A History of Baltimore

By Tim Lambert

Colonial Baltimore

The Maryland Assembly created a region called Baltimore County in 1659. The first settler was David Jones. In the following decades, other people settled in the region. In 1706 the Port of Baltimore was established near the site of Fort McHenry where goods could be loaded and unloaded. However, the town of Baltimore was formally founded in 1729. The land was divided up and sold and settlers built houses.

Baltimore grew rapidly. By 1790 the population of Baltimore had risen to over 13,500. It would seem small to us but by 18th century standards, it was a large and important town. By 1810 the population had risen to over 46,000.

Meanwhile, in 1796 Baltimore became a city. Then on 12-15 September 1814 during The War of 1812 British forces attempted but failed to capture Baltimore.

19th Century Baltimore

During the 19th century, the population of Baltimore continued to boom and by 1850 it was over 169,000.

Amenities in the city improved. Maryland University was founded in 1807 and Carroll Mansion was built in 1811. Washington Monument was built in 1815-1829. Gas street lighting was introduced in 1817 and in 1859 the first horsecars began running. Meanwhile, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was incorporated in 1827. The railroad, of course, made it easier for immigrants to reach Baltimore.

Then in 1861 came the Civil War. On 19 April 1861 troops from Massachusetts were marching through Baltimore when Confederate sympathizers attacked the troops. In the ensuing riot, 4 soldiers and 12 civilians were killed. Afterward, Baltimore was occupied by federal troops.

In the late 19th century Baltimore boomed. The port thrived and by 1900 the population of the city had risen to 508,000. Many African Americans migrated to Baltimore.

Meanwhile, Brown Memorial Presbyterian Church was built in 1870 and Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church was built in 1872. Baltimore City Hall was built in 1875 and The Enoch Pratt Free Library opened in 1886.

20th Century Baltimore

However, in 1904, Baltimore suffered a disastrous fire. It began at 11.00 am on the morning of 7 February 1904 in the Hurst Building. The wind fanned the flames and the fire quickly spread. Over the next 30 hours, more than 1,500 buildings were destroyed. Yet Baltimore soon recovered. The Chamber of Commerce Building was built in 1904-05. Baltimore Museum of Art was founded in 1914. n Baltimore continued to grow during the 1920s. The Bank of America Building was built in 1929. Walters Art Museum opened in 1934.

However in the 1930s, like the rest of the country, Baltimore was hit by the Depression. Yet Baltimore suffered less than parts of the USA because of its diverse industries. With the Second World War Baltimore boomed again. The shipyards were kept busy. In 1950 the population of Baltimore peaked at almost 950,000 but it then gradually fell.

Today tourism is an important industry in Baltimore. B&O Railroad Museum opened in 1953. Babe Ruth Museum opened in 1974 and Maryland Science Center opened in 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Industry was founded in 1977. The National Aquarium opened in 1981 and Port Discovery Children’s Museum opened in 1998.

Mondawmin Shopping Mall opened in 1956. Harborplace Shopping Center opened in 1980.

Meanwhile, the Baltimore World Trade Center was built in 1977. William Donald Schaefer Tower opened in 1992.

21st Century Baltimore

In the 21st Century, the population of Baltimore continued to fall. In 2021 it stood at 576,000. However, tourism thrived. The Irish Railroad Workers Museum opened in 2002 and The Reginald F Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture opened in 2005. The National Slavic Museum was established in 2012.

Last revised 2024