A Glimpse At Baltimore’s Colorful Historical Events

The City of Baltimore sure has a colorful history that people will remember for the rest of time. However, these historical facts and events are so important that they must be commemorated so that more people, both locals, and tourists will know and appreciate these events.

Christina Tkacik of The Baltimore Sun will take us to the time when Baltimore’s streetcars stopped running. Read the article below and reminisce the time where it did happen.

When Baltimore’s Streetcars Stopped Running

Photo Credits: The Baltimore Sun

Last week’s CSX derailment didn’t interrupt MARC or Amtrak service in Baltimore, but it did bring a halt to the one place in the city where you can still ride a streetcar.

Visitors to the Baltimore Streetcar Museum marvel at the trolley ride — a short trip along the Jones Falls in an antique streetcar. With the gentle breeze through the windows, it’s easy to see why Baltimoreans once rode the streetcar on hot summer nights to avoid the sweltering indoor temperatures.

Such streetcars once clanged and swayed across the city and back, with tracks like arteries connecting parts as far flung as Ellicott City and Dundalk.

Baltimore became the first city in the United States to get a commercially operated electric streetcar on Aug. 10, 1885. According to the Maryland Historical Society, the first line ran from 25th and Howard streets through Huntingdon and Hampden to Roland Ave. and 40th Street.

But after years of decline, streetcar service came to a total stop in Baltimore in November 1963. It was a disappointment for streetcar enthusiasts like Baltimore resident Dorsey Rhoads, who, sitting on a streetcar the last night of service, told The Sun that her father had driven the No. 8 streetcar line when she was a child. “It’s kind of sad to see them tearing it all apart,” she said, tearing up. “Why ruin it?”

Another person to ride the streetcar that night was Jerry Kelly, who climbed on board at 6 p.m. Saturday night, disembarking at 6 a.m. the following morning. Kelly, who died in 2018, would go on to help start the Baltimore Streetcar Museum.

“Streetcars have a sense of stability,” he told The Sun in 2016. While a bus route can change overnight, a streetcar line is more enduring.

But not forever.

Last week, freight cars crushed the museum’s substation, which converts the AC power the museum buys to DC power, the type needed to power its old-fashioned streetcars. A spokesman for the museum said he didn’t know when the museum would offer rides again. See full post here…

The electric streetcar has become part of Baltimore since 1885 where it became the first city to get a commercially operated streetcar in the country. In addition, this streetcar served lots of citizens during its time and is the primary mode of transportation for everyone in the city during that time as well.

John McGrain wrote an interesting article about the history of Filth as part of the Preservation Alliance Baltimore County. Check out the article below to learn more.

History of Filth


Sherry H. Olson in her 1980 Baltimore the Building of an American City, noted that in 1850, all the local services involving horses were in the hands of Irish immigrants, including “night work” and livery stables, draymen work, etc. (p. 166). “Night work” was the euphemism for pumping the vaults of home privies or out houses. The people who performed this necessary service were “night men.” We find in the Sun that municipal regulations restricted the service to night time, and it was not allowed during the summer (Sun, April 14, 1874}.

Image Source: Preservation Alliance of Baltimore County

Olson reported that around 1870, there were 200 to 300 private contractors hauling night soil; some 100 city employees were taking garbage and ashes about two miles out from the city. During the 1870s, the volume of refuse increased 40 percent.

In 1872, a machine was invented to pump out the vaults by an air pump with a deodorizing device coupled to a flexible tube; that was the Odorless Excavating Apparatus, which was patented. Any number of people claimed its invention, and the dispute made it to the Supreme Court. Apparently it was odorless at the point of use and it could be used in the day time.

When the mechanized device was first marketed, the night men petitioned the City Council to prevent its use. It was a “great wrong” on their “ancient rights” (Sun, April 14, 1874). They hoped to continue by the “bucket and cart” technique. The Sun reminded them that the Luddites of old England had wanted to stop weaving and spinning machines, and were of course fighting the tide of modernism (Sun, January 21, 1873). The City Council gave a monopoly to George Padgett for using the new invention. The carts normally carried the pumpings out to dumping sites beyond the city limits. Sometimes the muck was mixed with the powdery yellow ashes from furnaces and coal stoves which made it less offensive. The natural fertilizer was normally used by truck farms on Patapsco Neck. Those leafy heads of bright green lettuce and the bright glowing carrots in the city market stalls could probably trace their ancestry to the nitrogenous garden patches on North Point Road. In the city, boys had a little folk song, “Wagon full of barrels; barrels full of What? O. E. A.; O. E. A.” Of course, the odorless tank had to be emptied a safe distance from built up neighborhoods. Read more here…

The filth also played a major role in the early years of Baltimore for it helped lots of people, especially the rural areas during that time.

Lastly on our list is an interesting story written by Colin Campbell as to how the Jones Falls Expressway’s history explains why the city’s first highway is so prone to crashes.

How the Jones Falls Expressway’s history explains why Baltimore’s first highway is so prone to crashes

Image Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun

A dangerously winding, elevated Jones Falls Expressway spilling traffic onto President Street in Baltimore was never the intent of the road’s planners.

The history of Baltimore’s first highway and highest volume road explains why it was built with its harrowing S-curves, which contribute to a crash rate twice as high as comparable Maryland highways, and why it ends so abruptly at the Fayette Street traffic light.

A group of influential Baltimore businessmen, many of whom lived in North Baltimore and the county suburbs, formed the Greater Baltimore Committee and collectively persuaded city and state leaders to build the road in 1955, amid President Dwight Eisenhower’s push for a national highway system.

“The issue was, how do we make sure Baltimore becomes a part or at least a portion of that highway system?” said Don Fry, the group’s current president.

To avoid disrupting businesses and neighborhoods in the Jones Falls Valley, the highway was laid out along the Pennsylvania Railroad line and elevated in stretches above the stream itself. The resulting curves couldn’t — and still can’t — accommodate normal interstate speeds, but it was designated as one anyway in 1956 to qualify its construction for 90 percent federal funding.

The first crash happened within an hour of the highway’s ribbon-cutting. Click here to read the rest of this post…

Perhaps there’s a deeper reason why a lot of accidents being recorded in the road itself. It was Baltimore’s first highway and also the highest in terms of volume. This also means that it is an important road. Authorities must do their job to prevent accidents from happening in the area.

So there you have it, some glimpses of Baltimore’s historic streetcar and the reason why its first highway is very prone to accidents. To know more about Baltimore, please visit https://www.dependablehomebuyers.com/maryland/baltimore/

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