Mount Vernon Cultural Walk
The development of the nation depended on transportation, and Baltimore led America in building the first long-distance railroad, one of the earliest commuter rail systems, and one of the first electric streetcar systems. Baltimore also contributed to the development of America's automobile industry. As early as 1852, William A.E. Aiken, a chemistry professor at the University of Maryland, constructed Baltimore's firs steam-powered "horseless carriage." In 1892, Baltimore William Thomas Harris built the country's first gas-powered, multi-passenger bus. Between 1900 and the 1930s, twelve automobile manufacturing companies operated in Baltimore. The number of small automobile manufactures dwindled, and in 1934 General Motors erected the Chevrolet Motor Manufacturing Plant on the east side of Baltimore on a forty-five acre site that was capable of producing 80,000 cars a year.
As demand for automobiles increased, first among the wealthy, dealerships opened in Mount Vernon, and Mount Royal Avenue became "automobile row." By 1920, fifty dealerships were located in Baltimore, with twenty-two along Mount Royal Avenue. Baltimore significantly boosted the automobile industry in one other way-the car loan. In 1912, finance innovator Alexander Duncan founded the Commercial Credit Company and three years later was providing
car loans to customers, one of the first automobile loan programs in the nation. By 1952, Commercial Credit had become Baltimore's second billion-dollar company.
Since its opening in 1880s, Mount Royal Avenue has evolved to accommodate the changing times in Baltimore and the nation. Designed to connect Mount Vernon to Druid Hill Park, the Avenue boasted terraced parks that beautified the Jones Falls and welcomed train passengers at nearby Mount Royal and Pennsylvania stations. The Avenue's beauty attracted several important institutions: Bryn Mawr School for Girls (1885), the Lyric Theater (1892), Corpus Christi Church (1891), and the Maryland Institute College of Art (1908). In addition, the B&O Railroad opened the Mount Royal Station in 1896.
Later in the 20th century, significant changes occurred in the area including the decline of automobile dealerships and the arrival of the University of Baltimore in the 1950s. In 1968 the Maryland Institute rehabilitated the Mount Royal B&O Railroad Station and solidified the area as a center for arts and culture. On nearby Preston Street, the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, designed by world renowned architect Pietro Belluschi, opened in 1982 on the site of the old Bryn Mawr School.
(Inscription under the image in the upper center) The first automobile customers were wealthy men bent on speed. In 1906, 700 automobile
owners lived in the city; in 1940 175,000 automobiles were registered within the Baltimore area.
(Inscriptions under the images on the right)
(1st image)-Not legible.
(2nd image)-Not legible.
(3rd image)-Mount Royal Station, built in 1896 by the B&O Railroad, welcomed visitors to Baltimore with a cozy interior backended by grand fireplaces. In 1964, the station was sold to the Maryland Institute College of Art who restored and renovated the building for classroom and gallery space. This award-winning rehabilitation helped to usher in the late 20th century phenomenon of 'adaptive use' a process of recycling grand old architecture into exciting modern spaces.
(4th image)-Rosa Ponselle (1897-1981) was born to Italian parents living in Connecticut. At the age of 18, she launched her career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and became the first American-born singer to play a major role at the Met. In 1937, she moved to Baltimore shortly after marrying Carle A. Jackson. In 1950, Ponselle became the Baltimore Opera Company's artistic director, transforming it from an amateur group of singers to a professional group performing at the Lyric Opera House.
(5th image)-The Garage, on the northwest corner of Charles Street and Mount Royal Avenues, was one of Baltimore's first automobile showcases, selling locally and nationally manufactured cars. In the 1950s, the University of Baltimore converted the building into its academic center.
(Inscription above the image at the lower bottom) Early Automobile Historical Facts:
*In 1904, the speed limit in Baltimore City was six miles an hour. In 1906, the speed limit was increased to 12 miles an hour. *In 1906, the first automobile show was opened; 130 automobiles were on display. *Between 1904 and 1919, Maryland's Traffic Court tried 12,975 men and only 25 women. *Electric cars and trucks were very popular in Baltimore during the 1920s. These trucks, propelled with twenty electric batteries, had a range of forty-five miles.