Fell’s Point, Inner Harbor and Canton Pride of “Charm City”
The heading for this month’s road trip makes it sound like a lot of driving, but it is not. All three of these thriving communities lie side by side along the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River giving each community a true waterfront feel.
We also thought that a visit to our nautical neighbor to the north would be in order after the recent riots and protests in downtown Baltimore. Where peaceful demonstrations brought down by thugs who looted, stole and burned their own neighborhoods unfortunately brought a dark cloud over the entire city. It ended up blocking out the light of hope for many businesses dependent on tourism, however, Baltimore is a city that will endure and thrive because of their civic leaders and the tenacity of its residents.
Kevin Plank, Maryland native and CEO of Under Armour spoke of Freddie Gray at the company’s annual stockholders meeting. “We are one Baltimore and we will work towards positive change with local leaders and groups on and off the sports field in the neighborhoods that drive change throughout the city in any way that we can,” he said. Here is a former special teams captain on the University of Maryland football team that upon graduation and armed with a little cash and some credit cards started Under Armour, Inc. in 1996. Today UA is a 3 billion dollar company with their national headquarters located in an old industrial building in Baltimore. This is what Baltimore is really about.
Plank has purchased the historic City Recreation Pier Hotel in Fells Point and is renovating and rebuilding with the goal being to bring it back to its former glory to include a 120 room boutique hotel. Many of you would recognize the current structure as the set for the television series “Homicide: Life on the Streets”. There truly is more building up than tearing down in Baltimore.
My first encounter with Fell’s Point was in the early 1970’s when I was crew on sailing vessel Patricia Divine, a two masted schooner. We were in Baltimore to participate in the Great Chesapeake Schooner Race. Like Old Town Alexandria, Fell’s Point is a seaport town where old warehouses have been converted to shops and restaurants. Fell’s Point is what I would call a waterfront town. The shops and restaurants run parallel to the river affording everyone a river view. Since the early 90’s the town has continued to grow, but has kept that salty charm.
The weathered haunts that I encountered on my first trip have changed a bit, but have still maintained that rugged allure. The first bar to catch our eye, and no pun intended, was The Cats Eye Pub. They have been serving watermen, travelers and locals since 1975 and in the real early days was one of the town’s most active brothels. The beer is cold, the company engaging. This place hasn’t changed a bit since the 90’s.
Another favorite pub from the early days is The Horse You Came in On. The pub is located on the last street before the docks. It is rumored to have been one of Edgar Allen Poe’s favorite watering holes. Theory has it that his ghost resides at the pub. When I first visited the Horse in the 90’s they still had the wooden bars in place that separated the bartenders from the rowdy customers. Those were removed years ago but the place still has that charm. Other great places include Bertha’s Mussels, The Admiral Fell Inn, Woody’s Rum Bar, The Waterfront Hotel (where we had a fabulous lunch) and on and on…too many to mention in one write-up but not too many to frequent on a trip to the Point.
There are also numerous one-of-a-kind gift shops and stores in addition to the Broad Street Market and a stop off at the Visitors Center to learn some hands on history about the area and all of the folk lore that abounds in the area. There are several walking tours that are available. For information, log on to baltimoreheritagearea.org.
In the past, we have kept our road trip stops centered around Fells Point but this time we decided to leave the truck parked there (very reasonable parking in 4 hour increments) and hop on the Water Taxi and cruise over to the Inner Harbor for a few hours and then on to Canton for the first time ever. This is the way to go – $14 per adult for an all-day pass that gets you to all stops and back.
Adjoining Fell’s Point to the west lies Baltimore’s Inner harbor. With the decline of the shipping trade in the 50’s Baltimore Harbor fell into a state of disarray. Rotting warehouses and piers were torn down and replaced by open, grass covered parks. The waterfront was gradually transformed with award-winning parks and plazas surrounded by office buildings, hotels and leisure attractions. With the success of the Inner Harbor in the 1970’s and 1980’s, Baltimore became a worldwide tourist destination and model of urban planning and development. Today there are museums at the Inner Harbor as well as the National Aquarium, which receives over 1.5 million visitors a year. We didn’t take in any of the museums or the aquarium on this trip but spent some time on the deck at Tir Na Nog Irish Bar & Grill and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company. Both are very entertaining places to be. While Bubba’s is part of the Landry Foods chain restaurants, it is worth a stop in just for the laughs and great drinks! While at Tir Na Nog, order yourself a Dark & Stormy! If you are in more of a shopping mood, there are stores to meet everyone’s fancy. There is a Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! located at Inner Harbor as well. We didn’t have time to take the tour but it is on the list for next time.
Within walking distance is Oriole Park at Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, Baltimore Convention Center, Babe Ruth’s birthplace and museum. Baltimore’s own tall ship, the Pride of Baltimore II, a top sail schooner, calls the Inner Harbor home port and can be seen there when she is not on goodwill tours.
One of the crown jewels of Baltimore’s waterfront communities is Canton. This vibrant neighborhood is located in southeast Baltimore bordering Patterson Park, the Patapsco River and Interstate 895. By the 1980’s Canton’s industrial base had dwindled away, leaving behind unemployed workers and abandoned factories. Thanks to several development projects, small business leaders, and enterprising young residents, Canton revitalized itself throughout the 1990’s to become one of the most popular neighborhoods in Baltimore. Once decrepit factories and warehouses have been refurbished and modernized for use as apartment lofts, entertainment venues, restaurants, and offices.
The walk up the hill to the heart of Canton from the water taxi dock takes about 10 minutes at a very leisurely pace but you can do it in 5 if you are in shape. Once in downtown Canton, almost all of the restaurants are within a two- block area and are very busy. We were there on a Thursday evening and Mama’s on the Half Shell (the place recommended by our friends at the Cat’s Eye) was standing room only with all of the alfresco tables occupied. Clearly this is a very popular place and it was 8:00 in the evening. We took in a fun Irish bar across the street from Mama’s named Looney’s Pub because my partner likened the name to hers (Lani..Looney) and after that it was time to catch the last taxi back to Fells Point. We will definitely take time to explore Canton again in the future.
Treat yourself to a Road Trip to “Charm City” and show your support for one of our Nation’s iconic cities!
Written by: Bob Tagert