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“To Make It a Great Entrepot”: The Story of Baltimore’s Locust Point

Philip Jacks, George Washington University, Fellow 2015–2016, Spring

Arriving in January, I was hoping to complete the final two chapters of a manuscript, but as it happens, I met with architect Chris Pfaeffle only in late spring to plan out the final portion of a book on the adaptive reuse of the 1923 grain elevator and his designs for Silo Point. The four-month fellowship term was extraordinarily productive in allowing me to gain a much deeper understanding of fields outside my discipline: the grain trade, railroad business, and land management within Baltimore during the critical period of 1814–1831. I had spent the better part of a year systematically gathering letters and reports from the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s (B&O) company archives at their Mount Clare Museum. Here at Dumbarton Oaks, I’ve been combing period newspapers—the Baltimore American, Washington Intelligencer, Baltimore Sun, and Niles Register. Other sources yielded troves of unpublished material: the B&O Collection of the National Museum of American History, the Robert Garrett Family Papers of the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, the John W. Garrett correspondence in the Maryland Historical Society, and Illinois Central Railroad Company Archives at the Newberry Library in Chicago. These led me to recast several parts of the book’s narrative. Given the scarcity of visual evidence regarding the early wood-crib elevators, I was particularly excited to discover E. F. Baldwin’s drawings for industrial buildings at the Locust Point terminus, as well as a set of working drawings for an unknown elevator by Camden Yards (destroyed) from the 1880s. Equally important are the set of plats by James Carroll for the route of the railroad into Baltimore.

Through dialogue with colleagues at Dumbarton Oaks, I came to read more widely and to reconsider the scope of the book. There are essentially three tracks—the genius loci of Locust Point itself, the stories of immigration and habitation, and technological innovation of the railroad and grain elevator. But I haven’t yet done fine-tuned research into the connections between Baltimore and its economic rivals—Brooklyn, Buffalo, Philadelphia, and Chicago. I may not change the title of the book, but its geographic context has expanded considerably. Similarly, I’ve come to consider a larger readership than just architectural or urban historians. To that end, I’ve reconfigured the longer chapters with subsections into a series of smaller vignettes.