The city has 66 National Register Historic Districts and 33 local historic districts. Over 65,000 properties are designated as historic buildings and listed in the NRHP, more than any other U.S. city. The historical records of the government of Baltimore are located at the Baltimore City Archives.
The city is named after Cecil Calvert, second Lord Baltimore of the Irish House of Lords and founding proprietor of the Province of Maryland. Baltimore Manor was the name of the estate in County Longford on which the Calvert family lived in Ireland. Baltimore is an anglicization of the Irish name Baile an Tí Mhóir, meaning "town of the big house."
Before European settlement
The Baltimore area had been inhabited by Native Americans since at least the 10th millennium BC, when Paleo-Indians first settled in the region. One Paleo-Indian site and several Archaic period and Woodland period archaeological sites have been identified in Baltimore, including four from the Late Woodland period. During the Late Woodland period, the archaeological culture that is called the "Potomac Creek complex" resided in the area from Baltimore south to the Rappahannock River in present-day Virginia.
In the early 1600s, the immediate Baltimore vicinity was sparsely populated, if at all, by Native Americans. The Baltimore County area northward was used as hunting grounds by the Susquehannock living in the lower Susquehanna River valley. This Iroquoian-speaking people "controlled all of the upper tributaries of the Chesapeake" but "refrained from much contact with Powhatan in the Potomac region" and south into Virginia.
Pressured by the Susquehannock, the Piscataway tribe, an Algonquian-speaking people, stayed well south of the Baltimore area and inhabited primarily the north bank of the Potomac River in what are now Charles and southern Prince George's counties in the coastal areas south of the Fall Line.
European colonization of Maryland began with the arrival of an English ship at St. Clement's Island in the Potomac River on March 25, 1634. Europeans began to settle the area further north, beginning to populate the area of Baltimore County. The original county seat, known today as "Old Baltimore", was located on Bush River within the present-day Aberdeen Proving Ground. The colonists engaged in sporadic warfare with the Susquehanna, whose numbers dwindled primarily from new infectious diseases, such as smallpox, endemic among the Europeans. In 1661 David Jones claimed the area known today as Jonestown on the east bank of the Jones Falls stream.
The colonial General Assembly of Maryland created the Port of Baltimore at old Whetstone Point (now Locust Point) in 1706 for the tobacco trade. The Town of Baltimore, on the west side of the Jones Falls, was founded and laid out on July 30, 1729. By 1752 the town had just 27 homes, including a church and two taverns. Jonestown and Fells Point had been settled to the east. The three settlements, covering 60 acres (24 ha), became a commercial hub, and in 1768 were designated as the county seat.
Being a colony, the Baltimore street names were laid out to demonstrate loyalty to the mother country. For example, King George, King, Queen, and Caroline streets.
Baltimore Town in 1752, (at "The Basin")
Baltimore grew swiftly in the 18th century, its plantations producing grain and tobacco for sugar-producing colonies in the Caribbean. The profit from sugar encouraged the cultivation of cane in the Caribbean and the importation of food by planters there. As noted, Baltimore was as the county seat, and in 1768 a courthouse was built to serve both the city and county. Its square was a center of community meetings and discussions.
Baltimore established its public market system in 1763. Lexington Market, founded in 1782, is known as one of the oldest continuously operating public markets in the United States today. Lexington Market was also a center of slave trading. Slaves were sold at numerous sites through the downtown area, with sales advertised in the Baltimore Sun. Both tobacco and sugar cane were labor-intensive crops.
Baltimore in 1774 established the first Post Office system in what became the United States, and the first water company chartered in the newly independent nation (Baltimore Water Company, 1792).
Baltimore played a key part in events leading to and including the American Revolution. City leaders such as Jonathan Plowman Jr. led many residents in joining the resistance to British taxes, and merchants signed agreements to refuse to trade with Britain. The Second Continental Congress met in the Henry Fite House from December 1776 to February 1777, effectively making the city the capital of the United States during this period.
The Town of Baltimore, Jonestown, and Fells Point were incorporated as the City of Baltimore in 1796–1797. The city remained a part of surrounding Baltimore County and continued to serve as its county seat from 1768 to 1851, after which it became an independent city.
Bombardment of Fort McHenry by the British. Engraved by John Bower
The Battle of Baltimore against the British in 1814 inspired the composition of the USA's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the construction of the Battle Monument which became the city's official emblem. A distinctive local culture started to take shape, and a unique skyline peppered with churches and monuments developed. Baltimore acquired its moniker "The Monumental City" after an 1827 visit to Baltimore by President John Quincy Adams. At an evening function Adams gave the following toast: "Baltimore: the Monumental City—May the days of her safety be as prosperous and happy, as the days of her dangers have been trying and triumphant."
Baltimore pioneered the use of gas lighting in 1816, and its population grew rapidly in the following decades, with concomitant development of culture and infrastructure. The construction of the federally funded National Road (which later became part of U.S. Route 40) and the private Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B. & O.) made Baltimore a major shipping and manufacturing center by linking the city with major markets in the Midwest. By 1820 its population had reached 60,000, and its economy had shifted from its base in tobacco plantations to sawmilling, shipbuilding, and textile production. These industries benefited from war but successfully shifted into infrastructure development during peacetime.
Baltimore suffered one of the worst riots of the antebellum South in 1835, when bad investments led to the Baltimore bank riot. Soon after the city created the world's first dental college, the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, in 1840, and shared in the world's first telegraph line, between Baltimore and Washington DC in 1844.
