The Port of Baltimore lies above the Chesapeake Bay at the head of the Patapsco River Estuary in the State of Maryland in the United States. About 65 kilometers northeast of the Nation's capital, Washington DC, the Port of Baltimore is about 140 nautical miles north of the Port of Norfolk in Virginia from the head to the mouth of the Bay and about 147 kilometers southwest of the Port of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. At the northeastern end of the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area, the Port of Baltimore is the largest city in and the economic center of the State. The Port of Baltimore is the only city in the State that is not located within a county. In 2006, over 631 thousand people lived in the Port of Baltimore, and more than 2.6 million called the Baltimore-Towson metropolitan area home.
At one time, the Port of Baltimore was a busy industrial center based on the manufacture of steel and automobiles, shipping, and transportation. Today, the Port of Baltimore still has some industry, but its modern economy is based on financial, health, and business services for the United States' southern Mid-Atlantic region. The Port of Baltimore is home to six Fortune 1000 companies, including Black & Decker, T. Rowe Price, and McCormick and Company. It is also home to other major companies that include Alex. Brown & Sons, Thomson Prometric, Sylvan Learning, DAP, and DeBaufre Bakeries. The Port of Baltimore is also the home of Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital, the future center for a biotechnology park.
The area of today's Port of Baltimore was inhabited by the Powhatan peoples before Europeans arrived. In 1729, the Port of Baltimore was established and named after Lord Baltimore in the Irish House of Lords. It was soon a busy port for tobacco and grain. The surrounding waters were powering flour mills.
When the American Revolution began, the Port of Baltimore was already an important seaport and shipbuilding center. Merchant traders went as far as the Caribbean. For a short time in 1776 and 1777, the Port of Baltimore was home to the Continental Congress who met there hoping to avoid the threat of British attack on Philadelphia.
The Constellation, the United States' first naval vessel, was launched from the Port of Baltimore in 1797. The country's last all-sail warship, also named the Constellation, was built in 1854 and has been in the Port of Baltimore harbor since 1955.
The British attempted to capture the Port of Baltimore during the War of 1812, but US troops defended the city from nearby Fort McHenry. It was during this battle that Francis Scott Key was inspired to write The Star Spangled Banner. In 1827, the Nation's first railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio, terminated at the Port of Baltimore's Mount Clare Station, the site of a railroad museum today.
Although the State of Maryland did not secede from the Union during the American Civil War, many of its residents sympathized with the southern Confederacy. Union troops occupied the Port of Baltimore throughout the war, seriously disrupting the economic and cultural life of the city.
In 1904, a terrible fire destroyed most of the Port of Baltimore's business district. The Great Baltimore Fire raged for two days in February, and it took more than 1200 firefighters to bring it under control. Before it was over, the fire covered almost 57 hectares and destroyed more than Port of Baltimore 1500 buildings. Fortunately, few lives were lost, and recovery was fast.
When World War I began, the Port of Baltimore grew quickly with facilities related to the war effort including steel works and oil refineries. The Great Depression of the late 1920s and 1930s was a time of serious economic trouble for the Port of Baltimore, and World War II brought continued stress to an already stressed urban area.
In the early 20th Century, the Port of Baltimore was home to many writers and artists who gave it a special flavor. H.L. Mencken, Eubie Blake, Billie Holliday, and many other talented Americans transformed the industrial city into a modern cosmopolitan center.
After World War II, the economy began to recover, and the Port of Baltimore's residents experienced a rising standard of living. With affluence came movement of the middle-class population to new suburbs outside the city's borders. Many people left, and the Port of Baltimore's population began to shrink for the first time since the middle of 19th Century. As in many parts of the country, "suburban flight" depressed the economy, hitting the downtown retail areas hard. By the late 1960s, the Port of Baltimore's inner city was as hard-pressed as it had been during the Great Depression.
Municipal, business, and citizens groups banned together to bring the Port of Baltimore back from the economic brink. Urban renewal efforts gave the Port of Baltimore a new look and feel. Problems remained, but the Port of Baltimore revitalized its downtown and several neighborhoods.
One area of focus was the Port of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. New hotels, office buildings, and entertainment centers were constructed. The National Aquarium and the Maryland Science Center replaced deteriorating wharves and warehouses. More recently, the new home of the Baltimore Orioles, Camden Yards, gave the citizens another proud structure.
Today, the Port of Baltimore is an important seaport with ship repair facilities and a richly diverse economy. Reaching the sea through the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, it is a major shipping hub for automobiles. In addition to the seaport, the Port of Baltimore is a busy center for education, healthcare, finance, and insurance industries. Federal government and military installations contribute many jobs. Manufacturers produce automobiles, processed foods, steel, electronics, aircraft parts, and paper and plastic products.
As part of the United States' busy Northeast Corridor, the Port of Baltimore is an important stop on the passenger-commuter rail system. It shares the Baltimore-Washington International Airport with the Nation's capital. It is also served by a vast and dense network of interstate and state highways. As a center for higher education, the Port of Baltimore is home to Johns Hopkins University (founded in 1876), several colleges among the University of Maryland system.