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War Memorial Plaza

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War Memorial Plaza

War Memorial Plaza is a park in Downtown Baltimore between City Hall and the Baltimore War Memorial.

History

On the northwest corner of the present square at the intersection of Holliday and East Lexington Streets were a set of townhouses that were the sites for the opening of Loyola High School and Loyola College in 1852 by the Roman Catholic Society of Jesus (Jesuits). After a brief time, the two institutions relocated in 1855 to North Calvert Street between East Madison and Monument Streets in a large building connected to St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church.

A few doors to the south was Prof. Knapp's School, attended by many German immigrant students including the noted Henry Louis Mencken, the famed Baltimore reporter, editor, columnist, author and linguist in the 1880s, just before he attended the former Baltimore Manual Training School in the late 1890s (now the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute on Courtland Street (now the site of Mercy Hospital.

From 1875–1917, City Hall faced the second building of the Holliday Street Theatre of 1813, (first built of wood in 1795), designed by Robert Cary Long, Jr. with a front facade in stone of Greek Revival style which was the most notable playhouse in Baltimore for decades. It is said that the first public singing of the future National Anthem occurred on the stage here in late September 1814, when the poem of "The Defence of Fort McHenry" written by Francis Scott Key aboard a truce ship downriver from the British fleet as it bombarded Fort McHenry during September 12-14, 1814 several weeks earlier and set to music with the tune "To An Anacreon in Heaven", a so-called English drinking song. It was also reputedly said to be re-sung lustily by the after-the-show crowd at the next door Theatre Tavern.

To its south at the intersection with East Fayette Street was the landmark "Old Assembly-Rooms" built also in 1799 by Long of Georgian/Federal style with chambers for social dancing, receptions and levees for the ladies and gentlemen of the era. By the early 1840s, with the addition of a third floor and a flat pediment, the Rooms were occupied by the young men of the Central High School, later renamed the Baltimore City College, founded in 1839 a few blocks away on Courtland Street (now St. Paul Street/Place/Preston Gardens, considered to be the third oldest public high school in America.

Both were destroyed in a large fire in 1873, and the high school later moved to new quarters at North Howard and West Centre Streets, but the theatre was rebuilt on its original site and owned by the famous John T. Ford, local politician and playhouse operator, who also was proprietor of the infamous Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.

Two years after being rebuilt, the theatre was overwhelmed by the massive pile of French Second Empire construction across the street in the new Baltimore City Hall of 1875 by George A. Frederick. By the time that the theater and its surrounding block was torn down in 1917, based on the 1910 plans of Frederick Law Olmsted, to make room for the War Memorial Plaza and Building.[1] The War Memorial Building was designed by Laurence Hall Fowler and originally dedicated to Marylanders who died in World War I and built in the late 1920s.

Present

War Memorial Plaza is a major component of the Business and Government Historic District[2] and is included in Baltimore National Heritage Area.[3]

The plaza contains the statue "Negro Soldier", also called the Negro War Heroes Monument. It was created by sculptor James E. Lewis in 1971. The statue was relocated to War Memorial Plaza in 2007 after 30 years of facing the wrong way on a one-way street.[4][5] [6]

External links

  • War Memorial Plaza on Google Street View

References

Coordinates: 39°17′43″N 76°36′35″W / 39.29538°N 76.60964°W / 39.29538; -76.60964

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