Sixth Regiment fighting railroad strikers, July 20, 1877
Civil war and after
Maryland, a slave state with abundant popular support for secession in some areas, remained part of the Union during the American Civil War, due in part to the Union's strategic occupation of the city in 1861. Another factor was the fact that the Union's capitol, Washington, was in the state of Maryland (geographically if not politically), and well situated to impede Baltimore and Maryland's communication or commerce with the Confederacy. Baltimore saw the first casualties of the war on April 19, 1861, when Union Soldiers en route from the President Street Station to Camden Yards clashed with a secessionist mob in the Pratt Street riot.
In the midst of the Long Depression which followed the Panic of 1873, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad company attempted to lower its workers' wages, leading to strikes and riots in the city and beyond. Strikers clashed with the National Guard, leaving 10 dead and 25 wounded.
20th century through 1968
On February 7, 1904, the Great Baltimore Fire destroyed over 1,500 buildings in 30 hours, leaving more than 70 blocks of the downtown area burned to the ground. Damages were estimated at $150 million—in 1904 dollars. As the city rebuilt during the next two years, lessons learned from the fire led to improvements in firefighting equipment standards.
Baltimore lawyer Milton Dashiell advocated for an ordinance to bar African-Americans from moving into the Eutaw Place neighborhood in northwest Baltimore. He proposed to recognize majority white residential blocks and majority black residential blocks, and to prevent people from moving into housing on such blocks where they would be a minority. The Baltimore Council passed the ordinance, and it became law on December 20, 1910, with Democratic Mayor J. Barry Mahool's signature. The Baltimore segregation ordinance was the first of its kind in the United States. Many other southern cities followed with their own segregation ordinances, though the US Supreme Court ruled against them in Buchanan v. Warley (1917).
The city grew in area by annexing new suburbs from the surrounding counties through 1918, when the city acquired portions of Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County. A state constitutional amendment, approved in 1948, required a special vote of the citizens in any proposed annexation area, effectively preventing any future expansion of the city's boundaries. Streetcars enabled the development of distant neighborhoods areas such as Edmonson Village whose residents could easily commute to work downtown.
Driven by migration from the deep South and by white suburbanization, the relative size of the city's black population grew from 23.8% in 1950 to 46.4% in 1970. Encouraged by real estate blockbusting techniques, recently settled white areas rapidly became all-black neighborhoods, in a rapid process which was nearly total by 1970.
1968 and after
The Baltimore riot of 1968, coinciding with riots in other cities, followed the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968. Public order was not restored until April 12, 1968. The Baltimore riot cost the city an estimated $10 million (US$ 74 million in 2020). A total of 11,000 Maryland National Guard and federal troops were ordered into the city. The city experienced challenges again in 1974 when teachers, municipal workers, and police officers conducted strikes.
Following the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015, the city experienced major protests and international media attention, as well as a clash between local youth and police which resulted in a state of emergency declaration and curfew.
Baltimore has suffered from a high homicide rate for several decades, peaking in 1993, and again in 2015. These deaths have taken a severe toll, especially within the local black community.
Development and promotion
By the beginning of the 1970s, Baltimore's downtown area known as the Inner Harbor had been neglected and was occupied by a collection of abandoned warehouses. The nickname "Charm City" came from a 1975 meeting of advertisers seeking to improve the city's reputation. Efforts to redevelop the area started with the construction of the Maryland Science Center, which opened in 1976, the Baltimore World Trade Center (1977), and the Baltimore Convention Center (1979). Harborplace, an urban retail and restaurant complex, opened on the waterfront in 1980, followed by the National Aquarium, Maryland's largest tourist destination, and the Baltimore Museum of Industry in 1981. In 1995, the city opened the American Visionary Art Museum on Federal Hill. During the epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the United States, Baltimore City Health Department official Robert Mehl persuaded the city's mayor to form a committee to address food problems; the Baltimore-based charity Moveable Feast grew out of this initiative in 1990. By 2010, the organization's region of service had expanded from merely Baltimore to include all of the Eastern Shore of Maryland. In 1992, the Baltimore Orioles baseball team moved from Memorial Stadium to Oriole Park at Camden Yards, located downtown near the harbor. Pope John Paul II held an open-air mass at Camden Yards during his papal visit to the United States in October 1995. Three years later the Baltimore Ravens moved into M&T Bank Stadium next to Camden Yards.
Baltimore has seen the reopening of the Hippodrome Theatre in 2004, the opening of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture in 2005, and the establishment of the National Slavic Museum in 2012. On April 12, 2012, Johns Hopkins held a dedication ceremony to mark the completion of one of the United States' largest medical complexes – the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore – which features the Sheikh Zayed Cardiovascular and Critical Care Tower and The Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children's Center. The event, held at the entrance to the $1.1 billion 1.6 million-square-foot-facility, honored the many donors including Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, first president of the United Arab Emirates, and Michael Bloomberg.
On September 19, 2016 the Baltimore City Council approved a $660 million bond deal for the $5.5 billion Port Covington redevelopment project championed by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank and his real estate company Sagamore Development. Port Covington surpassed the Harbor Point development as the largest tax-increment financing deal in Baltimore's history and among the largest urban redevelopment projects in the country. The waterfront development that includes the new headquarters for Under Armour, as well as shops, housing, offices, and manufacturing spaces is projected to create 26,500 permanent jobs with a $4.3 billion annual economic impact. Goldman Sachs invested $233 million into the redevelopment project.