Kathy Bergren Smith
Kathy Bergren Smith has been a correspondent with WorkBoat since 2002. She is also a writer and photographer for the Port of Baltimore Magazine covering shipping and port activities. Smith, also a noted commercial and fine art photographer, resides in Annapolis, Md.
On the Waterfront
Remembering Baltimore's Recreation Pier of the 1970s
November 15, 2012
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.
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
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.
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.
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.