The Other Baltimore

Hardly Harborplace: A tour of Charm City's lurid, violent and scandalous past.

Focus On History

July 24, 2005|By John E. McIntyre | John E. McIntyre,SUN STAFF

Now that Frommer's has proclaimed Baltimore an international tourist destination, Baltimoreans can expect to introduce even more newcomers to the conventional visitor treats: crab cakes, the National Aquarium or the Cone sisters' Matisses at the BMA.

But behind and beyond the tourist's Baltimore lurks an older, quirkier city -- less polished, less conventional, omitted from most tourist guidebooks: the Other Baltimore.

Some notable locations of the Other Baltimore:

1. Scott and Zelda

1307 Park Ave.

F. Scott Fitzgerald lived for a time in this Bolton Hill rowhouse with his daughter, Scottie. His wife, Zelda, had been treated for mental illness at the Phipps Clinic of Johns Hopkins Hospital and at Sheppard Pratt Hospital before being transferred to an institution in Asheville, N.C.

H.L. Mencken describes a dinner party with Scott and Zelda at their previous house in Rodgers Forge at which the hosts were both so drunk that they didn't notice that the courses were served in reverse order, the soup arriving last.

Of the Bolton Hill house, Mencken wrote, "I never saw him there, for I heard at once that he was drinking on a grand scale, and that the house was an almost incredible mess."

2. Forty-six ballots

5th Regiment Armory,

29th Division Street

The Democratic Party convened its presidential nominating convention in Baltimore on Tuesday, June 25, 1912. The weather was oppressively humid, the hall had no air conditioning, and the Democrats were hobbled by their requirement of a two-thirds majority for nomination -- a rule not changed until 1936. Perspiring delegates voted inconclusively Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Many ran out of money and headed home, leaving their places to alternates.

The convention resumed balloting on Monday, and finally, on Tuesday afternoon, July 2, New Jersey Gov. Woodrow Wilson was nominated on the 46th ballot.

3. Actor and assassin

Green Mount Cemetery

While many respectable burghers lie beneath respectful monuments in Green Mount Cemetery, it is also the burial place of John Wilkes Booth, Maryland native, scion of a family of actors, assassin of Abraham Lincoln. Booth's remains were interred in the family plot, but the grave is unmarked.

4. The Great Fire

Hopkins Place and

Baltimore Street

Here stood the John E. Hurst & Co. dry goods establishment. A fire started in the basement the morning of Feb. 7, 1904, a Sunday, and spread rapidly through the building until an explosion blew the roof off and spread the blaze through the business district. That was the starting point of the Great Fire of Baltimore, which destroyed 1,526 buildings and devastated 140 acres in the middle of the city.

5. Mrs. Simpson

Christ's Church

The former Episcopal church at St. Paul and Chase streets, now the New Refuge Deliverance Cathedral, is where Bessie Wallis Warfield married for the first time. She married Earl Winfield Spencer, a Navy lieutenant, in 1916 and divorced in 1927. In 1928, she married Ernest Aldrich Simpson; they divorced in 1936, at which point she was able to marry the man with whom she had been carrying on an affair, King Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne of England to be with her. She lived her remaining years as the Duchess of Windsor.

6. Nolo contendere

U.S. Post Office

and Courthouse

The old federal courthouse at Calvert and Fayette streets is now the annex to the city's Clarence Mitchell Courthouse. It was here on Oct. 10, 1973, that Spiro T. Agnew, vice president of the United States and former governor of Maryland, pleaded no contest to federal charges of tax evasion stemming from his acceptance of bribes.

His resignation from the vice presidency was submitted the same day.

7. Burlesque Queen

414 E. Baltimore St.

It was at the 2 O'Clock Club on The Block that Blaze Starr (nee Fannie Belle Fleming) shimmied her way to fame from 1950 to 1972. One of her notable exploits was a love affair with Gov. Earl K. Long of Louisiana (brother of the assassinated Huey) in the late 1950s.

8. Big Al

Union Memorial Hospital

Along 33rd Street next to Union Memorial Hospital stands a large weeping cherry tree.

The tree was a gift to the hospital in 1940 by a grateful patient, Al Capone, who was being treated there for syphilis. It flowers beautifully every spring.

9. A poet's end

Lombard Street

It was on East Lombard Street, between High and Exeter streets, not far from a saloon being used as a polling place, that Edgar Allan Poe, America's first great master of the macabre, was found wandering, disheveled and incoherent, on Oct. 3, 1849. He was taken to Washington College Hospital on Broadway (which later became Church Hospital) and died there four days later.

His grave, at the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground at Fayette and Greene streets, draws visitors every Halloween.

10. Guns over Baltimore

Federal Hill Park

Federal Hill got its name because, in 1788, Baltimoreans marched there to celebrate Maryland's ratification of the Constitution.

The site is also associated with a somewhat less glorious occasion.

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