With a writer’s keen eye, a longtime resident’s familiarity, and his own sly wit, acclaimed novelist Madison Smartt Bell leads us on a walk through his adopted hometown of Baltimore, a city where crab cakes, Edgar Allan Poe, hair extensions, and John Waters movies somehow coexist. From its founding before the Revolutionary War to its place in popular culture—thanks to seminal films like Barry Levinson’s Diner, the television show Homicide, and bestselling books by George Pelecanos and Laura Lippman—Baltimore is America, and in Charm City , Bell brings its story to vivid life.
First revealing how Baltimore received some of its nicknames—including “Charm City”—Bell sets off from his neighborhood of Cedarcroft and finds his way across the city’s crossroads, joined periodically by a host of fellow Baltimoreans. Exploring Baltimore’s prominent role in history (it was here that Washington planned the battle of Yorktown and Francis Scott Key witnessed the “bombs bursting in air”), Bell takes us to such notable spots as the Inner Harbor and Federal Hill, as well as many of the undiscovered corners that give Baltimore its distinctive character. All the while, Charm City sheds deserved light onto a sometimes overlooked, occasionally eccentric, but always charming place.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Charm City|
|Release Date: 11-06-2007|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Crown Publishing Group|
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At four on a mid-October afternoon, I leave my house and start walking south. I live in Cedarcroft, a neighborhood tucked between two Baltimore arteries--Charles Street and York Road--and just inside the northern city limit. Most people who don't live here never heard of it--a feature I have always appreciated. It was all farmland, back in the day. At the close of the nineteenth century, the city of Baltimore was about an hour's ride from Cedarcroft by buggy or by the horse-drawn trolley cars that served the area since 1842--but, in truth, a world away. The farmers of this area were largely self-sufficient, and visited Baltimore, over the rolled stone roadways of York Road and Charles Street, for major purchases like furniture, farm machinery, and clothing. Today, the land lies just within the Baltimore city limits--just.
Philip E. Lamb bought the first twenty-five acres of the farm he called Cedarcroft in 1885, adding another twenty acres shortly thereafter. The manor house of Cedarcroft Farm still stands a couple of blocks to my east--an enormous, rambling wooden affair with rooms added on rooms like cells of a honeycomb. The drive, which used to unfurl from the big house's portico a quarter mile east to York Road, is now another suburban-style street called Hollen Road. Lamb was a partner, twenty-five years after his first purchase in the area, in the Cedarcroft Land Company, created to subdivide the area. It was an early planned development, supervised by architect Edward L. Palmer.
I live in a two-story stucco house, one of three in an almost identical row, built in the late 1920s, around the same time the sycamores that line these streets were planted, at my best guess. The ...