Lots of breezy spots offer relief from the sizzle of summer

August 11, 1996|By JACQUES KELLY

It's been said that somewhere in Baltimore there is always a breeze.

And it's true, even in the sweltering summer. I've got my own list of places to find a cooling breeze, which I'll share:

* The sea wall at Fort McHenry. Don't go into the fort itself. It's got high brick walls and is pretty arid.

If the air is moving, it will be at the water's edge alongside the old stone wall. There the two branches (Middle and Northwest) of the Patapsco River divide. It's also great zephyr territory. Earlier this month I was there on a sultry Saturday afternoon. There wasn't much air stirring, but, like magic, there was a cooling chill at the water's edge.

This part of Baltimore's geography has a special status. A brisk walk around the Fort McHenry sea wall promotes suntanning and cures hangovers. It's also a popular place to read the Sunday newspaper from a folding chair.

* The Baltimore Tower at the east end of Druid Hill Lake. This is one of the standout places to view the city while you're looking for a breeze. The old tower could use some rehabilitation, though. Built in 1870, this Gothic-revival landmark is in fairly sad shape. The last time I saw it, there was a tree growing out of one of its granite-clad walls.

* Bishops' Circle in New Cathedral Cemetery, 4300 block of Old Frederick Road, West Baltimore. The small hilltop within this large city of the dead is a little-known retreat during a hot summer. It's also a place where you will never be bothered. The cemetery's Flu Hill, named for victims of the 1918 epidemic, is not nearly as cool as Bishops' Circle, the final resting place of some of the mighty and holy of 19th-century Baltimore.

* Green Mount Cemetery, Greenmount Avenue and Oliver Street. The counterpart of Bishop's Circle is the brownstone funeral chapel a short walk inside the cemetery's main gate. It, too, is on a hill and gets some nice fresh air. These old cities of the dead are sobering places, spots where you can collect your thoughts. I don't find old cemeteries morbid. They are like gracious gardens filled with a little too much statuary.

* Clifton Park, Mansion House, off Harford Road and St. Lo Drive. I'm nominating this high spot because it's one of the coldest places I've ever experienced in the winter. The winds are unobstructed. Even if it turns out to be hot and airless (or wretchedly cold), the views of the city from this Northeast Baltimore vantage point are so rewarding you won't mind the climatic misery.

* Merrymount Road, Roland Park. This is a street designed for mountain climbers. Hollywood could have filmed the Laurel and Hardy comedy about moving the piano in this tucked-away neighborhood. But the multiple flights of exterior steps lead to cool places.

* Bay Brook Park, Brooklyn. People forget there are hills on the south side of the harbor, too. Brooklyn has its own secret breeze-catching spot in the middle of an old, hard-working neighborhood.

* Korean War Memorial, Boston Street, Canton, in Southeast Baltimore. This is the opposite side of the harbor from Fort McHenry. The breezes aren't too shy in this wide-open expanse of Baltimore maritime scenery.

* Robert E. Lee Park, Lake Roland. This is the site of a former water source for Baltimore. The hillsides above the lake and dam are good walking spots any time of year. The area is served by the Falls Road light rail stop.

* Top of the NationsBank Building, 10 Light St. More than 34 stories above the corner of Redwood and Light streets there's an observation platform (unfortunately, not open to the public) atop the landmark 1929 skyscraper. It's always windy here and not for anyone afraid of heights. With virtually nothing around to shade this high spot, it can also be very hot.

One place I have never felt a breeze is the corner of Lexington and Liberty streets. Baltimore weather lore has it that this is the windiest corner downtown. I've never experienced so much as a whiff of moving air there. The urban renewal for the Charles Center brought so many buildings to the area that I guess the one-time wind-tunnel effect of old Lexington Street was diminished forever.

There is a compensating factor at Lexington and Liberty, however. Just breathe the air by the good old Peanut Shoppe on the corner.

Pub Date: 8/11/96

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