We all know a little bit about Baltimore culture right? Whether you’re a native, or a transplant like me, we’ve all heard about Francis Scott Key, Berger cookies, Edgar Allen Poe, Natty Boh, et cetera, et cetera. But who are the people that make this city so great? Where did they come from? What about the very first Baltimoreans? I’m no history buff, but I thought it’d be cool to delve into the city’s past and learn a little about its beginnings and its earliest settlers.
The city of Baltimore was founded in the early 17th century and named after the first Proprietary Governor of the Province of Maryland, Lord Baltimore (makes sense, doesn’t it?) Fast forward past the Revolutionary War, and right on through the Civil War, and we see a major surge of immigration throughout the 19th century. The Locust Point immigration station in Baltimore Harbor was the second largest immigration port after Ellis Island (fun fact!) The earliest settlers in the area hailed from Germany and Ireland; and as the Baltimore continued to develop, immigrants from all over Europe began to flock to Charm City. Locust Point welcomed thousands and thousands of newcomers until World War I when it was temporarily transformed into a military hospital.
Thanks to the Locust Point immigration center and the establishment of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1828, the city became a hub of industry and development. Fueling this industrialization was a diverse network of Irish, German, Greek, African, Italian, Jewish, and Polish workers.
These communities are still strong today, and you can experience our city’s melting pot of cultures by touring local ethnic neighborhoods or attending one (or several) of Baltimore’s annual cultural festivals. Coming up in November, there are two major celebrations going on that everyone should definitely check out!
- Up first is the Greek Food and Cultural Festival Friday November 1st – Sunday November 3rd. This big, fat, Greek party features authentic food and pastries, live music and dancing, and hundreds of vendors selling authentic goodies. Head down to 24 West Preston Street to be part of the action – parking and admission are free!
- The following weekend, November 8th-10th is the Maryland Irish Festival at the Timonium Fairgrounds. This cultural celebration features live music, Irish dancing, traditional cuisine, and much more! It’s the largest indoor Irish festival in the country – so get decked out in your green, orange, and white and be a part of the action!
- Looking ahead: There are tons of other festivals that take place at other points during the year – so if you’re ethnic experience enthusiast, be sure to mark your calendar for these awesome annual events
- Still intrigued? I suggest you check out the Maryland Historical Society Museum and Library – they have tons of cool exhibits and events showcasing the rich cultural history of this great college town!
- Let’s get some audience participation! Tell us about your favorite cultural neighborhood spots, a recommended ethnic restaurant, or a personal story about your heritage!
– Madison Boris, intern