Go nautical in Baltimore's Fells Point
Story and photos by Jenna Milly
Not far from the polish of Baltimore's touristy Inner Harbor, a tiny peninsula maintains its rugged maritime personality, drawing history buffs in the day and the beer drinkers at night. Fells Point is where European immigrants hit Baltimore, after their ships rounded the mouth of the great Chesapeake Bay.
Their ancestral voices echo in colonial inns, antique shops, marketplaces and pubs that sprang up by the shipyards. Established by shipbuilder William Fell in 1730, this booming neighborhood -- one of Baltimore's first -- has witnessed decade upon decade of sailors, traders and immigrants docking in its wooden piers.
Hey, head to the pub district
Today, visitors can shop for antiques, eat blue crab, and down a frothy pint in Fells Point. You can depart from Baltimore's bustling Inner Harbor and arrive the traditional way -- by boat. For convenience and scenery, float over on the tourist-friendly Water Taxi or Harbor Shuttle.
Old and used? I'll take it!
Fells Point abandons contemporary, touristy shopping for a more picturesque theme -- antiques hunting as far as the eye can see. There are 40 shops in this brick-paved historical district, each with its own personality.
Broadway and Aliceanna streets are exceptionally good for searching in shops such as Auntie Q's, Oh! Susanna and Along the Way, Ltd. (which designates itself open Thursday through Sunday, and "Wednesday by chance"). Another Period in Time on Fleet Street houses more than 10 dealers, carrying everything from jewelry and antique coins to neon.
South on Ann Street near the waterfront, The China Sea Marine Trading Company caters to every salty dog whim with remarkable piles of aging boat junk. Owners Stevens Bunker and Sharon Bondroff have been selling antiques in Fells Point for 18 years.
"Eleven hundred feet of old and new," Bondroff comments on the size of her shop. She defines the store's wares with Bunker's favorite saying: "Ship salvage and marine curiosity of the seven seas."
Clad in vintage scuba gear, a haunting skeleton greets visitors at the door. The sign overhead commands "Fair Dealing." Inside there are shoe buckles from 1770 and miles upon miles of sea-worthy rope -- most of it in unthinkable knots. There are walls of clocks, crates full of hooks and gardens strewn with steering wheels. One glass case has mounds of mysterious keys -- for the whimsical, perhaps one to unlock Davy Jones' Locker.
"It's a wonderland," Bondroff beams as the customers walk in and marvel at their finds.
Switching gears after sundown
As the sun sets, the antique dealers close shop and the numerous restaurants and pubs light up. Bluefish, Maryland crab cakes and microbrewed beer are neighborhood specialties. Baltimore is famous for its seafood, but also noted for its cultural variety-- try an Italian restaurant or a Polish deli for a delicious diversion.
For an evening stroll, walk along Thames Street to Admiral's Cup and Cat's Eye Pub and pass the City Recreation Pier, film set of the TV show Homicide.
As Baltimore celebrates its 200th birthday, the closely guarded sense of heritage and history on Fells Point remains -- but with plenty of room, in the neighborhood's tradition, for visitors who want to join the party.
Jenna Milly is an associate producer in the CNN Interactive newsroom. When she's not working, Jenna keeps close to water -- prior to her intrepid foray into Baltimore's port pubs, she wrote a piece for CNN TravelGuide on river rafting.
An Anthemic History | A Walk Through the Neighborhood
Don't Miss Downtown! | Those Famous Crabs
Note: Related sites will open in a new browser window.
An Anthemic History
A Walk Through the Neighborhood | Don't Miss Downtown!