How about an Inner Harbor walk of fame?

May 31, 2011

I recently submitted a proposal to the Baltimore Development Corp. in reference to The Sun's front page article, "Reinvigorating Baltimore's waterfront," published in early May. No response, not even a thank you for the suggestion, was received. Jean Marbella, in the Sunday Sun, was somewhat critical of many of the grandiose and expensive recommendations proposed by the BDC.

My idea would come with minimal start-up costs and would instill pride in our city and state and enrich the minds of Marylanders and visitors alike.

My proposal: A Maryland Walk of Fame installed along the brick and concrete walkways throughout the Inner Harbor.

Bronze plaques (similar to Hollywood's Walk of Fame), inscribed with the names of famous (and not-so-famous and infamous) Marylanders — along with symbols of Maryland (e.g. the state flag, Baltimore oriole, blue crab, oyster, black-eyed Susan, terrapin, rockfish) — can be spaced every few yards along the harbor walkways. Each plaque would be numbered and a brochure (sold at nominal cost to defray maintenance expenses) would include short biographies of each honoree, including birth (and death) dates, major contributions and where they were born, died or resided in Maryland.

Beyond start-up costs (design, review, initial installations, promotion, etc.), future inductions into the Walk of Fame can be financially supported through sponsorships provided by individuals, groups, corporate entities, associations, and religious, social and fraternal organizations.

Most of us are familiar with some of our most prestigious members of Maryland society (Babe Ruth, Francis Scott Key, Johnny Unitas, Thurgood Marshall, Harriett Tubman, Tom Clancy, Mama Cass Elliot, Bishop John Carroll, Cal Ripken, Jr., Black & Decker, Wallis Warfield Simpson, Spiro Agnew, Oprah Winfrey, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Edgar Allen Poe, etc.).

What most of us and our visitors don't know is that: Katharine Hepburn's ancestors emigrated to Maryland's Eastern Shore in the 1690s and that she was baptized in Maryland and spent many summers at the Hepburn farm near Hope, Maryland (she also made her acting debut on the stage of Ford's Theater on Fayette Street); Gayle King, Oprah's best friend and editor of "O" Magazine, was born in Baltimore; Hollywood's Warner Brothers grew up around East Lombard Street; Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak lives part-time in Severna Park; Rudolph Valentino was once a waiter at Marconi's French Restaurant; and Tallulah Bankhead is buried in St. Paul's Churchyard in Chestertown.

There are hundreds more who have graced this state and made us proud to be Marylanders. A Maryland Walk of Fame would add a touch of history to the modern Inner Harbor (as has the USS Constellation, the lightship Chesapeake, the Coast Guard cutter Taney, the USS Torsk and the Seven Foot Knoll lighthouse). It would give schoolchildren insight into what Marylanders have contributed to the betterment of our city, our state, our country and the world. It would instill a sense of pride in all Marylanders visiting the Inner Harbor. And it would give our many visitors a better understanding of who we are, where we came from and where are we going.

Norm Youskauskas, Baltimore

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