Mencken's Baltimore slips away

August 16, 2004

As visitors descend on Baltimore during the summer tourism season, staff writer Larry Bingham offers an occasional look at how the city has been portrayed by writers over the years. Today, an excerpt from Baltimore native and newspaperman H. L. Mencken, lamenting the changing city in the 1920s.

"I was glad I was born long enough ago to remember, now, the days when the town had genuine color, and life here was worth living. I remember Guy's Hotel. I remember the Concordia Opera House. I remember the old Courthouse. Better still, I remember Mike Sheehan's old saloon in Light Street -- then a medieval and lovely alley; now a horror borrowed from the boom towns of the Middle West.

"Was there ever a better saloon in this world? Don't argue: I refuse to listen. The decay of Baltimore, I believe, may be very accurately measured by the distance separating Mike's incomparable bar from the soda-fountains which now pollute the neighborhood -- above all, by the distance separating its noble customers (with their gold watch-chains and their elegant boiled shirts!) from the poor fish who now lap up Coca-Cola."

-- H.L. Mencken, Evening Sun, Feb. 15, 1926

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