The Great Port of Baltimore - page 9

hree-hundred years on the job without one hour off — that’s
24/7/365 x 300
is an enviable work history. And neither
history nor work is in short supply on Baltimore’s muscular
waterfront, where ships and cargoes just keep getting bigger.
But the history of the Port of Baltimore does not stop at the
water’s edge. Then, as now, the Port’s undercurrent surges beyond
the docks, sweeps through downtown, and widens as it moves
out across the state, bathing business and industry, washing
over Maryland culture, engaging all through dozens of points of
contact each and every day — even as most people outside the
maritime community are clueless about an industry which is
largely out of sight, and out of mind.
So the Port’s history cannot be confined to waterfront fixtures
which made it work so well for 300 years. Maritime’s influence on
the state and region is simply too vast, the impact of waterborne
dollars too profound.
Old salts and storied ships have their place. But the truer
telling of the Port’s history embraces the concurrent development
of metropolitan Baltimore and Maryland’s counties — the ben-
eficiaries of the Port’s mission of economic development — and
incorporates the Port’s social and cultural legacy.
Without the Port, Baltimore as we know it would not exist.
It would be something lesser and smaller. More likely, Baltimore
would have died a quick death.
Colonial Maryland was no garden of leisure. It was a hard
knock life, often short and brutal. Early attempts by Maryland
settlers to establish towns honoring British founder Lord Balti-
more (a.k.a. Cecil Calvert) on the Bush River in Harford County
and the Eastern Shore quickly failed. Even after the third attempt
finally took hold in 1724, on the marshlands where the Jones Falls
empties into the Patapsco River, Baltimore was a garden-variety
mud puddle in the wilderness.
Three decades later, Baltimore Town was hanging tough,
but still hanging: in 1754, its inventory included a few hundred
people, 24 houses, two taverns, one church — with a single finger
pier stuck into the shallows.
Humble as it was, the finger pier was a difference-maker for
Baltimore — that and its fortuitous proximity to the Patapsco
River Valley, the cradle of Maryland’s industrial revolution. The
mutually beneficial relationship between the Port and industry
was Baltimore’s breath of life. Without their collaborative heft,
Baltimore would have never approached its world-class status.
Baltimore Town wasn’t Maryland’s first official port; that
honor belonged to Humphrey’s Creek near Sparrows Point,
which Colonial legislators designated a Port of Entry in 1687.
Whetstone Point, near Fort McHenry, became Maryland’s second
Port of Entry 300 years ago in 1706 — the basis of the Port’s
2006 Tricentennial celebration. Both ports trafficked in tobacco,
Maryland’s first cash crop.
Facing page: Containers await
transport at Seagirt Marine
Terminal, one of 35 public and
private terminals serving the
Port of Baltimore. The mass
of the Port’s sprawling
facilities makes the better-
known Inner Harbor seem
downright diminutive.
Above: John Moale’s 1752
depiction of the Port, looking
north from Federal Hill.
History of the Port
1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,...68
Powered by FlippingBook