Re-enactment opens Civil War Museum 200 re-create scenes from history at facility in President St. Station

April 13, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

More than 200 Civil War re-enactors -- some on horseback, many bearing bayonet-tipped rifles, and all dressed in authentic blue Union or gray Confederate uniforms -- helped celebrate the opening of the Baltimore Civil War Museum at the President Street Station yesterday.

The 1,800-square-foot museum -- site of the first deaths of the Civil War in 1861, when U.S. troops were stoned by an angry mob of Southern sympathizers as they walked to Pratt Street and west to Camden Station -- is part of a $450 million project that will combine the city's newest museum and retail, commercial and residential buildings east of the Inner Harbor.

"This is another cultural amenity and something that is good for the economy here," said Steve Bunker, a Fells Point merchant, president of Friends of President Street Station and advocate of the station's renovation for more than a decade.

The museum is in the nation's oldest big city train station and offers displays on the history of the station and its importance during the Civil War, an overview of the Underground Railroad and a look at the surrounding community.

The museum also has exhibits on Baltimore's regiments of "colored" troops and the demise of slavery in Maryland.

Shawn Cunningham, the museum's director, said once it becomes self-sufficient, the second floor may be developed. "Right now Baltimore can learn its history by looking at Civil War past," Cunningham said. "Programs on the Civil War and living history tours will be offered here."

At yesterday's opening, many visitors admitted to knowing little of Baltimore's role in the Civil War.

"I had no idea that fighting actually occurred in Baltimore," said Randolph Montgomery, who toured the museum with his 7-year-old son, Paul. "You tend to think that it was deep in the South where most of the people died during battle, but it all started right here."

The train station was originally 208 feet longer, but a snowstorm caused the train sheds that jutted to the east to collapse. They were rebuilt in 1913, but by the late 1950s, use of the station had ended. The train sheds burned in 1979, leaving the building in its present shape.

The station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1992 and work on its restoration began last summer. Wayne Davidson, a Baltimore historian and Civil War buff, said the museum will educate its visitors.

"So many people know so little about this era of history," Davidson said. "Let's learn it and tell it for what it was."

Pub Date: 4/13/97

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