Reflections on our city skyline

September 22, 2001|By JACQUES KELLY

After days of looking at pictures of the beleaguered New York skyline, I decided I'd had enough. On a spectacularly clear fall afternoon, I took off for our own harbor and gazed across the Patapsco River. It was a calming, inspiring experience.

My guide for this little Sunday afternoon excursion was my father, who suggested that we get out of the house, leave Charles Village, take in a few new sights, maybe have lunch.

One of the maddening delights of old Baltimore is that you'd better know the place well or you'll never find the greatest stories the city has to offer. This was clearly the case the day we investigated the environs of Tide Point, the old Procter & Gamble factory at the foot of Hull Street, directly on the harbor. The neighborhood is known as Locust Point. Its main street is Fort Avenue and its essential landmark is Fort McHenry.

Joe Kelly, my father, born in South Baltimore, likes nothing better than to lead a tour of his old neighborhood. So too my sister Josie, who's lived on Hull Street for 19 years now. When I told her I was going sightseeing at Tide Point, she warned me to budget plenty of time. She was right.

My vote for the newest spot to observe Baltimore in all its commercial glory - our skyline and the old harborside neighborhoods - is a beautifully designed boardwalk that fans out in front of the old soap factory. This grand deck, reminiscent of a waterfront resort, directly fronts on the harbor and touches the great Domino plant.

The day I happened there, a ship was docked alongside and the raw sugar was flowing into the grinders. If you felt as if you could touch the ship, you could. It was that close.

Tide Point - no barriers, no guards, no gates - obviously invites inspection and welcomes visitors.

There was one security guard present. He was using his cell phone to summon a friendly water taxi to transport some visitors back to Harborplace. This may not be Venice, and the Patapsco is not the Adriatic, but we do share (well, slightly) some of the amenities.

The Tide Point management here has provided a pair of hammocks and several wooden chairs of the Gibson Island - oops! - Adirondak - variety. (I know, I was taught to call the chairs with the slanting backs after the community on the Magothy.)

Whatever we call the chairs, they command a dramatic view of our Patapsco, Fells Point, Canton, Highlandtown - and in the distance, the spires of St. James the Less Church, the roof of the Hotel Belvedere and the mighty Shot Tower. Old Baltimore has never looked so good as it does from the place where Ivory Liquid used to be made.

I thought to myself that if this is how the rust-belt sections of Baltimore turn out after renovation, then I'm going to like the results.

On the edge of the Tide Point property I encountered a new freestanding edition of The Daily Grind, the local coffee shop.

This version, closed on the Sunday I was there, appeared to be a stainless steel gem, very new, very new Baltimore. Once again, you'll never find it unless your knowledge of Baltimore geography is good. Or, in my case, my sister told me where it is because she lives down the street.

If nothing else, I'll like this coffee shop because you can reach it by asphalt - Hull Street - or train. The CSX railroad runs right alongside.

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