Thursday, January 5, 2012


"Locust Point Ferry" oil on board (12" x 24")
The waters of Baltimore's inner harbor at one time were teeming with steamboats for work and pleasure. I have spent some recent winter nights reading about this nearly forgotten era of our city. The shipping industry has been around forever it seems but the steamboat era has captured my imagination most of all. Our city's waterfront was jammed with shipbuilders and steamship companies such as Old Bay Line located on Light Street.  Founded as Baltimore Steam Packet Company, the Old Bay line ran dependable steam packets to and from Norfolk, VA. The nearly 100-year-old Merchants and Miners Company had a sturdy building on pier 3 until 1952 when times changed and they were faced with financial woes. The Wilson Line operated cruises from the Pier in Fell's Point. Many remember taking day trips to Tolchester or Betterton on the eastern shore via the Bay Belle owned by this line. I love thinking about this once ultra-efficient way to transport people and products. No cars or trucks on the road meant we had to get ourselves and our work moving by rail or boat. The Locust Point Ferry here in my painting was the property of the Locust Point Ferry Company. They opened for business around 1851 and steamed back and forth between Kerr's Wharf near Fell's Point and Locust Point in south Baltimore. We now have the comparatively dinky water taxis to shuttle us around the harbor but back in the times of steamboats you might ride with a herd of cattle or bales of cotton or hogsheads tobacco. Honestly I like progress but what a thrill it would have been to chug along the malodorous waters of the Patapsco tidal basin powered by a robust steam engine with a mighty walking beam pumping above your head.


  1. Hi Charlene, boy are we kindred souls!!
    Yes I too love all the same things and
    also an artist, mostly mixed media, I have sold to Visionary also, and have some friends there
    too! My father had a dry-cleaning business on
    the block in the 1960's and yes we remember tatoo charlie and the pixie pizza, etc! I am so glad to have found you on here!! I need to ask some questions regarding this era, etc Hope to hear from you!! great work, love it
    always cherishing vintage items! Cindy LaBue Brown - thank you

  2. So nice to hear from you Cindy. You must have some terrific memories of your father's business located right in the heart of the city.

  3. Charlene, thanks for writing. Have you read the book "A Peach Life" the lady writes about her life growing up in Highlandtown and waitressing at Haussner's - she's in the process of writing another "Baltimore" book
    it is really a lovely book she can be found on
    Facebook. I hope to write about the block in its Heyday! Any chance that you remember the drycleaners?? just hoping. Thanks

  4. What was the name and address of your father's dry cleaners?

    1. oh sorry it has taken so long I was finally
      able to navigate back here - got lost
      just learning this! the cleaner was called
      Ben-Tones - it was where the Jewel Box
      is now. I always tease my sister and
      tell her we "worked on the block" because we got to ring the cash register!!!
      so glad to have met you on here, my uncle
      had a dirty book store there also.

  5. My sister and I did the Bunny Hop and the Mexican Hat Dance on the Bay Bellle on the way to Betterton many, many times!

  6. The Bunny Hop, Mexican Hat dance...thanks for bringing that up. Good way to pass the time during the crossings.