating has spawned water taxis that crisscross the harbor, taking passengers to tony watering holes, restaurants and other attractions along the shoreline. But such boats mostly cater to tourists or area residents visiting downtown sites. What about a commuter ferry with a route, for instance, from the Harborview condominiums to the Pratt Street piers? Is there enough business to warrant one?

City residents and officials interested in such a ferry should research the Howard W. Jackson, one of the last Broadway-Locust Point ferries, which traveled between Fells Point and Haubert Street in South Baltimore.

At its peak, it hauled hundreds of people in its 22 trips across the water from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The boat, which cost the city $135,000 to build in 1925, was 126 feet long.

Many of Polish descent in Locust Point relied on it to take their children to parochial schools in East Baltimore.

Over howls of protest from some local residents and Broadway merchants, the service was ended to save the annual city subsidy.

Various reasons were cited for the ferry's demise, including better roads, improved streetcar service and increasing use of automobiles.

However, Leon Jorss, the captain of the ferry, dismissed such speculation in an interview with reporters on the ferry's last day of operation, Dec. 31, 1938. "It wasn't streetcars or autos or better roads that killed this ferry," Jorss said. "It was the cost of the ride. Right now, it's three cents for children, seven cents for adults. That's too much money to charge anybody for going to either East Baltimore or South Baltimore."

With that Captain Jorss stepped off the Howard W. Jackson after making his last four-minute trip across the harbor from the foot of Broadway in Fells Point.

Sixteen months later, the Jackson was briefly brought back to service. But, again, it failed due to declining patronage.

During World War II, another service was started to ferry workers from Broadway to the Fairfield-Curtis Bay shipyards along Key Highway (where the Harbor View condominium towers are today).

Former patrons say the wartime ferries were akin to riverboat casinos with the number of crap games that went on. This service stopped shortly after the war ended.

Will city fathers decide such ferries once again deserve a place on the Inner Harbor? Certainly, if he were still around, Captain Jorss would favor such a move.

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