Battle Monument at Calvert & Fayette

Today was bike tour day, so I woke up early, kinda nervous, and reviewed my notes for our six-stop tour of historic War of 1812 sites in the city before bringing Brompty downstairs for a good ride over to our starting point at Riverside Park, one of the oldest parks in Baltimore. A small group gathered, and we made our way over to Sharp-Leadenhall, where I talked about the history of African Americans in the early Republic, and especially in this neighborhood, the oldest African American neighborhood in the city. Did you know the oldest school built explicitly for African Americans is right here in Baltimore, in this very neighborhood? Or that one of the oldest abolitionist societies was founded here? Today might be the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation (which didn’t apply to Maryland anyway), but the fight to end slavery goes back much longer, fought by enslaved people and abolitionists. And the fight to keep this neighborhood continued and still continues, under siege by urban renewal, highways, historic districting, and more. History doesn’t just end. Anyway. Then we cycled over to the Inner Harbor to take the path to the Flag House, where we got a tour from a woman all dressed up in period gear. Then it was back on the bikes to Fells Point and a discussion of privateering and the profit motives of war in 1812–yeah, that’s an old story. A flat tire gave us time to also talk about the mix of labor used to build these ships, with wage, indentured, and enslaved laborers working side by side. Ship building didn’t end after the war, so we also mentioned Isaac Meyers and his shipbuilding company founded in 1866, the first Black-owned business of its kind. After losing a couple of riders to the flat-that-wouldn’t-fix and an early afternoon appointment, we trekked over to Patterson Park, once Hampstead Hill, to talk about the Battle of North Point, the Battle of Baltimore, and the memorials now here. Back on the bikes and over to Battle Monument we went, seen here against the brilliant blue sky that’s welcoming in the first day of fall. We talked quickly about this one–the first war memorial to the common soldier in the United States, planted here in front of the courthouse in an attempt to also stop further development northward. Urban planners and historic preservationists have been doing their thing for a long time. The tour was running very late, so I had to split off here, but the rest of the folks continued back to Federal Hill and a tour of some of the memorials to the war there. I learned a lot today about things I’d do differently were I to lead another tour, but all in all I’d call it a good, if too-long day, made better by the weather and the lovely company, including a unicyclist, an urban planner, several history buffs, and a unicyclist whose appearance made the day of more than one kid en route. It was a lovely way to spend a lovely morning on a bicycle.

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