On the Waterfront

New-Kathy-Bergren-Smith-Blog Remembering Baltimore's Recreation Pier of the 1970s

November 15, 2012

I want to share a photo that will bring back memories to many. This image is part of the BGE archive at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. It was shot in 1973 at the Recreation Pier at the foot of Broadway in Fells Point: Ground Zero for tugboaters.

Visiting tugs could tie up and crews could walk across the street to Vane Brothers chandlery to pick up supplies. There were plenty of watering holes catering to the maritime tradesmen, from dive bars to "discos" where Greek merchant seamen danced to traditional melodies.

Photo: Baltimore Museum of Industry

The Recreation Pier itself has been many things to many people. In 1914, the 500' pier served both commercial and public interests, as a cargo pier below and a municipal dancehall above. In the 1990s, the popular TV program 'Homicide, Life on the Street,' was filmed there.

Once the Harbormaster's office, the maritime community created a hub around the pier as soon as it was built. When this photo was taken in1973, the pier was the headquarters of the Maritime Exchange, whose radio towers can be seen on the roof. The east side of the pier was the homeport of the red Baker Whitely fleet of tugboats, which was acquired by McAllister Towing. The west side was home to Curtis Bay Towing, which became Moran Towing and was the last tenant to leave the pier in 2010. To the far east, on the bulkhead next to the pier, the Marine Launch Company's red boats loaded and delivered lubes to ships.

In the 1960's, the very existence of Fells Point was in danger when planners considered running Interstate 95 through its heart. The community remained in decline for years, even after the highway didn't materialize. Gradually, the waterfront revived, however, and gentrified. Today, water taxis are more plentiful than tugs and Vane Brothers has moved on to the marine transportation business and a brand new complex in the outer harbor. The beers are more costly and the old Recreation Pier is slated to become a boutique hotel.


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