November 7, 2018 - Neighborhood Tour
On the final Friday of every month, Live Baltimore heads out of the office and into one of Baltimore's 278 neighborhoods. Each month, we love what we find! October was no different.
In an effort to jumpstart our team’s Halloween celebrations, we started the morning off by venturing into one of the spookiest places in town —Westminster Hall and Burying Ground. The site, surrounded on most sides by the University of Maryland Medical Center, is one of Baltimore’s oldest cemeteries and is most famously known as the burial place of Edgar Allan Poe.
Our tour guide, Heather McKlveen, guided us downstairs into the “catacombs,” the burial site presently covered by the former church. Though the property was originally purchased in 1786 by a Presbyterian congregation, the building covering what are known as the catacombs at Westminster Hall wasn’t built until almost 60 years later. It remained in active use as a church from 1852 until 1977 and is currently a special events space—talk about a historic site for a wedding! Some of the original pews from the church were moved below ground and are now used as seating space for visitors to the catacombs.
It was dark, damp and just a little disturbing to know we were walking amongst people buried for more than 200 years and that was just what we wanted.
Heather gave us some quick facts about the cemetery before letting our team explore the above-ground tombstones and vaults. Did you know more than 1,000 people were buried at Westminster? Though many have been moved to other cemeteries in Baltimore, some of city’s most influential political, military and business leaders were laid to rest at Westminster Burying Grounds. Our staff learned about the many people buried at the cemetery, including famous Marylanders currently memorialized on Baltimore street names and public spaces like James McHenry, a founding father from Maryland and the namesake of Fort McHenry.
Poe, best known for his poetry and short stories, was originally buried in 1849 in an unmarked grave in a family plot in the back of the cemetery. In the early 1870's, a combination of pennies raised by Baltimore schoolchildren and private donors provided for a monument to Poe. His remains were moved to a more prestigious spot at the front of the cemetery in 1875.
Since the 1940's someone has laid three flowers and a bottle of cognac on the monument around Poe's birthday in January and during October. Our visit was no exception.
We snapped some pictures and it was time to walk to our next stop.
Standing on the corner of Fayette Street we gazed west toward Poppleton and noticed the new Center West apartment development less than a mile away. Located within walking distance of the University of Maryland BioPark, the Oriole Park at Camden Yards and the Horseshoe Casino, the sleek, modern apartments will soon bring new residents to the area that will be lucky enough to be so close to some of Baltimore’s historic sights!
After walking a few blocks we arrived at the Bromo Seltzer Arts Tower in Downtown. Named for an early 20th century headache remedy, the 15-story city landmark on Eutaw Street has been transformed into studio spaces for visual and literary artists. However, tours of the Instagram-worthy clock tour room are still available to the public weekly.
The tower, built in 1911, opened to artists in 2008 after an extensive restoration. We were honored to be able to take an exclusive peek into the tower with Bromo Exhibits and Studio Leasing Administrator Betsy Stone.
Betsy guided us upstairs to see the “Cafe,” a space reserved for pop-up performances and open-mic nights.
We then piled into a hand-operated elevator to travel up to the 15th floor to see the Emerson/Maryland Glass Museum (which houses the largest collection of Bromo Seltzer and Maryland Glass bottle memorabilia in existence) and to the base of a ship’s ladder to get to the grand finale: a trip into the clock tower itself! Betsy told us about the still-functioning clock tower, which she holds the honor of being the only one professionally trained to set.
The clock was the largest, four-dial gravity-driven, non-chiming clock in the world when it was built but when the gravity drive failed in the mid-20th century—an expensive and time-consuming repair—it was switched to run on electricity. A full restoration of the clock was completed in 2017 and the clock once again runs on gravity though the original hands have been replaced and are now on display inside of the tower.
We ended our tour with a group photo and a brisk walk back to our Downtown office.