Baltimore's Revolutionary jewel [Commentary]

Carroll Park in Southwest Baltimore is home to two sites that should be cultivated into tourism destinations

September 15, 2014|By David Carroll and Pamela Charshee

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is right. We will not succeed in growing Baltimore's future by "thinking small" but by building "projects that will sustain Baltimore well into the future" ("Moving Baltimore Forward," Aug. 29). The mayor proposes that designing a great transit system will be one of the cornerstones of a sustainable future for the city. We agree.

There is also another cornerstone critical to the vibrancy, the life and the perpetuity of Baltimore and all great cities: its cultural "bones" — the richly layered accumulation of historical experience, knowledge and creative accomplishment that together form the unique identity, the persona, of a place. It's what makes you want to live here. Baltimore is a city with great "bones" and its own gritty, down-home-but-proud persona.

Former Mayor William Donald Schaefer, as Ms. Rawlings-Blake points out, also understood the need to "think big." She writes that "without his vision, Baltimore's Inner Harbor would not have become a world-class hub for tourism and a critical part of our city's economy." Schaefer understood the city's bones. Many would be surprised to learn that one of the last major projects Schaefer envisioned for the Inner Harbor has yet to be completed. It was a cultural tourism project, and he called it "the final jewel in the Inner Harbor development."

The "jewel" is only minutes away on the city's southwest side in little-known Carroll Park, where two Revolutionary period sites — Carroll's Hundred and the 18th century Mount Clare mansion — make up a sleepy historical gem with potential as a cultural anchor for community revitalization, education and economic development. A 1988 National Park Service Master Plan for the site calls it Baltimore's Mount Vernon. Similarly, Baltimore City's 2001 Master Plan for Carroll Park recommends an authentic restoration of the site.

The area is just two blocks from both I-95 and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. At Monroe Street and Washington Boulevard, Carroll's Hundred can be a beautiful Heritage Gateway for visitors to Baltimore.

Years of archaeological and historical research are revealing that Carroll's Hundred was a crucible of early American cultural diversity. Once an iron plantation worked by enslaved laborers and indentured servants, the story of its diversity has national significance according to the NPS. Our educational programs have introduced over 500 school children to their cultural legacy at Carroll's Hundred through activities in the historic orchard. And we have empowered YouthWorks trainees through summer employment to save their African American cultural inheritance by helping to conserve artifacts from the site. This is just the start.

Our non-profit organization understands what Carroll's Hundred can mean for Baltimore, its school children, and the revitalization of Southwest Baltimore. We have assembled a team of archaeological and historical experts from around the region. We have produced design concepts, a capital development and fundraising plan, and a research plan. We have been awarded $235,000 in federal, state and private funding to begin an on-site archaeological investigation of African American life at Carroll's Hundred — Baltimore's sacred ground.

We are thinking big about the power of place — its historical bones — to serve as a major cornerstone for community-building and a new heritage gateway to the city in West Baltimore. We applaud the mayor's vision and invite her and Parks' Director Ernest Burkeen to visit us for a walk in the park to discuss how to bring this "final jewel" to the people of Baltimore.

David Carroll is chair of the Carroll Park Foundation; his email is prospecths@aol.com. Pamela Charshee is executive director of the Caroll Park Foundation; Her email is carrollshundred@verizon.net.


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